• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Dealing With the Stigma Surrounding HIV/AIDS

Fear of stigma and discrimination may restrain people living with HIV to open up about their condition. This can lead to self-isolation, affecting their health and emotional wellbeing.

What is Social Stigma?

Social stigma is of various types and in terms of HIV, it is the preconceived notion of treating an individual as part of a group who is not accepted socially. Social stigma labels people suffering from HIV. They are often stereotyped, discriminated against, treated separately and excluded from social activities just because of a perceived association with a disease. Such ill-treatment can negatively affect the person with the disease, their family, caregivers, friends and also communities. At its extreme, stigma can drive a suffering person to commit physical violence.

Some Facts on Social Stigma Surrounding HIV/AIDS

  1. People suffering from HIV are more vulnerable to experiencing stigma and discrimination.

  2. Myths, misinformation and lack of awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS can increase the stigma and discrimination related to it.

  3. It has been reported that one in eight people suffering from HIV are being denied health care services because of stigma and discrimination.

  4. The key to address stigma and discrimination is by adopting a human rights approach to HIV and AIDS.

How to Deal With the Stigma Surrounding HIV/AIDS?

  1. HIV is just a disease – Stop blaming yourself for HIV. Remind yourself that HIV is just a disease and not a moral consequence.

  2. Educate yourself- Increase your knowledge about HIV, it’s consequences and how to deal with it. Follow trusted resources or brochures and pamphlets offered by community-based organizations.

  3. Call AIDS Helpline: If you are afraid of talking to someone regarding your condition, seek help and start by calling AIDS helpline number. These helpline numbers can refer you to support groups or counsellors with whom you can speak freely and get emotional support all while maintaining your privacy.

  4. Know your rights: In case of any discrimination faced at work, healthcare facility or in your housing area, try reaching out to community-based organizations who can help you get in touch with legal services to assist you in such matters.

  5. Understand your workplace rights:  According to the policy issued by the Ministry of Labor & Employment after consultations with NACO and ILO, dignity and equity of the HIV affected person at the workplace should be maintained. Also, the employer cannot ask you about your HIV status if they provide health insurance. You can also file a complaint If you experience workplace discrimination.

  6. Fight your anxiety: While going for an HIV test, If you want your reports and identity to remain confidential then speak to your doctor or clinic for such provisions. This can help you cope up with your anxiety. You can also speak to HIV/AIDS support groups, family services and drug treatment programmes to help with your anxiety regarding HIV.

  7. Speak to your family and friends: Telling people about your HIV status can be hard. But sharing your HIV status with your friends and family is very important as they can help you when you’re at your worst, especially when you need them the most. Mentally prepare yourself to handle all the possible reactions when you are ready to speak with your friends or family.

  8. Keep yourself calm and motivated: It was difficult for you to digest that you have been tested HIV positive. Your family members and friends may feel the same way. Keep yourself calm and accept that you may be confronted with some insensitive and even stupid questions. Remind yourself that they’re going through a process, too.

Stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS can negatively affect an individual’s mental and physical state. Everyone can help stop stigma related to HIV/AIDS by knowing the right facts, raising awareness and educating people in their communities. This can help people with HIV to live happily for the rest of their lives.

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