NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has yet to comment on whether an investigation into NSW Trains procedures will take place after a train was evacuated in Wollongong when an intoxicated and agitated man being treated for a minor leg injury claimed he had AIDS.
The incident occurred on Monday afternoon and the Star Observer understands the transport minister’s office has been aware of the incident since, and despite contacting them numerous times today no comment was provided on deadline.
The incident at Wollongong railway station saw NSW Trains staff evacuate a trainload of about 100 people because of the intoxicated man’s claims, which led to delays and passengers requiring buses between Kiama and Oak Flats. Also after the evacuation, seven passengers became stuck in a lift at the station for 30 minutes that required emergency services to free them.
The incident has also been slammed by ACON for adding to the stigmatisation and discrimination of people living with HIV and AIDS.
“[These] actions, from a State Government-run enterprise, should not only have drawn an apology for the seven people who were needlessly frightened and evacuated, but also to the wider community of gay men and people living with HIV,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.
According to Fairfax Media, the man had originally boarded the southbound train at North Wollongong with his bicycle at about midday. A female NSW Trains officer also boarded the same train and began administering first aid after the man was observed to have fallen off his bike while waiting at the platform. Upon being treated inside the train the man made the claim he had AIDS.
When the train arrived at Wollongong station all other passengers were ordered off with the man allowed to continue on the train to Unanderra where he was treated by NSW ambulance officers and talked to by police.
A police media spokeswoman said the man was issued a ‘‘move-on notice’’ when he arrived at the station. Authorities will not reveal whether the man’s claim about his HIV-status was factual.
A NSW TrainLink spokeswoman defended staff actions and told Fairfax Media that the seven passengers who were subsequently trapped in the lift were offered bottles of water, medical help and taxis to take them to their final destinations.
‘‘All guards are trained in first aid and if someone is injured, it is their duty to make an assessment to either provide first aid or seek medical advice,” the spokeswoman said.
“On this occasion, the guard provided assistance.’’
Parkhill said the incident was a “disgraceful example” that clearly showed how the fear campaigns of the late 1980s around HIV were still causing irrational behaviour.
“In NSW we are working with our community to ask them to get a HIV test more regularly, so they can know their status, and commence treatment earlier,” he said.
“If we have enough people doing that in NSW, we can virtually eliminate HIV by 2020. This sort of action by NSW TrainLink sets us back in that effort – it adds to the notion that HIV is something to be feared in the general community, which on a personal level, can make individuals reluctant to access HIV testing, treatment and care.”
In a statement sent to the Star Observer after its original report was published on February 12, NSW TrainLink denied the train’s evacuation had anything to do with the man’s health status.
“The 11.49am North Wollongong to Kiama service was delayed on Monday 10 February as a train guard provided first aid to a customer at North Wollongong who appeared heavily intoxicated and had fallen off his bicycle on the platform. The injured customer declined further medical assistance at Wollongong. Police and Ambulance met the train at Unanderra and spoke to the injured customer, who was then taken off the train and assisted from the station,” a spokesperson said.
“All guards are trained in first aid and if someone is injured, it is their duty to make an assessment to either provide first aid or seek medical advice. On this occasion, the guard provided assistance. At Wollongong customers were advised to move to another platform to join an approaching train, and this had nothing to do with the customer’s alleged medical situation. Claims to the contrary are simply untrue.
“NSW TrainLink apologises to customers for the inconveniences caused.