HIV still has a stigma despite medical advances

People living with HIV continue to experience discrimination and stigma, despite huge advances in treatment and life expectancy in the past 20 years, according to the new HIV Futures 9 report.

The results of the latest HIV Futures survey of people living with HIV, launched ahead of World AIDS Day 2019 by the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society at La Trobe University, found that within the past 12 months, more than half the 847 participants had at least one experience of HIV-related discrimination.

Incidents included workplace bullying or unwanted disclosure of HIV within social circles. The researchers found 38 per cent of survey respondents received less favourable treatment by a healthcare worker due to their HIV status.

HIV Futures 9 co-author John Rule, Senior Research Manager for the National Association for People with HIV Australia, said that the impact of stigma on the everyday lives of people living with HIV is profound.

“We know from studies like HIV Futures that increased stigma has potential to negatively affect people’s wellbeing and quality of life. The issue of stigma, misinformation and discrimination against people living with HIV is a live issue,” said Mr Rule.

“Only this month, the NSW Government announced a bill allowing mandatory testing for people whose saliva comes in contact with police, prison or emergency services personnel, despite all the evidence that HIV can’t be transmitted by saliva or casual contact. The public reinforcement of these myths is a daily challenge to people living with HIV – and there are 28,000 people living with HIV in Australia today.”

HIV Futures lead researcher, Dr Jennifer Power, said the story of HIV has changed drastically since the first HIV Futures study ran in 1997.

“At that time many people with HIV were terminally unwell or facing an uncertain future. Thanks to effective antiretroviral treatment, the story today is very different. People with HIV live healthy lives and assume average life expectancy,” Dr Power said.

“However, the latest survey shows some areas where things have not changed. People worry about disclosing their HIV status to friends, family and potential partners for fear of rejection or discrimination. Living with the burden of stigma negatively affects quality of life, and this is very clear in the data,” she said.

An executive summary (PDF, 0.7MB) or the full HIV Futures 9 report (PDF, 7.5MB) are available for download from the ARCSHS website.

Media inquiries: Jennifer Power, Project Coordinator, (03) 9479 8721, 0416 012 909, or email: Jennifer.Power@latrobe.edu.au

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