Hello from the Australian 2017 Sexual Health Conference
The session started after the afternoon tea when everyone was tired and looking forward to going home. The two MCs Heather Mugwagwa and Praveena Gunaratham steered the group to life.
The presenter Ms Victoria Sande is a current Masters of Public Health student at Curtin University. She shared the stage with her counterpart Corie Gray. They discussed Barriers to HIV testing in the sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia immigrants to Australia.
They discussed the following in a nutshell:
Immigrants were diagnosed at a very late stage
Access to ART is limited compared to Australians.
They discussed reasons forHIV late diagnosis as based on their original background in Africa and Asia. The need to go to the hospital was required only when one is critically ill. There was no need to visit the hospital when one is fit and strong. Their background discriminated against people with HIV. It associated HIV with bad behaviour were sufferers are labelled as prostitutes and unfaithful. Since HIV was incurable and the disease itself was referred to as a death penalty and this brought a lot of emotional issues and anxiety. It was best for one not to know his/her status because knowing was more killing than not.
Australia did not make it easier for them.They read in the media about their immigrant’s counter parts’ HIV positivity status being publicised in both electronic, digital and print media. They became worried about their privacy, stigmatisation and racism that comes with it. These factors further distanced them from testing, diagnosis and getting treatment early. They prefered to remain ignorant than to know their HIV status. They were also afraid that the Australian Government criminalises HIV infection, quarantines them, and denies them Permanent residence. They are also limited HIV treatment access as compared to their Australian counterparts. It became more unattractive for them to know their status thereby delaying their early testing and treatment.
Their issues require immediate attention via accurate dissemination of information via their Peers and immigrant educators. There is a need for other groups to understand their background and adjust so as to help them.
Early testing and diagnosis are important so as to reduce and limit the spread of HIV infection. There is need to broaden HIV testing e.g. by use of rapid testing, self-collection kits, and oral testing.