HIV stigma & discrimination
Developments in treatments means that more and more people with HIV are living longer and healthier lives.
Unfortunately, the prejudice and stigma experienced by people living with HIV can still be a barrier to them accessing the support services and treatment they need. Prejudice and stigma are also barriers to testing- many people don’t want to test because they don’t want to be given the label of having HIV, which is scary because without being tested you don’t have access to treatment options and may pass on the infection to others without knowing it.
There are a number of ways to address HIV related stigma and discrimination including:
Knowing the facts about HIV
Having a basic knowledge of HIV can dispel the myths and misconceptions about how the virus is transmitted.
Not making assumptions
There is no way of knowing that a person is HIV positive unless they disclose this information. We should not make assumptions about a person’s HIV status (whether assume they are HIV+ or HIV-) or how we might assume they have contracted the virus based on their age, ethnicity, sexuality, gender or life choices.
Not making judgements
Disclosure of HIV status to families, friends, partners, etc can be difficult when a person feels they may be judged negatively or blamed for their HIV+ status. We should not judge a person based on their HIV status, or compare how they were infected against how another person might become infected and offer more or less sympathy or compassion to one or the other.
Understanding that disclosure is not easy
People living with HIV have the same rights as anyone to a happy, fulfilling life, including pleasurable and satisfying sex and relationships. However, previous experiences where they have disclosed their status and have been or were concerned they would be rejected by family members or sexual partners, may prevent them from disclosing their status.
Rather than assume, or expect a person living with HIV to have to disclose their status, we should respect each individual’s right to share this information at a time when they feel able to and when it feels right for them. Recent prosecutions for ‘reckless’ transmission of HIV (through the grievous bodily harm sections of Offences Against the Person Act of 1861) may also contribute to fears and anxieties about disclosing HIV status. NAT and THT have produced a guide for people living with HIV in England and Wales on prosecutions for HIV Transmission which is available to download from www.nat.or.uk
Challenging stigma and discrimination
There are a range of ways that HIV related stigma and discrimination may be challenged, but it should not be assumed that this is the sole responsibility of those living with the virus.
Things we can do
- wear a red ribbon
- challenge discriminatory statements or behaviours
- correct misinformation
- understand and respect the various anxieties around disclosure
- support and promote World AIDS Day (1 December) each year
- ensure that services are welcoming and supportive of people living with or affected by HIV
For more detailed information about HIV/AIDS, such as how it is transmitted, signs and symptoms, living with HIV, you can visit the Terrance Higgins Trust website at: www.tht.org.uk/informationresources/hivandaids or call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.
Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or comments.