Forty years since the discovery of HIV/AIDS, new research highlights that people living with the disease still face stigma, discrimination and negative labelling from their own families, communities and healthcare professionals.
Flinders University researchers interviewed 20 HIV healthcare providers including doctors, nurses, and counsellors in Indonesia’s Yogyakarta and Belu districts, to examine their experiences when treating patients with HIV. Their responses included admission of personal stigma and discrimination towards people living with the disease.
Lead author Nelsensius Fauk said people living with HIV/AIDS are being significantly discriminated against in a wide range of ways. For example, they may be subjected to separation of their personal belongings by family members, be avoided physically by community members, and they may experience rejection or not being provided treatment by the healthcare providers.
“Due to the lack of knowledge about HIV, there is still a fear in the community about contracting the disease from patients and a reluctance to help because of personal values, religious stances, socio-cultural values and norms in these communities, which directly contribute further towards HIV stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS.”
Senior author Associate Professor Lillian Mwanri said although treatment modalities have improved significantly and the quality of life improves where HIV patients are treated effectively, HIV stigma and discrimination remain prevalent, leaving patients with poor access to services and healthcare providers being less familiar with how to manage and interact with HIV patients. These in turn increase healthcare providers’ fear of contracting HIV from patients, she said.
“Negative perceptions and judgements about people living with HIV through unprotected sex or injected-drug use (IDU) and general negative portrayals of them, are also drivers of discriminatory treatment by healthcare providers. Other factors such as healthcare providers' gender, race and religion have also been reported to play a role in discriminatory attitudes.
“Understanding the perspectives and experiences of healthcare providers related to HIV stigma and discrimination will be an important contribution to the current body of knowledge and useful for the improvement of HIV care systems and delivery, and to improve the health outcomes of people living with HIV in Indonesia and globally.”
The research, published in Frontiers in Medicine, coincided with the 30th anniversary of Princess Diana’s speech in which she declared it’s okay to hug those with HIV/AIDS.