Tuesday 20 March 2012

The policy environment: jurisdictional intersections

Session Two at the AFAO Positive Services Forum focused on current issues for people living with HIV, which include e-health, health reform, immigration, criminalisation and discrimination.

Paul Kidd promotes the public health
response to HIV transmission.
Linda Forbes and Michael Frommer spoke about AFAO's policy work in areas including immigration, health reform, ehealth (taking advantage of benefits but being aware of privacy and confidentiality concerns), and criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure.

A common thread in all of work is reducing stigma and discrimination and increasing social inclusion for PLHIV. (See AFAO's policy portal for more information about this work).

NAPWA President Robert Mitchell provided a snapshot of current policy issues and how these affect the lived experiences of people living with HIV. He described how only three years since the first statements were made about the preventative benefits of treatments, this powerful scientific evidence now characterises global HIV prevention in the third decade of the HIV response. He specifically reflected on how the new 2011 UN HIV Declaration targets impact the Australia HIV response.

The remainder of the session focused on legal cases involving HIV transmission and exposure, and the stigmatising impact media reporting has on PLHIV and on health promotion efforts.

Paul Kidd, former president of PLWHA Victoria,  discussed responses to the criminalisation in Victoria a state with the highest number of legal cases and prosecutions for HIV transmission or exposure. He highlighted the different characteristics of  the criminal response and the public heath response to HIV, and argued that we need to do more to promote the public health approach, saying "Prosecutors need to be aware that there is a public health process". Download presentation

Questions from the floor included what work has been done to engage positive women around prosecutions, including educating communities about alternatives to prosecutions as part of this healing process. 

Colin Batrouney, VAC/GMHC, discussed implications for health promotion following the high profile Michael Neal case which garnered much mainstream and community media attention; much of the media reporting about the case was highly stigmatising for PLHIV. Batrouney argued that this style of reporting, even in the gay press, has contributed to the sensationalising of gay sexual cultures; this, combined with a rights based approach for LGBT communities that focuses on "family friendly" issues such as marriage and  has pushed discussion about sexuality to the margins, and  has a direct impact on effective health promotion targeting gay men.

Cameron Cox from Scarlet Alliance  discussed legal issues and other discrimination issues experienced by sex workers. He called for law reform, including the repeal of decriminalisation laws against sex work. Echoing the previous speaker's comments about the media, Cox described how media reporting about a legal case involving an HIV positive sex worker in the ACT has had a lasting impact on all sex workers by feeding existing stigmatisation, despite the fact that there has never been a single case of HIV transmission in Australia related to sex work.

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