Surgeon in HIV row breaks silence: 'I have behaved as I should have done . . . I don't feel that I have got anything to feel guilty about'

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The Independent Online
THE EYE surgeon caught in a storm over reports that he is HIV positive chose not to take a blood test for many years despite his fears that he might be carrying the virus that can lead to Aids.

In an exclusive interview with the Independent on Sunday last week, Peter Curran, a consultant at two south London hospitals, said he was convinced he could not cope with the mental pressure of living with a definite diagnosis.

The 45-year-old surgeon, who is homosexual, expressed certainty that there were other homosexual doctors in the same predicament, in fear of homophobic prejudice within the medical profession. He described how he sought specialist advice as long ago as the mid-Eighties - when Aids cases were first emerging in Britain - to ensure his patients were not being placed in danger of HIV infection. Assured there was no risk in the case of ophthalmic surgery, he saw no reason to restrict his medical practice.

'I feel I have behaved as I should have done,' he said. 'I don't feel that I have got anything to feel guilty about.'

The surgeon has been in hiding since last weekend, when the first reports appeared that he continued treating patients at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, Kent, and at the private Blackheath Hospital despite an alleged HIV condition. Until now, he has not replied to the press allegations, except for a brief statement through his employers.

He left the country for an extended leave of absence yesterday; he does not know when he will be able to return to work. Until last week, Mr Curran had tried to keep his homosexuality secret from colleagues.

He said that anti-gay prejudice inside the medical profession was one reason for never telling the hospital authorities about his HIV fears: 'There's still a lot of prejudice and I suspect that in view of the publicity around my case, other doctors who have a lifestyle that does not conform to marriage and 2.3 children will be worried that they, too, may be targeted by unscrupulous people.'

He added: 'Now that I've been 'outed' I might as well stand up for all those other people who find themselves in a similar position and can't do anything about it.'

Mr Curran strongly denied claims in some papers that he is seriously ill and suffering from Aids. But he declined to say if he has discovered whether he is HIV positive.

Several newspapers have offered sums running into five figures for his story. But, through his solicitors, he has declined them. The Independent on Sunday has made no payment to Mr Curran, other than for dinner in a restaurant where the interview took place.

Choosing his words with evident precision, Mr Curran spoke calmly in defence of his decision to keep working. 'Ever since this particular viral problem emerged some years ago, I have practised medicine on the assumption that I might - I emphasise might - have it. I have scrupulously followed the guidelines that have been issued on the chance that I might be a carrier myself,' he said.

He added that claims published last week about his private life had come as a 'bombshell' to his close family. 'I always tried to be discreet; so if I was invited to dinner, I always took girlfriends along for form's sake. I never mentioned being gay to my family, but certainly there was this implied understanding. Work wise, though, I always maintained a front.'

Mr Curran believes it unlikely that he will ever return to his home in Kennington, south London, which has been staked-out by dozens of journalists for the past week.

Trial by tabloid, page 19