Stigma and discrimination associated with blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections: A stigma reduction toolkit for the Victorian healthcare workforce

Stigma and discrimination are central issues for those affected by blood-borne viruses (BBV) and sexually transmissible infections (STI). They can hinder healthcare access, complicate intimate relationships, increase social isolation, and undermine trust in healthcare settings. BBV and STI-related stigma is often inseparable from other forms of stigma related to sexuality, gender identity, or race, and research has long shown healthcare settings are key sites in which stigma is experienced. The effects of stigma related to BBV and STI in healthcare are far-reaching, limiting access to testing, treatment, and prevention, and undermining the trust required for effective therapeutic relationships.

Most research on BBV- and STI-related stigma and discrimination within healthcare settings has focussed on analysing how stigma manifests and much less on how to address it. This project addresses this gap by investigating the strengths and weaknesses of existing BBV and STI-related stigma and discrimination reduction tools. and by collaborating with end-users, that is healthcare professionals, to refine existing tools and develop new ones.

Project activities

We are currently recruiting Victorian healthcare workers involved in blood-borne viruses and STI health service sectors to participate in online focus groups about how to address stigma, discrimination and related issues.

Contact Dr Jeanne Ellard for more information or to participate in the project: j.ellard@latrobe.edu.au

The project team comprises:

Chief investigators

Professor Suzanne Fraser, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Dr Adrian Farrugia, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Dr Renae Fomiatti, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Dr Jeanne Ellard, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Project staff

Dr Jeanne Ellard, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Emily Lenton, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Funded by the Victorian Department of Health, the project uses a qualitative co-design methodology specifically adapted for the development of a toolkit for the BBV, STI and broader healthcare sectors in Victoria. Co-design is broadly defined as designing research, services, solutions to problems, or products by collaborating with people and organisations directly involved in an issue, place or process. The principles of co-design are well suited to research with an aim of producing a toolkit to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with BBV and STI for use in health service settings. Using a co-design research approach, this project will combine the insights and contributions of researchers and research participants to produce a context-relevant and practice-ready tooklit ready for rollout to participating organisations.

For further information about the project, contact Dr Jeanne Ellard: j.ellard@latrobe.edu.au