Pozitif-iz Association Published 2021 Rights Violations Annual Report
RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AMONG HIV POSITIVE PEOPLE TRIPLED BETWEEN 2020-2021
The Pozitif-iz Association’s “Report on Violations of the Rights of HIV positive People in Turkey in 2021” highlights the sheer scale of stigma and discrimination. With the launching of Medula, it is health care workers living with HIV who are the most affected.
While the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on people living with HIV continued, rights violations increased in 2021, especially in the health sector. People living with HIV face major barriers to accessing health care due to health care workers, particularly primary care physicians lacking information about HIV, avoiding treatment, and discriminating against patients.
In addition, the Medikal Ulak (MEDULA - Medical Messenger) system* was made available to health care providers in August 2021. While the launching of the MEDULA system was an institutional violation related to the protection of personal data, it also led to new violations such as “preventing access to the right to health.” And it became the reason for a large part of the violations, which tripled compared to 2020. Whereas the Pozitif-iz Association received 42 applications in 2020, this number tripled to 140 in 2021.
HIV POSITIVE HEALTH CARE WORKERS WERE THE MOST AFFECTED
Although there is no medical or legal barrier for HIV-infected health care workers to practice regardless of their specialty, HIV-infected health care workers were the most affected by the launching of MEDULA. HIV-infected health care workers were not even able to apply to the infection services of the facility where they worked for fear of being stigmatized, discriminated against, and having their diagnosis revealed without their consent. Because of all these obstacles, they had to go to another hospital or even to a facility in another city for their treatment and follow-up.
It is ironic that it is the health care workers who commit the violations and also who are exposed to them.
DATA EXPOSES VIOLATIONS
The Pozitif-iz Association reported on the violations faced by 140 counselees in 2021, using the results as anonymized data.
The report, prepared with the support of the European Union under the Etkiniz Grant Program, conducted a retrospective reporting of rights violations and a legal analysis based on the applications received by the Pozitif-iz Association in 2021. The report, which aims to show the projection of the recent past to the current reality of HIV-related rights violations in Turkey, also aims to show the paths traveled by people living with HIV while providing a roadmap for HIV response.
VIOLATIONS IN MULTIPLE AREAS
Of the 140 applications, 62 (44%) concerned violations based on legislation on the right of access to health care, 36 (25%) violations based on legislation on the right to work, 23 (16%) violations based on legislation on the protection of personal data, 11 (8%) violations based on legislation on criminal law, 5 (4%) violations based on legislation on family law and the last 4 (3%) violations based on military legislation.
As a result of counseling services given to 140 counselees, 18 citizens took legal actions.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN TURKEY IS MULTIPLE DISCRIMINATION
Cihan Tuğcu, volunteer lawyer of Pozitif-iz Association, pointed out the systematic nature of discrimination and stigmatization saying, “Although 140 cases were covered in the study, the number of applications received by the association is much higher than this. The reason why some of the counselees could not be included in the study was that people could not take the steps needed towards fighting for their rights for fear of discrimination. Another conclusion of the report is the fact that violations occur in the context of a variety of social relationships and in different areas of law, at times in complicated ways. With so many of the violations, multiple rights were violated simultaneously.
Another striking finding is that the number of applications filed by foreign nationals has increased compared to previous years. The violations faced by foreign nationals living with HIV often have more serious impacts because of their foreign origins.”
Çiğdem Şimşek, founding member of the Pozitif-iz Association, pointed out that HIV was a controllable health condition and that people living with HIV had rights like everyone else: “First and foremost, we want to remind people living with HIV that they are not alone and that we are with them whenever they need us,” and called on health care workers to prevent violations by raising their awareness regarding the HIV and offering equal services. Şimşek also addressed lawmakers, saying, “We ask you to abolish laws, legislation and practices that lead to discrimination and stigmatization and replace them with the ones that protect every right. At Pozitif-iz Association, we will continue to work to stop the spread of HIV and end the violation of the rights of people living with HIV.”
Inadequate and inaccurate information about HIV legitimizes and increases the prevalence of false beliefs and rights violations. Until discrimination against HIV and people living with HIV is prevented, the prevalence will continue to increase.
For the full report: https://www.kisa.link/QiWF
What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV is an infection that negatively affects the immune system if left untreated. AIDS is a clinical stage caused by HIV.
People who are diagnosed with HIV and begin treatment can continue their lives as healthily as anyone else, without getting to the AIDS stage.
In 2017, it was proven by all scientific authorities that HIV-positive people receiving treatment cannot transmit HIV to another person through unprotected sexual intercourse. This scientific revolution was announced all over the world with the slogan “Undetectable=Untransmittable” (U=U).
People living with HIV can work in any profession, marry and have uninfected children.
* What is the Medical Messenger (Medula) system?
Medula is defined as an electronic “prescription authorization and provision system” mediating between SGK (Social Security Institution) and health care facilities.
Through the Medula system, all hospitals within the network of the SGK, physicians, including primary care and occupational physicians, inpatient nurses, reporting secretaries, pharmacists and their assistants can access information such as all diagnoses and illnesses, medications taken, facilities hitherto visited and their timeframe by entering the patient’s ID number. In particular, people with HIV, hepatitis or other infections, psychiatric and neurological conditions have faced problems after the launching of this system.
Who we are
Pozitif-iz is a non-governmental organization that aims to empower HIV-positive people and their families physically, emotionally and socially. To this end, it provides the support and counseling services they need. It also helps to reduce prejudice against HIV and AIDS and to share current and accurate information on the subject with people. Pozitif-iz considers HIV not only in terms of individual and public health, but also as a human rights issue, which informs its range and scope of activities.