Sector News

1 March 2019

To mark Zero Discrimination Day, today ASHM has launched Removing Barriers, a new online learning tool for addressing stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings against people affected by HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Each year the United Nations dedicates Zero Discrimination Day to the importance of speaking up and preventing discrimination from impeding everyone’s right to live a full life with dignity. 

“People affected by a blood-borne virus—HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C—can face stigma and discrimination when accessing the health system. By not addressing those issues, we will never achieve our goal of virtual elimination of these viruses,” said ASHM CEO Alexis Apostolellis. 

Removing Barriers makes it everybody’s business to change what we say, change what we do and work together in removing the unacceptable barriers of stigma and discrimination across the health system.” 

Nurses are one of the groups that can access targeted online training through the Removing Barriers website. 

“No one likes to think their work practices may be stigmatising or discriminatory. However, we all come to our professions with our own set of values, attitudes and perceptions, and there are times we could be challenged by people that we care for,” said Dr Elizabeth Crock, ASHM Board Member and Nurse Practitioner. 

Removing Barriers has been designed to make all nurse participants—regardless of the health setting they practice in—reflect on our own personal and workplace practices by examining and reflecting on where stigma comes from, and the role nurses can play in eliminating it.” 

The Removing Barriers website contains first-hand accounts of the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with blood-borne viruses. 

“What we hear repeatedly is that stigma and discrimination persist. It is the number one barrier to people achieving their highest quality of life, impacting effective and timely treatment and care management,” said Bill Paterson from the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), who partnered with ASHM on Removing Barriers. 

“The aim of Removing Barriers is to encourage more inclusive behaviours within healthcare settings, which in turn will lead to increased testing, diagnosis and early treatment of HIV, further decreasing the rates of HIV transmission in our broader communities. Removing stigma and discrimination from all healthcare settings ultimately improves the health and wellbeing of all people living with HIV.” 

Drug users are another group affected by stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings.  

“We know that for many people who use drugs, because of the stigma towards drug use, interacting with health professionals can often be a nerve-wracking and unpleasant experience. This causes delays in accessing support for health issues or in people not raising them at all,” said CEO of the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) Melanie Walker, another project partner. 

“AIVL welcomes ASHM’s Removing Barriers project, which advances its ongoing commitment to improving the patient experience across health care settings by challenging stigma and discrimination, in partnership with affected communities.” 


Access the Removing Barriers online learning

REMOVING BARRIERS online learning is now available at