How to Address HIV Stigma
Although we have made great strides in medical care, prevention, and legal protections, an HIV diagnosis may still promote fear and shame for many people. This is in large part due to the prevalence of HIV stigma in the community. HIV stigma is pervasive, insidious, and self-perpetuating. Stigma manifests itself in the way we view and treat people who are living with HIV. Examples of stigma include our feelings of discomfort when the topic of HIV comes up in a conversation or when views of people change after they disclose that they are living with HIV. Stigma can have serious implications if people who are living with HIV or who are at risk for HIV refuse to access medical care, get tested or engage in prevention services due to the fear of being perceived as living with HIV.
We all play a part in either perpetuating stigma or helping to end it. Here are 3 things you can do every day to help end HIV related stigma:
- Learn more about HIV prevention and treatment. The more you know about HIV, the less fear you will have about it, and the more comfortable you will feel whenever the topic comes up. You can learn more at these websites: thebody.com and HIV.gov. You can also get tested for HIV and ask questions then.
- Correct misinformation and address prejudice with friends and family. State facts and let people know you do not support stigmatizing comments or conversations that disparage people living with HIV in a respectful manner.
- Make an effort to view people as living with HIV and not HIV positive people. Reframing your view of people living with HIV makes a huge difference in how you talk about the community with others. Using people first language in your inner monologue as well as with people around you, helps humanize persons living with HIV.
If you would like to take a more active role in learning about HIV and reducing stigma associated with it, enlist in community awareness events like LifeWalk, or volunteer with a local HIV/AIDS organization.