What is discrimination?
Put simply, discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently or less favourably based on who they are as a person. People are usually discriminated against based on their race, sex, or sexual preference, but it can also occur towards a health condition like viral hepatitis.
What is stigma?
Stigma is the negative social attitudes people have towards an individual’s behaviour, appearance, or identity. People living with a liver condition such as viral hepatitis can be stigmatised due to ignorance or fear about the condition. Stigma can be stopped by challenging it and education those around us.
Do I have to disclose my diagnosis?
In Australia, a person’s viral hepatitis status is their business. It is your right and personal decision to choose whether or not you disclose, and in most cases you don’t legally have to. However, there are a few circumstances where you may be required to disclose.
Who will be notified of my diagnosis?
Viral hepatitis is a notifiable disease, meaning that if you see a doctor for a blood test, your positive test result and other details will be sent to ACT Health. This helps the department monitor and control infectious diseases. However – your personal information is de-identified and kept confidential.
What if I experience discrimination with a health service?
If you have experienced discrimination within a health service or by a health practitioner this could be illegal behaviour.
Health services cannot discriminate against someone on the grounds of a disability such as hepatitis B and/or C. They also have to abide by certain principles and where they don’t, you can complain. This means, for example, that health services do not have the right to:
- Refuse service because you have hepatitis B and/or C
- Bully or harass people due to having hepatitis B and/or C
- Otherwise disadvantage someone due to them having hepatitis B and/or C
- Share information about you outside of normal confidentiality laws
If you would like to talk to someone call the National Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222. More information can be found here on regulating Australia’s health practitioners.
Who do I have to tell?
Do I have to tell work?
For almost all jobs, you do not need to tell your employer or colleagues that you are living with viral hepatitis. There are a small number of professions that may require you to disclose your status or have a blood test, such as:
- If you are a healthcare worker performing exposure prone procedures (EPPs).
- If you work for, or are applying to join the Australian Defence Force.
Some jobs may require you to provide evidence that you have been immunised for hepatitis B. If you are already living with chronic hepatitis B, you may want to consider seeing a doctor who can write a letter for your employer explaining the minimal risks involved with your condition and your suitability for the job.
Do I have to tell friends and family?
While there are no legal obligations for you to disclose among family and friends, often they can offer valuable support when needed. If you decide to disclose, they may react negatively at first, so be prepared.
Before disclosing, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about your condition, so you can alleviate any uncertainties your friends and family may have and answer their questions. For example, you can assure them that it is perfectly safe to share food or hug somebody who is living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
Do I have to tell sexual partners?
There is a high risk for hepatitis B to be sexually transmitted. For hepatitis C, there is a low risk. As long as you take precautions to avoid transmission, you do not have to tell a sexual partner that you are living with hepatitis. It is recommended that you always use barrier protection (condoms).
Disclosing your viral hepatitis status to a sexual partner is usually something to carefully consider for personal and ethical reasons, rather than for any legal obligations.
Do I have to tell insurers?
When applying for insurance, you are legally obligated to answer questions and disclose information correctly. Health and life insurance policies are most relevant to disclosing your viral hepatitis status.
Chronic hepatitis is considered a ‘risk’ by many insurance providers, and you may not be approved for a policy or the costs may be increased. Different insurance companies will have different criteria, so it’s best to talk a professional advisor.
Do I have to tell if I play sports?
All sporting organisations should follow blood rules and infection control procedures when first-aid is needed. Legally you are not required disclose your viral hepatitis status when participating in almost every sport. Some martial arts and contact sports may require disclosure or a blood test before participating.
Do I have to tell school?
If you are a student or you have a child living with viral hepatitis, you are not legally required to disclose that information to a school or university. No educational institutions can treat someone differently or deny them admission based on their viral hepatitis status. If this occurs, it is discrimination and is illegal.
Supporting others with viral hepatitis
How do I support a colleague?
Half a million people in Australia have hepatitis B and/or C. If you work with the public, it is highly likely you have worked with someone who has hepatitis B and/or C, whether you knew it or not.
If someone you are working with tells you that they have hepatitis B and/or C, and you find your interpersonal responses to that person change, for example you are feeling anxious about that person, it might be time to get some training to support you in responding in the best way you can.
Consider learning how to speak the language or taking a online workplace training course.
If sometimes workers change their normal work practices in response to people who they believe have hepatitis. The aims of this behaviour change can have good intentions behind it, for example, to prevent transmission. This could suggest something is not quite right, either with the established work practices in your organisation, or that some more information would be helpful for you.
- If you or your colleague have behaved in the following ways perhaps you should consider learn how to work with someone who lives with a liver condition such as viral hepatitis: You have or a colleague has shared about someone’s hepatitis with other organisations/workers, where this is not relevant to their care, and especially when they have not consented to this information being shared.
- Changing practices around infection control procedures, such as using disposable instruments where you would not normally
- Highlighting the fact that someone has hepatitis on their record, in a way that implies added danger or concern
Tips to help you reduce stigma
- Person-first Language is more than just the words we use – body language, tone of voice, and eye contact are all important in conveying respect and dignity to a person
- Use language that conveys optimism and positivity
- Use language that is accessible: free from jargon, technical words, and confusing data
- Call out stigma: if someone uses stigmatising language, address it by explaining why it’s a problem and suggest a preferred term
- Be aware of the context of language:
- Some terms may be appropriately used by people identifying within a certain group, but would be stigmatising when used by people outside the group
- Sometimes using and enabling informal, inappropriate, or slang words in conversation is important in establishing rapport. However, it is also important to keep in mind that appropriate language used with one person maybe offensive when used with others.
Migrants with hepatitis
Can I get a VISA?
People living with hepatitis B or C may not have their visa approved because they have not met health standards set by the Australian government. While it is entirely possible for these individuals and their partners to successfully be granted a visa, the process can sometimes be challenging.
What are the steps involved when applying for a visa if I have hepatitis?
- Complete a health examination with an approved doctor as a part of your visa application.
- The Medical Officer of the Commonwealth (MOC) will review your results and decide if you meet the health requirement.
- If you do meet the health requirement, your visa application will continue. If you do not meet the health requirement and your visa has the Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4007, submit a health waiver.
- If a health waiver is granted, your visa application will continue.
If the health waiver is not granted, you can appeal this decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Can a person who is living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C migrate to Australia?
Yes, they can. However, every case will be different and the Australian Government takes into account where a person is migrating from, their age, how long they have been living with hepatitis, and what they intend to do in Australia, among other factors.
Can I do my health examination with any doctor?
For immigration purposes, all health examinations conducted within Australia must be completed by a doctor managed by BUPA or BUPA medical visa services.
To locate your closest clinic and book an appointment visit the BUPA medical visa services website.
For those applying outside of Australia, the health examination must be completed by a Panel physician approved by the Australian government. A list of Panel Physicians by country is available on the Department of Home Affair’s website.