Removing Barriers – a tool for breaking down stigma


When those living with HIV or Blood-borne viruses (BBV) experience or perceive stigma and discrimination, the body of published evidence suggests they either leave a service before being seen or a lost to follow up. For those living with these viruses, experiences of past discrimination can result in patients withholding necessary information out of the fear of being judged, not being seeking help at all.

Primary Care Nurses have a significant role to play in the elimination of stigma and discrimination experienced by people with blood borne viruses when accessing health care – which remains one of the primary barriers to treatment for many.

Nurses are an invaluable force within healthcare – patients look to nurses for care during their most vulnerable times, and time and again nurses are ranked as the most trusted profession in Australian society. This trust means a profound responsibility for nurses – and unparalleled opportunity to connect with those who need care the most. This means an unparalleled ability to break down barriers caused by those suffering from stigma, and foster a better culture of healthcare across organisations.

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine’s (ASHM) online learning module ‘Removing Barriers: Providing Care for People with BBVs’ has been developed by AHSM and funded by the Department of Health to help healthcare practitioners and nurses identify and eliminate bias from their professional practice. Practitioners, and even practice processes, can perpetuate stigma and discrimination without even being aware of doing so.

Every human being, even the most conscientious and well-intentioned amongst us, has some measure of bias or pre-conception about other individuals. Removing Barriers online learning resources, which are free to use, are designed to raise awareness of unconscious bias in use of language and policy procedures, and help practitioners and their colleagues learn how to make their practice more welcoming for patients who may often experience marginalisation.

Removing Barriers online learning module is suitable for all health workplaces and provides nurses with a great CPD refresher on the transmission of BBVs, the impact of stigma and discrimination, and helps individuals identify opportunities to change practice and policy to reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with BBVs.

To find out more, visit:

This article was posted on behalf of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine. 


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