COTA VIC and the Victorian Aids Council this week ran a well attended seminar on HIV and Ageing at the Alfred Hospital.
This was the first time a cross section of the medical profession, care givers, residential care workers, and people living with HIV came together to discuss health and discrimination issues facing older people living with HIV.
Speakers included Dr. Julian Elliot of the Alfred Hospital Infectious Disease Unit on what the research is telling us about ageing and HIV.
The Hon Susan Ryan, Age Discrimination Commissioner gave the keynote address on protecting the human rights of people living with HIV as they age.
Susan Ryan gave an overview of Australian anti-discrimination laws and the work of the Australian Human Rights Commission. She said that discrimination persists in this area and in particular older people living with HIV are more likely than younger people to have experienced discrimination throughout their life time.
“Although we now have extensive legal protections in place against discrimination on the basis of LGBTI identities, individuals now of an age to require aged care lived without those protections for much of their lives.
“When considering issues in ageing with HIV in this context, it is important to acknowledge that for the majority of people living with HIV, experiences of discrimination related to both HIV status and sexual orientation can compound an already significant set of challenges.
“One in four LGBTI have experienced verbal abuse and almost one in ten has experienced physical abuse.
“I was alarmed to note that a recent report on the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV in Australia revealed that 27.6% of respondents had experienced less-favourable treatment at a medical service as a result of having HIV. When asked what form this discrimination took, the most common responses were avoidance (43.5%) confidentiality problems (38.7%) and increased infection control (39.1%).
“The best approach to achieve these objectives is, I believe, the human rights based approach. A human rights approach recognises that people living with, affected by and vulnerable to HIV are entitled to respect, protection of and fulfilment of their full range of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent human rights treaties,” Susan Ryan said.