Airbnb guest left blood test leaflets around home of gay host with HIV

Philip Baldwin

A gay Airbnb host who is living with HIV found pamphlets for blood tests left around his home by a homophobic guest.

The guest also lodged a complaint against the host, leading to his account being suspended.

Philip Baldwin, 38, who is a human rights activist, checked a male guest into the spare bedroom of his London home, which he rents out via Airbnb, on 22 May 2023.

Baldwin, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2010, told the Press Association the guest was “chatty” at first but this changed when the pair discussed Baldwin’s work as an activist.

The Airbnb host said the guest was on his laptop at the time and believes he searched his name. Baldwin’s social media and portfolio show he is a gay man who is living with HIV.

Following this, Baldwin claims within 30 minutes the guest’s attitude towards him “completely changed” and he began to avoid face-to-face contact with the host, corresponding via text instead, and refused to use clean towels he placed out for him.

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“I was getting the impression that he thought any form of contact with something that I touched could be dangerous,” the human rights activist said in an interview with the news agency.

“It was beginning to feel like I was treading on eggshells the entire time.”

Complaint lodged against the host

Despite this, Baldwin said he attempted to rationalise what was happening and give the guest the benefit of the doubt, assuming he was a private person.

However, when Baldwin looked at his Airbnb account on 26 May, four days after the guest checked in, he found it had been temporarily suspended by the company.

A number of calls to Airbnb revealed a complaint had been lodged against him and an investigation launched, but the company could not reveal any more information due to privacy reasons.

When the guest finally checked out on 3 June, at the start of Pride Month, Baldwin discovered a pamphlet for blood tests, which included a section on HIV, had been left in his home, which he found greatly upsetting.

Following the incident, Baldwin’s case was resolved and the guest’s complaint not upheld, meaning he can once again rent out his spare room.

Airbnb said in a statement that the guest’s account has since been suspended while an investigation by the specialised anti-discrimination team is carried out.

“Discrimination has no place on Airbnb, and we have reached out to the host to provide our full support,” a spokesperson for the company said.

‘Paranoid, frightened and confused’

Baldwin described the situation as “horrific” and said it left him “paranoid, frightened and confused”.

“I know that, ultimately, this has been resolved, but I’m just really concerned that this could happen to someone else who is gay, or who is living with HIV, because it simply isn’t realistic that everyone else is going to be as aware of equalities legislation.

“Since my HIV diagnosis in 2010, I’ve actually never been impacted by discrimination so much.

“I’ve had people end relationships with me; I’ve had people ask me in church if it’s safe to drink from the same chalice; I’ve had people abuse me on social media, telling me that I’m going to go to hell because of my HIV status.

Baldwin added that what they found most difficult about the entire situation was that “neither the guest nor Airbnb told me directly that there was a problem”.

“The guest had made a complaint, but he didn’t tell me about this, and Airbnb had received a complaint, but they didn’t tell me about this until after the guest had checked out.

“So, for eight days, I was left really anxious; I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do basic tasks and it was really distressing because I wasn’t sure if I was imagining all of this,” he said.

To learn more about HIV and AIDS research, testing and treatment, visit amFAR or the Terrence Higgins Trust.