According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 99.7% of adults find it important to have a healthy smile. But despite her dental needs, Yvette Brown, a New York City sanitation worker, was allegedly denied treatment by a dentist in Westchester County.
The reason? She is HIV positive.
Brown, who lives in West Haverstraw in Rockland County, had two teeth pulled in May at Westchester Oral and Maxillofacial Associates in Hawthorne by Dr. Benjamin Kur. She’d been prescribed painkillers as part of her after-care treatment until recently. Brown claims that Kur denied her treatment and kicked her out of his office after being contacted by her pharmacist and finding out about her antiretroviral regimen.
Now, Brown is filing a lawsuit. According to Lambda Legal, the advocacy group that is representing Brown, Kur “screamed at [Brown] and called her ‘disgusting’ and a ‘criminal.’” Lambda Legal generally advocates for LGBT and HIV-positive clients.
“Because I am black, because I am a woman, because I am HIV-positive, Dr. Kur treated me as less than a person,” said Brown. “I was humiliated when he called me disgusting and kicked me out of his office.”
The lawsuit also claims that Kur threatened to contact Brown’s insurance company to have her coverage dropped.
Kur has denied the allegations, and said that Brown had not disclosed her HIV status, despite being asked about her medical history at least four times.
“Not being told about an illness such as HIV is dangerous not only to me but the staff and to everybody who works in the office — as well as the patient,” Kur said.
He added that being aware of previous medical conditions is a vital part of ensuring that the patient receives proper care.
Though Brown says that Kur refused to refill her painkiller prescription, Kur said that is not the case.
“It wasn’t us denying the prescription, it was the pharmacist telling us there was an adverse reaction,” Kur told the Daily News.
Brown had originally been prescribed Percocet, but after learning that the drug could have adverse reactions with her other medications, he switched her to prescription-strength Ibuprofen.
Brown says that, prior to the incident, only a few select people knew that she was HIV-positive. Since then, the married mother of five has spoken up to make sure that no one else is subjected to the same sort of treatment.
“I never thought that a medical professional — a person who is trained to care for you — would be so cruel,” she said.