Friday, November 2, 2018

Stigma related to AIDS

HIV-related stigma refers to the negative beliefs, feelings and attitudes towards people living with HIV, groups associated with people living with HIV (e.g. the families of people living with HIV) and other key populations at higher risk of HIV infection, such as people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people. HIV-related discrimination refers to the unfair and unjust treatment (act or omission) of an individual based on his or her real or perceived HIV status. Discrimination in the context of HIV also includes the unfair treatment of other key populations, such as some social contexts, women, sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people, people in prisons and other closed settings and, in some social contexts, women, young people, migrants, refugees and internally displaced people. HIV-related discrimination is usually based on stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs about populations, behaviours, practices, sex, illness and death. Discrimination can be institutionalized through existing laws, policies and practices that negatively focus on people living with HIV and marginalized groups, including criminalized populations.

Stigma and discrimination are among the foremost barriers to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Specifically, research has shown that stigma and discrimination undermine HIV prevention efforts by making people afraid to seek HIV information, services and modalities to reduce their risk of infection and to adopt safer behaviours lest these actions raise suspicion about their HIV status. Research has also shown that fear of stigma and discrimination, which can also be linked to fear of violence, discourages people living with HIV from disclosing their status even to family members and sexual partners and undermines their ability and willingness to access and adhere to treatment. Thus, stigma and discrimination weaken the ability of individuals and communities to protect themselves from HIV and to stay healthy if they are living with HIV.

Nakul Pasricha
The NorthCap University, Gurgaon

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