The National Association of People With HIV Australia (NAPWHA) and Femfatales — the National Network of Women Living With HIV — join other HIV-positive organisations to scorn the email circulated last Thursday suggesting that the Independent candidate for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, is HIV-positive and therefore withdrawing her candidacy.
“This is ridiculous on so many fronts,” said Femfatales Convenor, Katherine Leane “HIV in 2018 is far from the horror story it once was.”
People living with HIV are now able to take a simple daily treatment which not only prevents them from getting sick, but also renders the virus untransmittable. Since 1996, Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) has been widely adopted to control HIV infection. At first a potent concoction of various drugs, it now has been refined to a simple, single daily dosage.
“The suggestion that HIV would be the catalyst to remove or prevent someone from pursuing a career in public office is ludicrous,” Leane said. “There is absolutely no reason why people with HIV would not make exceptional politicians.”
However there may be other reasons behind the stigmatising email.
"Indirect or hidden gender bias is often utilised as a strategy to disempower women and silence them,” Leane suggests. “What Femfatales finds highly offensive is the implication that due to a person’s HIV status they could be considered incapable of performing in the work place. This ridiculous myth further fuels an outdated perception about people with HIV that adds to unwarranted discrimination and negative stigma. What is also disturbing is that HIV is still so misunderstood,” she said.
HIV is still a marginalised disease. Perceived as something that affects only gay men and people who use drugs, the reality is that globally women are the most affected group.
“People with HIV have long battled the stigma associated with this disease,” said NAPWHA President, Cipriano Martinez. “We had hoped this sort of thing was over,” he said. “What it highlights is the ignorance still out there.”
Katherine Leane Convenor, Femfatales 0450 877 379
Cipriano Martinez President, NAPWHA 0421 482 584