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Money & Sex

(by Ivan Massow: Financial Adviser)

Many of us have concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, HIV tests and more besides from time to time - but just who you turn to for advice could have lasting consequence

The problem is the professions we’re likely to share our most intimate secrets with are those most likely to pass these sensitive details on to others. It’s nothing personal ; doctors, in addition to having among their number a fair degree of homo-intolerant colleagues, are also obliged to note down any patient details relating to sexuality, HIV testing, hepatitis B vaccinations or sexually transmitted diseases. But the real crunch comes when they disclose all of these facts to insurance companies or even employers. Once you’ve signed a form giving these organisations access to your medical records, your GP doesn’t have much choice. Many jobs come with offers that are subject to medical information and for many people this could cause a problem if the report says : "Homosexual, crabs once, discussed the possibility of an HIV test but declined to take one."

Even more worrying, an insurance company, on receiving such information, is likely to turn down your request for life cover instantly. No one can get at your records without your permission. However, refusal to allow insurers access to your medical records will almost certainly exclude you from life insurance cover. Either way, with a ‘dodgy’ medical history your chances of getting life insurance at normal premiums are slim. This could have disastrous knock-on effects for mortgage and private healthcare applications.

As a professional, my absolute advice must be for you to tell your National Health Service doctor everything and disclose all information to future employers and insurers. A less reputable friend of mine though, seems to know other ways of getting around these problems. He suggests that either you have a private doctor in addition to your National Health doctor or just keep everything a secret from your GP.

If, for example, you feel you may have visitors down below or want to discuss HIV or Hep B, he suggests that you just go straight to the genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic. A GUM clinic is supposed to be confidential under the law and will not pass information on to anyone else. In fact, even the computer systems that hold your information should be separate from the hospital’s main computer. If, however, your doctor knows you have visited a GUM clinic, he or she may pass this information on to an insurer who may ask your permission to request information from the clinic - so if you’re going to go to the clap clinic, don’t tell your GP ! Or at least that’s what my wily friend says.

If potential employers or insurers don’t know about arrangements you have with private doctors, they’re hardly in the position to check medical notes on you held by these physicians.

At the risk of stating the obvious again, if you do arrange some private healthcare, keep the existence of your private consultations an absolute secret, especially from your GP. However, a private doctor costs money. An appointment resulting in a prescription will usually work out at about 45 a throw. If you only visit a doctor once a year or so, then that’s probably fine. But for season ticket holders and hypochondriacs this could turn out to be very expensive.

Of course, which option you choose - NHS doctor, GUM clinic or private healthcare - will depend on the nature of your ailment. But bear in mind that potential insurers or employers may regard some things in your medical records very seriously, even though they may seem trivial to you. Prescriptions for anti-depressants or sleeping pills to help you regain your equilibrium after recreational drug use might result in you being refused insurance for the rest of your life. In this case a private doctor might be a better person to talk to than at GP. If you need to speak to someone about anything sexually transmitted or even ulcers and dermatological problems, you may be better advised going to a GUM clinic. Even if your problem is not sexually related, the person you will see is a doctor and can usually advise you or even prescribe certain medicines. Best of all GUM services are free and any prescriptions are usually free, as well. In addition to being confidential, GUM clinics are happy for you to use a false name, providing you can remember which one you used. 

My friend also insists that it’s important to retain a NHS doctor to keep people off the scent. Simply sign up with a local GP and feel free to visit this him/her with colds, flu and issues surrounding pregnancy. Other than this, stay quiet. Some specialist doctors at your GUM clinic may wish to discuss the involvement of your GP in your care if you have HIV or AIDS. Some GPs have a good contribution to make in the care of people with HIV, especially in the early phases of the disease. But this is something to discuss with your GUM doctor first. If you have already opened your heart to a GP, it is probably too late to do anything. By speaking to friends, you may learn of a GP who will launder these records if they are especially sympathetic to your predicament. This is however, totally illegal and so it is not something that you can request blatantly. More sussed doctors simply don’t feel that sexuality or negative HIV test results are relevant to a client’s file and will either ignore the information or delete them. You would have to be very lucky to find a family doctor to do this for you, though.

Your medical records aside, bear in mind, too, that you’re not supposed to conceal your private life from insurers, If you lie on an insurance form, especially on the question of sexuality, the policy will be invalid. Insurers will look for non-disclosure (a lie) in the event of a claim that arises within the first three to five year. However, the lovely people who run insurance firms are particularly keen about sniffing out dishonest homosexuals. Single people living by themselves might say "So what ? If I’m dead, I won’t need the money." But in other cases it might mean a dependent losing out on a life assurance pay-out even if the dead person has died from an asthma attack 15 years after the policy was taken out. But that’s the real world - so be aware

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