BREAKING THE HIV STIGMA
It is time for society to take steps to address, prevent,
and eliminate unjust and unwarranted HIV/AIDS related
discrimination. The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is
incredibly complex particularly because of its association
with sensitive subjects like sex, sexuality, and drug use.
If true change comes from within then all of us, both
collectively and individually, can have an impact on improving
social attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Stigma Education, 2007 by: Isaac Awuley Addico
Stigmatization is a social practice that brands an individual or group as disgraceful and devalues
them because of some actual or perceived characteristic. It is a powerful force that negatively
influences not only the way an individual or group is viewed, but also often the individual or group's
self perception and self image.
People with HIV/AIDS who are stigmatized are shunned, discredited, rejected, or even penalized
sometimes by strangers, often by friends and family, which makes coping with and fighting this
disease all the more challenging.
Discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is so prevalent and is expressed in so many explicit
and implicit ways that many may not realize that they could be contributing to the problem, or that
their judgments could be negatively affecting those around them.
The Effects of Stigma:
Stigma contributes to silence, denial, and secrecy.
There are many reasons that people living with HIV/AIDS do not disclose their status: to avoid
conversations about sensitive subjects, to protect their families, their homes, their jobs, or their
Stigma contributes to isolation and withdrawal.
Studies have found that people living with HIV/AIDS who experience insensitive or blaming remarks
from other people are more likely to be withdrawn, isolated, and passive in coping with their
Stigma contributes to self stigma.
The sense of self that people living with HIV/AIDS have is often influenced by the attitudes and
behaviors of those around them. People with HIV/AIDS can have very negative feelings about
themselves, especially when they are first diagnosed. They may even react to themselves as others
in their society do: with blame, shame, and rejection.
People living with HIV/AIDS are still routinely subjected to discriminatory treatment. And HIV/AIDS-
related prejudice touches every aspect of their lives , from family and intimate relationships to
employment, housing, health care, insurance, income, support, travel, and even immigration.
There are a number of things that all of us can do to address stigma in our society, regardless of
our HIV/AIDS status.
Begin with yourself.
Examine your own attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs about HIV/AIDS, and people living with
Reach out to community.
Examine the role that you play to promote dialog, understanding, and support for people living with
HIV/AIDS in your community.
Make your spiritual community a safe place.
Although religious congregations are typically considered environments of unconditional acceptance,
some have also excluded groups of people out of fear or ignorance. People living with HIV and AIDS
are represented in all faith communities and deserve to be welcomed, accepted, and supported.
Learn and grow.
Stigma and discrimination are rooted in ignorance and fear. You can avoid this by keeping up to date
on information pertaining to HIV/AIDS.
Express your knowledge.
Share your knowledge, especially about how HIV is and is not transmitted. Find creative and
compelling ways to share information within your community.
Advocate at every level to end HIV/AIDS- related stigma and discrimination as well as for improved
care, treatment, and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.
Speak out and mobilize others to speak out against HIV/AIDS- related discrimination. Use inclusive
and affirming language when speaking about people with HIV/AIDS. Listen to and honor the
courageous voices and experiences of people living with HIV and AIDS.
Also called self-stigma or felt stigma- refers to ways that stigmatized people in turn stigmatize
themselves. Some people living with HIV/AIDS , particularly those who are newly diagnosed, may
view themselves as somehow guilty or responsible for their situation. They may even worry that they
pose a threat to the health of those around them, avoiding or sacrificing meaningful relationships in
People living with HIV/AIDS can empower themselves to reject self-stigma through:
Counseling - Sensitive and supportive counseling can help newly diagnosed people explore the
impact of their HIV/AIDS status.
Community-based peer support prevents social isolation while forming the basis support and
self-empowerment for people living with HIV and AIDS.
Effective treatments render the disease more manageable and, in effect, reduce the stigma
associated with HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.
Activism, participation in support groups, and volunteering foster a proactive self advocacy and self
empowerment approach to coping with HIV/AIDS infection.
In spite of the threat of stigma and discrimination, many people living with HIV/AIDS find
it liberating and affirming to go public about their HIV/AIDS status.
Social policy and legislative changes
There are numerous political strategies that can help to reduce the impact of AIDS-related stigma
and discrimination though changes to social policy and legislation.
A strategic response to HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination should be included
in the strategy on HIV/AIDS.
People living with and affected by HIV/AIDS as well as AIDS Service Organizations
should be involved in the design, implementation, and evaluation of HIV/AIDS policies and programs.
Research, analysis, and advocacy
Funding should be made available for research and action plans to address HIV/AIDS-related stigma
Law reform and legal services
Further legislative reforms and legal services are required to protect people living with HIV/AIDS in
dealing with and addressing related discrimination.
Education and training programs should be targeted to service provides, children and youth, and
workplace settings to dispel the myths and assumptions associated with HIV/AIDS.
BREAKING THE STIGMA
CHOOSING A DOCTOR
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LIVING WITH HIV
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