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Author Topic: Breaking the HIV/AIDS Stigma  (Read 1931 times)

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Offline FriendsofAIDS

  • New Member
  • Posts: 2
Breaking the HIV/AIDS Stigma
« on: May 18, 2009, 12:11:42 PM »
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.

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 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 family and family, which make 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 they are contributing to the problem, or that their judgments could be negatively affecting those around them.

There are numerous effects of the HIV/AIDS stigma. Stigma contributes to silence, denial, and secrecy. There are many reasons that people living with HIV/AIDS do not disclose their status. Often times they want to avoid conversations about sensitive subjects, protect their families, their jobs, or their friendships. 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that people living with HIV/AIDS who experience insensitive or blaming remarks from other people are more likely to be withdrawn, isolated, and passive in coping with their status. 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 society may do; with blame, shame, and rejection. People living with this virus are still routinely subjected to discriminatory treatment. HIV/AIDS related prejudice touches every aspect of their lives, from family and intimate relationships to employment, housing, healthcare, insurance, income, support, travel, and even immigration.

There are a number of things that all of us can do to address the HIV/AIDS stigma in our society, regardless of our HIV status. Begin with yourself by examining your own attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs about the disease and those living with it. Reach out to your community. Examine the role you play to promote dialog, understanding, and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Make sure that your spiritual community is 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 the disease are represented in all faith communities and deserve to be welcomed, accepted, and supported. Stigma and discrimination are rooted in ignorance and fear. You can avoid this by keeping up to date on information pertaining to HIV/AIDS. Share your knowledge, especially with how HIV is and is not transmitted. Advocate at every level to end the stigma and discrimination as well as for improved care, treatment, and support for people living with the virus. Self empowerment is the key to effective activism. Speak out and mobilize others to speak out against the HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination.

People living with HIV/AIDS may have to deal with the additional challenges brought on by experiencing the effects of a self stigma. It is vital that HIV positive individuals who experience a self stigma address the situation and become pro active in learning ways to reject this stigma. Self stigma, also known as internal stigmatization, refers to the ways that stigmatized people in turn stigmatize themselves. Some people living with HIV/AIDS become overwhelmed and consumed with feelings of guilt. They may even worry that they pose a health threat to those around them, thus avoiding or sacrificing meaningful relationships in the process. The best way for someone living with HIV/AIDS to reject self stigma is to become empowered. Counseling, support groups, public disclosure, staying current on HIV/AIDS related matters, seeking and maintaining treatment, peer support, and participation in activism are some of the highly effective ways to become empowered and combat self stigma.

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.

Offline Peter Staley

  • Member
  • Posts: 1,338
  • Founder & Advisory Editor, AIDSmeds.com
    • AIDSmeds.com
Re: Breaking the HIV/AIDS Stigma
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2009, 10:39:50 AM »
Dear "The Friends of AIDS Foundation":

I've moved your thread out of the Mental Health forum (why did u post it there?), and for now, into this Off Topic forum.  Most of our forums are for people living with HIV, and until you introduce yourself, we're not sure exactly where you are allowed to post.

I've also deleted your In Memoriam thread to Roger McFarlane -- that forum is intended for those that died from HIV/AIDS. 

Please introduce yourself before additional postings.


Peter Staley


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