Date: 
Friday 1 December 2017

All Australians have a human right to health but stigma continues to act as a barrier to HIV prevention and treatment, says Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow.

Commissioner Santow’s comments come on World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and commemorate those lost to HIV/AIDS related conditions.

“It is also an opportunity to help address HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” Commissioner Santow said.

“Every Australian has a right to accessible, reliable, quality health care that is free from discrimination.

“Stigma creates an obstacle to implementing effective prevention strategies when people are less likely to engage with services and also less likely to access testing, treatment and care.”

UNAIDS has recently launched theMy Health, My Right campaign, which explores the challenges people around the world face in exercising their right to health.

“All people, regardless of their age, gender, where they live or who they love, have the right to health,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

The number of newly-diagnosed HIV infections in Australia has remained stable over the last five years, with just over 1,000 new diagnoses each year.

But Kirby Institute research shows that this is not consistent amongst all Australians, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people born in certain regions overseas being disproportionately affected.

New HIV notifications among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has increased 33 per cent between 2012 and 2016, that’s compared to a fall of 22 per cent among non-indigenous Australians, born in Australia.

Beginning treatment in the early stages of HIV leads to improved health outcomes and reduces the chance of transmission.

Commissioner Santow said reducing stigma through increased education and awareness was needed to help ensure all Australians were able to exercise their right to health no matter where they live or where they were born.

The theme for World AIDS Day Australia is HIV is ‘still here - and it's on the move’. 

More information about how you can help raise awareness is available here.