New interactive tool to support Māori with HIV

8:30 pm on 27 November 2017

A new online health tool has launched to help Māori and Pasifika talk about their HIV status to their health providers.

Doctor

Doctor Photo: 123RF

That follows findings from the (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation that some people avoid treatment because they are too embarrassed to talk about HIV to their doctors.

The Unity tool uses an online form to take patients through a series of questions and then creates an appointment guide which they can take to their healthcare provider for further discussion on issues of concern.

The questionnaire covers issues including general well-being, emotional, social and family life, work life, sex life and suitability of the HIV treatment and its effect on their quality of life.

The foundation's executive director, Marama Pala, hoped the tool would enable Māori, who make up 8 percent of the entire HIV population, feel more confident talking about their health.

She said many Māori only went to the doctor when they were desperate.

"Through the studies we've done internally we can tell that there is a lot of miscommunication between Māori living with HIV and their health professionals.

"When there are a lot of people who use drugs recreationally, people who are sex workers or people who are transgender, it's about helping them to come out of their shell and talk about issues for them with their doctor."

There was a lot of negative stigma associated with having HIV, Ms Pala said.

"It's often a shameful thing, an embarrassment and a lot of the time even discussing where they got it from can be really painful. I think for a lot of them, it compounds the embarrassment, the stigma and the discrimination.

"We've also seen too that doctors - they get a little bit uncomfortable talking about HIV as well, so it's a tool that can help them too."

The Unity tool would ensure doctors had the information they needed to provide the best possible treatment, she said.

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