When HIV was first diagnosed and was categorized as a sexually transmitted infection, people who had it were discriminated. The stigma that the disease brings led to more people with infection to just hide and avoid treatment altogether. Among the results of HIV stigma back then were:
- Avoiding treatment
- Fear of violence
- Discourages people to seek treatment and come out
- Discourages people to be honest with their partners, even with their families
- Families disown their relatives with HIV
- It bred discrimination against people with HIV
- It bred stereotyping towards people with HIV
- It left people with HIV alone and unprotected
HIV Stigma and what it means
Stigma is defined as a term attached to something that is socially unacceptable. When attached to HIV, it means that people with HIV are basically socially unacceptable. They were singled out and are considered as “negative” part of the society. Those were in the early years.
What has changed?
HIV stigma and discrimination are now things of the past. There are still some cultures who think negatively of people with AIDS but with the help of education, research and social campaigns in support of people with HIV, myths, and facts are now clearer about the said sexually transmitted infection.
Facts about HIV that changed people’s perception of the condition
- HIV is not acquired by just engaging in unprotected and dirty sex. It is not just a result of rowdy behavior. There are people who got HIV because they were at a wrong place at a wrong time. There are people who catch it because they were given infected blood during a transfusion or were injected with an infected needle due to a health worker’s negligence.
- HIV cannot be transmitted by simple contact with an infected person. Due to endless research, it was made known that HIV cannot be transmitted by getting close to someone who has it.
- Fearing people with HIV or shaming them because of their condition is not helpful for the society. With more and more people getting education and learning, we are becoming more understandable of other people’s flight hence we are now more caring even for people with HIV.
HIV Myths that we should know
- HIV infected people are not causing public risk. HIV is not easily caught and with good hygiene and safe sex practices, anyone can stay out of HIV’s way.
- Being diagnosed with HIV is the same as getting a life sentence. In some terms, this might be true because HIV remains incurable. The good news is, there are a lot of treatment out there that can help in reducing the symptoms of HIV while lengthening life expectancy and improving life quality.
- Having HIV is the end of everything. Becoming HIV positive can lead to changes in your life, lifestyle changes and facing other health risks and problems. That is inevitable but it doesn’t mean that is the end of the world. With proper medication and treatment, you can still have everything you want especially if you keep a close relationship with your family. There are HIV patients who still have fulfilling sex lives!