Ending HIV Stigma
HIV stigma manifests itself in many ways, and it mainly comes from fear combined with a lack of understanding, knowledge or empathy. Stigma doesn’t just affect people living with HIV, it can also be directed to and impact their partners, friends, families and the broader gay community.
Stigma still occurs for many reasons, some including:
- The assumption that HIV is always associated with death
- Judgments around personal irresponsibility and sexual behaviour
- Incorrect information about how HIV is transmitted
HIV Stigma Today
While stigma was at its peak at the beginning of the HIV epidemic, for many poz guys stigma and discrimination still exists. It can occur anywhere and everywhere – on apps and social media, on a tabloid or news headline, in bars and pubs, at dinner parties and during sexual encounters.
Some poz guys say that stigma can sometimes make them feel shame, embarrassment or lack of self-worth or confidence and that can lead to issues around mental health and affect general wellbeing. Further, many may feel apprehension around disclosing their status as it might incite partner rejection, limit career opportunities or evoke an inaccurate image of who they are.
HOW CAN STIGMA AFFECT HIV PREVENTION?
We know that by continuing to encourage frequent testing and safe sex practices, we can end HIV. However, stigma can be detrimental to those efforts. Fear of negative social consequences of a positive HIV test can discourage people from getting tested and knowing their status.
For people living with HIV who experience stigma because of their status, they are more likely to miss HIV check-ups and lapse in adherence to their meds. That can lead to an increase in their viral load and subsequently increase the risk of onward transmission.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Think before you speak: You may not know it, but using certain phrases and language can lead to stigmatising people living with HIV. Questions like “R U clean?” fuel HIV stigma because of the negative connotations associated with HIV. Before you chat to a guy online or face-to-face, always consider the words you choose.
Arm yourself with knowledge: It’s important to keep informed about what the HIV landscape looks like today by understanding how HIV is transmitted, the prevention methods available and the work being done to end HIV.
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BEING MINDFUL CAN HELP END HIV
Reducing HIV requires us all to be mindful of our actions and language. By doing so, we can all play a part in ending HIV stigma.
We’re committed to ending HIV and ending HIV stigma. Are you with us?