Health-Harming Legal Needs, Migration and Living with HIV: Results of an Australian Mixed-Methods Study

Dr David J Carter1, Dr Anthea Vogl1

1University Of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia

Public health scholarship recognises that unmet legal needs have a particularly significant impact on those living with a communicable disease like HIV; with HIV treatment and outcome disparities said to be driven by the ‘synergistic interaction’ of the disease with unmet legal needs.  Conversely, legal scholarship recognises that access to justice is adversely impacted by unmet health needs. In this domain both health and legal scholarship identify those seeking to migrate as a particularly vulnerable group with regards to the intersection of health and law. Whilst these are separate literatures, read together they describe a unique and heightened effect of unmet legal needs for those at the intersection of HIV and migration.

In response, this paper presents the first findings of a study on the legal needs of those living with HIV in Australia. In light of their particular vulnerability, we focus upon the legal needs and experiences of those living with HIV who also seek to migrate to Australia. Reporting on the results of our mixed-methods study, we describe the forms of legal need facing this group. Finally, we demonstrate how the interaction between communicable disease, migration, legal needs including and beyond migration generate unjust and health-harming results for both individual and population health as well as access to justice.


David Carter is an Australian legal academic and NHMRC Early Career Fellow. His work focuses on legal and regulatory challenges facing the governance and delivery of safe, effective and sustainable healthcare services with a particular interest in public health law, communicable disease and healthcare quality and safety. He serves on the Board of the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre.

Anthea Vogl is an legal researcher with expertise in migration and refugee law, administrative law and legal theory. Her research takes a critical, interdisciplinary approach to the regulation of migrants and non-citizens, with a particular focus on the social and legal categories of the refugee and irregular migrant.

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