Combating Stigma and Discrimination

People living with HIV, people living with hepatitis B or C, people who inject drugs, Aboriginal people, people who work as sex workers, people who have lived in high prevalence countries all experience stigma and discrimination. They all have rights, the right to be respected, to be treated as equals. Often at NTAHC, we hear about people being discriminated against unfairly and we are here to listen and to assist where we can.

I worked as a street worker, then in a brothel with others down south, when I came to Darwin the laws were different, the population was smaller, everyone knew everyone. To work for an Escort Agency in the Northern Territory I would have had to to register with Police, just to be safe and to to be around other workers.

There was no way ethically I was going to have a bar of that. Because of all of those factors, I decided to work privately as I found that in doing so, that choice presented minimum impact of stigma and discrimination on my choice to work as a sex worker. NTAHC gave me a safe place to connect with other peers in a number of programs including the Sex Worker Outreach Project SWOP NT

Salis, NT Sex Worker

Stigma and Discrimination

Stigma remains the single and most important barrier to public action. Stigma and discrimination marks people as different and as disgraced, denying individuals dignity, respect and the right to fully participate in their community. Stigma is based on socially defined norms of behaviour, moral judgement and fear (perhaps of contagion or simply difference).

Although socially constructed, it frequently has tremendous personal effects. Stigma can be both internalized as shame or guilt, and externalised as discrimination. HIV-related stigma and discrimination continue to occur in all national settings although they manifest differently and in varying degrees in different locations.

Un Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Stigma Factor August 2008.

Stigma and Discrimination continues to impact all the Priority Populations listed in the Seventh National HIV Strategy 2014-2017. Stigma has profound implications for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. For example, HIV-related stigma and discrimination may reduce an individual’s willingness to be tested for HIV, to disclose their HIV status, to practice safer sex, to access health care and to take antiretroviral treatment and care.

Although these factors significantly impact on an individual’s capacity to acknowledge and manage their own HIV infection, affecting their physical and psychological quality of life, they also undermine HIV prevention efforts and influence the course of HIV epidemics.