All it took was a simple handshake to cause a stir during a time when education surrounding this disease is significantly lacking. The dated viewpoint was surrounded by fear so much that it was thought that a simple exchange could pass HIV or AIDS along. The discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community back then didn’t help either.
More than 30 years later, we have progressed medically that we can now understand the implications of HIV and AIDS. While the viewpoint around it is much better compared to Princess Diana’s time, we’re still got a long way to go to end the stigma and discrimination when it comes to HIV.
The conceptualization of stigma is deeply rooted in society but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything about it. Whether or not you’re diagnosed with HIV, it’s a cause that we all should contribute to. Here are some of the ways that you can help reduce and stop HIV stigma and discrimination:
The majority of HIV stigma revolves around misinformation and miseducation. Currently, there are a lot of medical advancements that are slowly evolving to address HIV and AIDS and it’s important that those advancements are also reflected in our society.
That means that old myths and misconceptions that were birthed a long time ago because of a lack of medical understanding about HIV must be stopped. Some of the misconceptions and myths surrounding HIV are the following:
Advocating to end the HIV stigma and discrimination means acting up your advocacy no matter what scale it is.
Actively share information about misconceptions in HIV and explain that talking about it should not be considered taboo. In fact, talking about HIV and AIDS should be considered normal the same way people talk about getting a fever or any form of disease and illness. That way, people will understand that HIV is just a disease and doesn’t define a person wholly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consolidated several common stigma scenarios and how you should react to it in order to reduce judgment and stigma. It’s highly recommended that you read it on their website and share it with others too.
The big part of advocating for HIV awareness and ending the stigma is to normalize the things that should be normalized. This is important to be an example of especially in the youths and younger generation.
Let HIV become a normal discussion. That way, we are encouraging the spread of factual information and in turn, people would know more about what to do in order to prevent acquiring the disease. Such an example is taking an HIV test. For those who are misinformed or miseducated, getting tested for HIV can sometimes automatically mean that a person is promiscuous or already infected. However, it’s actually recommended by the medical community to regularly be tested for HIV no matter how frequent a person partakes in intercourse.
Information and understanding are the first few steps in tackling the HIV stigma. While these things may look like an insignificant contribution to a cause that’s complicated, it all starts with a small ripple to affect your community.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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