Regarding the World AIDS day, its a great opportunity to raise some awareness on the topic of HIV stigma and discrimination.
What is HIV stigma and Discrimination?
HIV stigma refers to negative beliefs and attitudes regarding HIV-positive people. It is the discrimination that comes with categorizing someone as a member of a group that is considered socially unacceptable. Some examples of HIV stigma are assuming that only a selected set of people can get and be affected by HIV or feeling that people are deserving of contracting HIV as a result of their decisions. On the other hand, discrimination is the action that results from those attitudes and beliefs. HIV discrimination happens when someone treats an individual who has HIV differently than one who doesn’t have it. Some examples of HIV discrimination are health-care providers refusing to take care of an HIV-positive person or people in general avoiding casual contact with someone who has HIV, which as a result socially isolates them from their community.
But what are the consequences of HIV Stigma and Discrimination?
HIV stigma and discrimination has a very negative impact on the mental health of people who have HIV since they may internalize the stigma they experience on a daily basis and develop a very negative self-image as a result. They may be too scared to reveal their HIV status, out of fear of being harshly judged, discriminated against and misunderstood. Internalized stigma occurs when someone takes in harmful thoughts and preconceptions about HIV-positive people and eventually applies them to themselves. This can cause many feelings like shame, embarrassment, loneliness, fear of disclosure and despair. These negative emotions sometimes make people not want to get tested and treated for HIV.
What’s the root of HIV stigma?
The biggest cause of HIV stigma is the fear of HIV itself. The problem is that many of the public’s opinions about HIV derive from the time when HIV first appeared which was the 1980s. Due to that, there are still misconceptions about how HIV can be transmitted and how it is to live with it. The lack of awareness and outdated beliefs have resulted in people being very scared of getting HIV. Furthermore, many individuals believe that HIV is a disease that only specific groups can get. As a result, those living with HIV are subjected to very severe and harsh value judgements.
But what can we do about HIV Stigma?
Openly discussing HIV could assist on normalizing the topic while also giving people the chance to address any misconceptions and educate others about HIV. While having discussions like this everyone should be very mindful of how they talk about HIV and HIV-positive people since the words we use matter. Learning how to talk and what terms to use is very important in order to avoid stigmatizing and have discussions that help empower people living with HIV instead of bringing them down. The “Let’s stop HIV together” stigma language guide (sources below) is a very helpful guide to start with, that points out the hurtful and stigmatizing terms people may use unknowingly when talking about HIV and teaches us how to properly talk about it in a non-harmful and educational way.
It’s time to stop the misinformation and stigma regarding HIV, and we can all help in that front through our words and actions in our everyday lives. We have the power to lead others with our supportive behaviors and words, we have the power to educate people and get rid of all this misinformation, we have the power to end the HIV stigma bit by bit at a time.
“Let’s stop HIV together” Stigma Language Guide/”Let’s stop HIV together” Γλωσσικός Οδηγός Στίγματος: