HIV stigma still of concern
A report into discrimination and stigma experienced by people living with HIV has called for new initiatives to build resilience amongst HIV-positive people while also urging the NSW Government to drop controversial criminal laws forcing HIV-positive to disclose their status to sexual partners.
The HIV Stigma Audit released this week involved a survey of almost 700 Australians and was jointly commissioned by the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) and the National Centre in HIV Social Research.
About 60 per cent of respondents said they always or occasionally felt “ashamed” or “blamed” for being HIV-positive when with sexual partners as well as by reporting in the media. Another 42 per cent say they work hard to keep their HIV status a secret.
The audit also found about 30 per cent of respondents had not disclosed their status to family members.
La Trobe University’s HIV Futures Seven report to be released later this year is also expected to show that 50 per cent of people living with HIV have had their health status make known without their permission.
NAPWA assistant director, Dr Sean Slavin, who was the lead researcher for the audit, told SX that with HIV stigma still an ongoing concern, steps should be taken to remove current laws in NSW criminalising non-disclosure to sexual partners so long as HIV-positive people have taken reasonable measures to avoid infecting others.
Slavin said it was important to focus on promoting resilience as the audit showed despite the immense hurdles many people living with HIV have had to go through, over 67 per cent believe their quality of life was good or very good, with over 56 per cent satisfied or very satisfied with their health.
“Rather than starting with an assumption that PLHIV are passive victims of stigma and unable to challenge it themselves, resilience building initiatives should aim to further enhance the abilities of this group to either challenge stigma when it occurs or to simply dismiss it and not let it impact upon them,” he said.
“Many talked about the fact that while HIV is not something they ever wanted, it has taught them something and they are stronger and better people for it.”
A copy of the HIV Stigma Audit can be accessed at http://napwa.org.au/files/napwa_stigma_audit_report.pdf