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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 00:13 GMT
HIV discrimination 'rife'
World Aids Day
Many people with HIV suffer discrimination at work
People with HIV and Aids still face widespread discrimination from all strands of society, according to a report by a leading Aids charity.

The report from the Terence Higgins Trust, published to mark World Aids Day on Saturday, suggests one in five people diagnosed with the disease have experienced prejudice in the past 12 months.

People with HIV have just as much right to be treated properly as anyone else with a long-term illness

Terence Higgins Trust
It claims discrimination, and more importantly the fear of discrimination, is a problem in the workplace, at home and within the healthcare system itself.

The charity believes such fears are preventing many people from coming forward to be tested, and it is now calling for a government-funded awareness campaign to tackle the problem.

Red ribbons

It is also campaigning for legislation to protect HIV-infected people from all types of discrimination.

The charity would also like the public to wear a red ribbon on Saturday to demonstrate their support for people with HIV and Aids and to show they are not prejudiced.

According to the report, Black Africans, who are second largest group of people in the UK with HIV, face particularly harsh discrimination which can often lead to financial and social problems.

Many people with HIV also face discrimination at work.

The charity has examples of employers who have made working conditions impossible for an employee who has disclosed an HIV-positive status.

Funeral rituals 'denied'

And there are numerous examples of discrimination from insurance companies who have refused to issue policies to HIV-positive people or doubled their premiums.

The report also says there are examples of religious organisations denying funeral rituals to HIV-positive people and educational establishments refusing to teach infected children.

And there is evidence to suggest that drug users receive a poorer standard of medical care and support than other patients.

A spokesperson for the charity said: "People with HIV have just as much right to be treated properly as anyone else with a long-term illness.

"As a result of discrimination many people choose to conceal their HIV diagnosis for fear of the possible consequences.

"This can result in other problems such as increased anxiety, difficulty in making relationships, lack of access to information or services and unexplained absences from work.

"Some people choose not to get tested at all because they fear the difficulties a positive diagnosis could bring."

There are currently 33,200 people in the UK infected with HIV - a third of whom are unaware they have the virus.

The report claims that much of the discrimination has been fuelled by negative reports in the media.

The BBC's Neil Bennett
"All the conditions for an epidemic are present"
See also:

28 Nov 01 | Health
'My fight against discrimination'
22 Nov 01 | Health
Junior doctors' 'HIV ignorance'
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