HIV/AIDS is stigmatised heavily around the world with differing levels of severity . Some of the main reasons for why HIV/AIDS is stigmatised in societies around the world can include:
- People believe HIV/AIDS is a deadly virus that cannot be properly treated.
- Many people lacking awareness believe HIV is highly contagious and can be spread through simple acts such as sharing a water bottle and holding hands
- People often associate those with HIV/AIDS with other behaviours already stigmatised in society such as intravenous drug use, homosexual relationships and prostitution.
- Religious beliefs and values can lead to some religious people believing that people became infected with HIV as a result of moral flaws, such as promiscuity.
This stigmatisation often leads to the discrimination of people infected with HIV/AIDS. Discrimination of those with HIV/AIDS can take many forms with some of these listed below:
- Refusal of health services
- Denied family planning services, breakdown of relationships
- Isolation from communities and families
- Loss of income, unable to gain employment
- Verbal and physical abuse
- Involuntary sterilisation of women living with HIV in countries such as Kenya, Namibia and Chile
The stigmatisation and discrimination that follows can result in people being reluctant to be tested for HIV and also undergo HAART which can further perpetuate the spread of HIV. The video shown below illustrates some of the effects that stigmatising HIV/AIDS and the discrimination that follows can have on the lives of those infected with HIV/AIDS.
Whilst people with HIV/AIDS are stigmatised and discriminated against quite heavily around the world, the situation is improving slowly. When HIV/AIDS was first discovered in 1981 there was very little information about the disease and HIV was greatly feared. People with the disease where often ostracized to extreme lengths until more was understood about the disease. An example of the extreme discrimination experienced by sufferers is the story of Ryan White, a child who contracted HIV/AIDS from a blood treatment for his haemophilia in December 1984. He was expelled from middle school in 1985 and widely shunned by students and teachers alike due to misinformation about how HIV was spread. In the present today much more is understood about HIV/AIDS and people are generally much more well educated about the disease, this has led to the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS slowly decreasing over time.
To stamp out the stigmatisation and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS education and raising awareness of the disease is pivotal. Anti-stigma programs have been shown to be extremely effective in reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Much still has to be done in the future before those infected with HIV/AIDS aren’t stigmatised and discriminated against and can lead near normal lives.
1. Global report: UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013 [Internet]. World Health Organization; 2013 November [cited 2014 April 11]. Available from: http://www.unaids.org/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/epidemiology/2013/gr2013/UNAIDS_Global_Report_2013_en.pdf
2. Youtube. HIV AIDS Awareness Video [Internet]. Youtube; 2010 Mar [cited 2014 Apr 8]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COfdnY27LP4&w=420&h=315