HIV in Victoria's African communities: reducing risks and improving care
AuthorLemoh, Christopher Numa
AffiliationMedicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2013 Dr. Christopher Numa Lemoh
The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome caused by the human immunodeficiency virus is an important issue for Australia’s African communities. As in other industrialised countries, African immigrants are over-represented in Australia’s HIV epidemic, diagnosed late and endure social isolation after diagnosis, but focused responses, applied without understanding local HIV epidemiology and social context, risk intensifying stigma against African communities and African Australian people living with HIV in Australia. This study explored the social epidemiology and clinical features of HIV in Victoria’s African communities, collecting data from national and Victorian HIV surveillance databases, a clinical case series of African-born HIV patients and a qualitative inquiry with several African communities. Diverse geographical, biological, psychosocial and structural factors influenced exposure, diagnosis, clinical features and experience of living with HIV. Most exposure occurred in Africa, prior to migration, through heterosexual sex. Some occurred after migration, in Australia and abroad, through heterosexual sex and sex between men. Low self-perceived risk and lack of awareness of HIV in Australia contributed to exposure and delayed diagnosis. HIV was understood as a deadly, highly contagious “African” disease, posing little threat in Australia, being one of several intersecting challenges to the wellbeing and cohesion of African communities during resettlement. Understanding of HIV was based largely on experience in Africa and the process of HIV screening during immigration. HIV-related stigma, based on risk stereotypes of sexual immorality and fear of contagion and death, was the major barrier to social support and information. Key clinical issues for African-born PLHIV included high prevalence of TB and viral hepatitis. HIV treatment uptake was high and response was good. HIV exposure via sex between men led to HIV-1 subtype B infection; those with heterosexual or other exposure carried various non-B subtypes. African communities actively participated in the study leading to greater engagement in Victorian and national HIV responses. Study results provided insights into HIV epidemiology and clinical features in Victoria’s African communities and informed a conceptual framework that should further the understanding of HIV epidemiology in mobile and marginalised populations.
Keywordshuman immunodeficiency virus; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; diaspora; emigrants and immigrants; transients and migrants; African continental ancestry group; Australia; public health; epidemiology; social stigma; Ethiopia; Eritrea; Somalia; Sudan; South Sudan; Egypt; Coptic; anthropology, cultural; critical realism; agential realism; hepatitis B; hepatitis C; tuberculosis
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