HIV-Positive Africans, MSM Living in United Kingdom Face Stigma, Discrimination, Study Says
HIV-positive Africans and men who have sex with men living in the United Kingdom often face "widespread discrimination" from their employers, family members and communities, according to a study conducted by Sigma Research and commissioned by the National AIDS Trust, BBC News reports (BBC News, 1/11). The study, titled "Outsider Status," was released on Tuesday by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS at the House of Commons. Its findings were based on focus group interviews conducted with 150 participants in the United Kingdom.
According to the study, MSM and Africans living with HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom "experience discrimination both in employment and within their families and communities," according to a NAT release. Such discrimination often is "combined with ingrained racism, homophobia and anti-asylum feeling" in the United Kingdom, according to NAT. The study found that 25% of HIV-positive people in the United Kingdom have experienced discrimination while accessing services, both in public and social settings. In addition, 33% of HIV-positive Africans living in the United Kingdom had experienced discrimination during the previous year, 50% had not revealed their status to anyone with whom they live, approximately 66% had not informed their employers and 25% had not told their general physicians, the study said (NAT release, 1/10). Moreover, "fear" of such discrimination "often prevented" MSM from revealing their HIV-positive status to family members, while "fear of dismissal" kept many people from informing their employers, BBC News reports. The study also found that within African communities in the United Kingdom, many HIV-positive people do not receive adequate treatment and care because the disease is taboo, according to BBC News. Journalists also contribute to such discrimination through "inaccurate and stigmatizing coverage of HIV issues," BBC News reports (BBC News, 1/11). The report said that when people do not reveal their HIV-positive status, they can experience "severe personal stress and can create barriers to accessing support from social and health services," according to NAT.
Many governmental policies on issues such as asylum and immigration can "exacerbate" stigma and discrimination associated with HIV, according to NAT (NAT release, 1/10). The report called on the Home Office to reconsider its policy of dispersing HIV-positive asylum seekers across the country because such actions can minimize people's access to both social support and care. The study also identified as "harmful" a policy that prevents asylum seekers from obtaining legal employment because it "damaged people's ability to support themselves," BBC News reports. The government should facilitate employment for all HIV-positive people, including providing HIV/AIDS education for employers and making flexible hours and job sharing available, the study said. The U.K. Department of Health also should reconsider charging asylum seekers for non-urgent hospital care if their applications have failed, according to the study, BBC News reports. "This research highlights the continuing stigma associated with HIV and the discrimination faced by people living with the virus," NAT CEO Deborah Jack said, adding, "Action is urgently needed by the government, communities and HIV organizations to break down this stigma which has consequences for both individuals and for public health." A Home Office spokesperson "defended" its current policy and said that 80% of applications for asylum were decided within two months, according to BBC News (BBC News, 1/11).