Māori and Pasifika patients living with HIV now have access to a new online tool to help them better communicate with healthcare providers.
The Unity Tool follows the release of a new study which investigated the experiences of HIV patients on a global scale.
Given some Māori or Pasifika patients may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their HIV status, the study found that many would find it difficult to talk comfortably with their doctors, which can compromise their medical treatment and quality of life.
Marama Pala, executive director of the INA (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation says there are many social health determinants when it comes to Māori seeking help. Many are living in poverty, she says, with friends and family and may have experienced racism; and this is independent of their HIV status.
“Many of them have been in prison, have had family in prison, and the stigma of that hits them even harder than the HIV itself. If they are gay, lesbian and transgender they get stigmatised. There is also a lot of stigma inside the individual Iwi where if you have HIV you must have done something wrong or been cursed. Most Māori will only go to a doctor or dentist when they are desperate which is why Māori are at the bottom of the cliff,” says Pala.
Medical director of GSK, Dr Ian Griffiths says the tool helps them identify and describe problems and facilitate a more meaningful conversation with their specialist before appointments.
“There can be a wide range of reasons why people living with HIV may not be able to communicate openly with their doctor face-to-face. The aim of the Unity Tool is to support those people living with HIV in their conversations with their healthcare providers over especially personal, difficult or troublesome issues which may be worrying them,” he says.
New Zealand will be the sixth country to receive the Unity Tool which is already being utilised in the UK, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Singapore and Spain.
The online tool has been launched in time for World Aids Day on December 1.