November 6, 2012
An audit report on discrimination and stigma by people living with HIV has requested new initiatives to build resistance among HIV-infected persons. The report urges the New South Wales Government to drop criminal laws forcing HIV-infected persons to disclose their status to sexual partners.
The recently released "HIV Stigma Audit" reported on a survey of about 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 percent of respondents reported that they always or occasionally felt ashamed or blamed for being HIV-positive when with sexual partners, as well as by reporting in the media. About 42 percent responded that they work hard to keep their positive status a secret.
Dr. Sean Slavin, NAPWA assistant director and lead researcher for the audit, stated that with HIV stigma still operating, steps should be taken to remove current laws in New South Wales that criminalize nondisclosure to sexual partners, as long as the HIV-infected persons take reasonable measures to avoid transmission. He emphasized that it was important to focus on promoting resilience, as the audit showed that more than 67 percent of respondents reported their quality of life was good or very good, with over 56 percent reporting being satisfied or very satisfied with their health. Slavin noted that resilience-building initiatives should aim to increase the abilities of people with HIV/AIDs to either challenge stigma when it occurs or simply dismiss it and not let it bother them.