They say that people can die of a broken heart or a loss of the will to keep on living.

In a recent article from AEON Magazine, award-winning journalist and author, Jill Neimark, wrote about how death from HIV may be more than just of the physical self.

Having witnessed the slow ‘death of the mind’ of an HIV-positive friend she questions why today, when we have many tools and knowledge on treatment and prevention, HIV is still hard to stamp out. The answer, some may say, could be from the decades of confused emotions and conflicts spent battling HIV that are too far entrenched in our minds.

“In spite of extraordinary research breakthroughs and new effective treatment and prevention, the HIV epidemic continues to chug along. There are 50,000 new HIV infections a year in the United States – a steady flow unchanged since 2007 (the peak was 130,000 a year in the mid-1980s). And the reasons are not so much medical as they are behavioural, psychological and cultural.”

Stigma, not just towards HIV but to many aspects of gay sex itself, has no doubt had a big part to play. “Men who advocate regular condom use are sometimes scoffed at as ‘condom Nazis’, while men who enjoy condomless sex are labelled ‘barebacking sluts’.” She writes.

David Stuart, a substance use adviser at an HIV and sexual health clinic in London, says that gay sex is still somewhat seen as a taboo stating: ‘Gay sex is the naughty sex. It’s the sex for which you don’t take your partner home to sleep in your historical bedroom, under your parents’ roof.’

Beyond the bedroom, stigma around anal sex plays out in the doctor’s office, where acceptance and compassionate care are necessary to stop the epidemic. As John Sewell, an HIV-negative man on PrEP, says: ‘The opportunity to talk to a doctor regularly, and to receive counselling about my decisions, is as valuable to me as PrEP, if not more so.’

So it would seem that there is still plenty to be done from all areas, within us as a community and within our own minds.

Is this ‘HIV mind’ that we have holding us back from truly ending HIV?

Read Jill’s full article here.