A new HIV report is calling on the government to urgently implement a sexual health framework to eliminate stigma and discrimination.
This comes following the release of the People Living with HIV Stigma Index report by Te Whāriki Takapou, a Māori sexual and reproductive health research organisation.
Te Whāriki Takapou chief executive Dr Alison Green says the report shows a breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as Māori people living with HIV should have the right under the Treaty to live free of stigma and discrimination. For that reason, the report was launched at Waitangi Weekend.
“We’ve had three decades of no funding and no policy for sexual and reproductive health. Including HIV treatment and prevention and so what we’re seeing here is the effect of that.”
Discriminating against a person living with HIV is illegal in New Zealand. However, the report indicates there has been no progress on public education around HIV since 1995. Dr Green says this is a breach of human rights.
The report said there were 37 Māori living with HIV. And it revealed a quarter of them suffered verbal abuse, discrimination, poor access to the job market and crucial health services.
No policy framework
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that’s passed from person to person through the bloodstream and once it is in someone's bloodstream, it begins to attack their immune system. There is no cure for HIV but there are many good-quality medications available to help people manage the virus and live healthy lives.
Dr Green says 317 Māori have been diagnosed with HIV since the virus first struck New Zealand but the number is likely to be an undercount.
“Some of those people may have passed away since being diagnosed but that’s the most reliable statistic we have at the moment.”
Dr Green says sexual health and reproductive services across the country are trying their best to provide effective support but there is still no policy to provide a framework.
“Here’s a country that’s trying to operate sexual and reproductive health services, including preventing HIV related stigma and discrimination without a road map.”
“If we had a sexual health policy and, if we had funding and resources going into this arena, then the public would be much more aware and up-to-date on HIV prevention and treatment.”