Stigma and Discrimmination
Your Rights - Stigma and discrimination
Stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with hepatitis B & C is associated with:
- negative health outcomes for affected populations
- negative influences on a person’s mental, psychological and emotional health
- feelings of social isolation
A range of policy responses (including laws) to stigma and discrimination are in place nationally and in the ACT; however, people living with hepatitis B & C continue to report experiences of marginalisation.
Stigma and discrimination within the health care sector is commonly reported by people living with hepatitis B and C. For those affected, the negative effects can impact:
- receipt of care
- unnecessary barriers to disclosure
- management and treatment
Stigma occurs as a result of perceiving a characteristic of a person as deviant (different) from the norms and expectations of the majority. Stigmatised people are labelled as different. The source of the labelling can be external (e.g. another person, an organisation) or internal (i.e. internalised or self-stigma).
Discrimination occurs when labelling, perceptions and stigma begin to affect how a person or group is treated. Discrimination is unfavourable treatment because of a particular characteristic or difference. Sometimes discrimination is obvious, and sometimes it is more subtle.
Regardless of whether an instance or pattern of stigma and discrimination is intended or unintended, actual or perceived, it may negatively impact the affected person.
It is against the law to discriminate against a person living with hepatitis B or C. The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 makes it an offence to discriminate on the basis of a person’s disability (including chronic viral hepatitis) anywhere in Australia. In the ACT there is also the Discrimination Act 1991. Discrimination laws cover acts of discrimination occurring in public life.
Rights and responsibilities
There are very few instances when a person is legally required to disclose their hepatitis B or C status:
- If giving blood to the blood bank and you know you have hepatitis B or C, you are required to disclose and your blood will not be accepted for donation. You may also be required to disclose if donating bodily organs or other bodily fluids, such as sperm
- If you are a health care worker who conducts exposure prone procedures and you have hepatitis B or C you may be required to notify your employer. Disclosure requirements differ from state to state. Hepatitis ACT will be able to provide you with more information about local requirements
- Some insurance policies, particularly life insurance, require that you disclose any infections, disabilities or illnesses that might influence the decision to insure you. If you don’t disclose this information it may affect future claims you may make
- If you are a member of the Australian Defence Force and you have hepatitis B or C, you will have to disclose this
- It is their choice to tell someone they have hepatitis B or C
- Telling someone they have hepatitis B or C can be scary – unsure of how that person will react
- Disclosing can also be a source of support
- How that person may react and how their reaction may affect you
- It can help to find out as much as possible about hepatitis before telling others. Providing people with accurate information about hepatitis B or C can help correct myths/incorrect information they may have
- Some people find it useful to practice disclosing in their mind or to a friend, confidant, counsellor or hepatitis worker, before disclosing to others in their life
- There are better times than others to share with someone new information about a health condition. It is important to have the discussion when both parties can give the matter sufficient consideration
- If possible, having a supportive person on hand or easily contactable when disclosing can help
- It can be a shock for friends or family to find out that a loved one has hepatitis B or C. It is important to give the person time to come terms with this new information. Having a contact number on hand to access further information or support is important (Hepatitis Infoline: 1300 437 222)
- Remember that different people will react differently when told about hepatitis B or C. If the outcome is negative, it is important to remember that this is not a reflection on the worth of the affected person
- If a person is diagnosed with hepatitis B it may be helpful to talk to family members and sexual partners so they can be vaccinated and tested for hepatitis B
Annual Surveillance Report HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report 2018: https://kirby.unsw.edu.au/report-type/annual-surveillance-reports
Hepatitis Australia: https://www.hepatitisaustralia.com/for-friends-and-family
Hepatitis Australia: https://www.hepatitisaustralia.com/dealing-with-your-hepatitis-b-diagnosis
National BBV & STI Surveillance and Monitoring Report 2017: https://kirby.unsw.edu.au/report-type/national-bbv-sti-surveillance-and-monitoring-reports
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-b