More than 30 years after the HIV/AIDS epidemic began, stigma and discrimination continue to have a major impact on people living with the disease.
"The greatest challenge is probably still stigma," said David, an HIV Service Provider in Key West, Florida. "People being able to disclose, being able to be open about their status, and being able to alleviate the fear of getting treatment. I think there's still a lot of fear around."
One reason why stigma persists is that behaviors associated with the transmission of HIV, including homosexual sex and injection drug use, are also stigmatized. In addition, misperceptions about how HIV is transmitted contribute to the stigma associated with the disease.
Potential Consequences for People Living With HIV
Stigma and discrimination can adversely affect people living with HIV in many ways, including being shunned by family and friends, receiving poor medical care, losing their jobs, and being evicted from their homes. Furthermore, stigma can undermine efforts to control the epidemic by making people afraid to disclose their status, get tested, and seek care.
Fighting Stigma and Discrimination
To help reduce stigma and discrimination, it is important to continue providing education to help dispel myths about HIV. "Something that we do each year is an anti-stigma campaign called, 'A Day with HIV,'" said Jeff, an HIV Service Provider in Chicago, Illinois. "We ask people to take a photo to show what it means to live in a world with HIV. So whether they're positive or negative, they take a picture and submit it to the magazine along with a caption. We get a lot of really moving stories and testimonials from people about what it means to them to live in a world with HIV. So, the thing that sets this campaign apart I think is that we have different people from different places with different stories all coming together on one single day, and that's the common thread."
It is also important to help make sure that people living with HIV are aware of their legal rights. Through education, awareness, and advocacy, the HIV community can help to reduce the effects of stigma and discrimination on those living with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS.
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- 1. AVERT. HIV & AIDS Stigma and Discrimination. http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-stigma-and-discrimination.htm. Accessed March 26, 2014.