Stigma is real for people living with with HIV and AIDS!
Unfortunately, many people living with HIV experience stigma in one form or another. Whether this is with people they love, people they work with, people they have sex with or people that don’t know them at all. Stigma can present itself in many forms. It can be overt in the form of verbal or physical violence, sexual rejection or some people not wanting to shake hands or embrace, and it can also be underlying where people feel uncomfortable being around someone living with HIV or think about people living with HIV in negative way. Despite the way the HIV stigma manifests itself, it can often lead to poorer health outcomes for people living with HIV.
Stigma can come from a range of different places. Being misinformed and uneducated about the complexity of living with HIV along with preconceived notions of how HIV is transmitted and about how people living with HIV contracted the illness often feeds into stigmatising negative stereotypes. People who hold these perceptions of people living with HIV often do not know anyone who is openly living with HIV. They don’t understand the complexity of HIV and that it doesn’t define who a person is.
Despite the advances that have been made in making people aware of what HIV is, there are some people who still remain ignorant, uneducated and fearful. For someone living with HIV, facing stigma can be extremely upsetting and confronting. Everyone has a role to play in eliminating HIV stigma. The next time you hear someone talking in a stigmatising way about HIV, imagine if you were living with HIV. How would that make you feel? HIV is an infection and not something that anyone should be judged by.
Listen to Susan share her story about HIV stigma