Dr Jason Myers on the Stigma Against New Zealanders Living With HIV

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Jason Myers, PhD, CEO, of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, explains how they conducted a New Zealand version of the Stigma Index Research to solve the issue of Māori living with HIV experiencing worsened stigma and discrimination.

Jason Myers, PhD, CEO, of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, explains how they conducted a New Zealand version of the Stigma Index Research that was designed and executed by people living with HIV.

Transcript

A principal finding of the Māori Participants Report 2021 is the lack of progress regarding HIV-related stigma and discrimination New Zealand’s indigenous people continue to face. Can you discuss the challenges these individuals come up against and how they differ from the general at-risk population? Are there plans to expand the study, especially with it having just 37 participants?

[The Stigma Index Research] is actually an international study and we were able to secure some funding to do a New Zealand version of it, so a working group was set up to implement this. The study was designed by people living with HIV and executed by people living with HIV. The Māori report focuses on that number of participants who were Māori in the study, but the study as a whole had over 188 participants. In terms of Māori representation, it's around 20% of the total study numbers, which is actually higher than the proportion of New Zealanders who are Māori. In that context, these numbers aren't too bad. But yes, indeed, what the study showed is that New Zealanders overall living with HIV continue to experience totally inexcusable stigma and discrimination in all areas of their lives. And for Māori living with HIV, that stigma and discrimination is even worse.

Now, I can't pretend to be an expert on the "why," but if we take a broader lens into the experience of Māori as New Zealand's indigenous population, we can see that they experience worse outcomes across a range of indicators: employment, housing, health. Of course, this begs the question, why? And I think, really, we have to bravely answer probably just with 1 or 2 words, and that is colonization and the impact of systemic racism that has followed. There is a whole heap of work for the New Zealand government and New Zealand population to do in order to meet, not only our obligations and the Treaty of Waitangi—our founding document—but also, and importantly, the international UN commitments to deliver an HIV and AIDS response that is based on human rights.