HIV is a health issue; not a legal issue

Stigma and discrimination that is directed towards people living with HIV affects us in a number of different ways. Whether it is discrimination from others in the wider community, from peers or the people closest to us, negative attitudes or prejudice can have lasting effects and limit the way we access HIV testing, treatment or other services.

HIV Stigma

The consequences of stigma and discrimination are wide-ranging. Some people are shunned by family, peers and the wider community, while others face poor treatment in healthcare and educational settings, erosion of their human rights, and psychological damage. These all limit access to HIV testing, treatment and other HIV services.

Policy of non-reconstruction of HIV infected bodies post-autopsy, August 2012

In 2012, the Department of Forensic Medicine Glebe refused to reconstruct the bodies of people with HIV and/or HCV after conducting an autopsy. NSW was the only jurisdiction in Australia with this policy. This policy caused unwanted disclosure and distress to partners and family members of the diseased and was particularly problematic for the families of rural and Aboriginal people with HIV.

Positive Life thought the policy unnecessary and discriminatory and considered that it reinforced and perpetuated the stigma of infectiousness attached to people with HIV and HCV. Following a submission to the Department of Forensic Medicine by Positive Life they informed us that they would develop a new technique for the restoration of bodies after autopsy which eliminated the use of the suture needle and therefore improved safety for mortuary staff. Reconstruction of HIV/HCV infected bodies was subsequently implemented following further refinement of the trialled technique. Additionally, NSW Public Health Regulation 2011 was modified whereby bodies released to funeral homes no longer had any indication of HIV or Hep C.

Resources

If you have experienced discrimination because you're HIV positive, call Positive Life NSW on (02) 9206 2177 or freecall 1800 245 677 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Help is also available from other organisations. The following websites can offer information about what to do if you have experienced discrimination:

Location: Suite 5.2, Level 5, 414 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Postal: PO Box 831, Darlinghurst NSW 1300

Telephone: 02 9206 2177 or 1800 245 677 (freecall)
TTY: 131 450    Fax: 02 9211 5672

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