For decades, ever since HIV was first discovered in the U.S., a stigma has surrounded the disease — making people feel inferior by a diagnosis. Thankfully, HIV stigma is waning as medicine advances and more people are educated about the way the disease spreads.
How does the HIV stigma affect people’s lives?
One in seven people living with HIV are unaware they are positive. When faced with community stigma — thinking that the discovery of a positive HIV test might result in loss of friendships, employment, family ties and lead to insecurity and depression — individuals are understandably less likely to get tested.
However, it’s important to understand:
- Getting tested for HIV is available for free in many local clinics and through the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
- Today, there are a variety of HIV testing methods, and all of them are fast and painless.
- By not getting tested and knowing your status, it’s possible you may be HIV positive and contributing to the spread of HIV.
- If you are HIV positive, there is a large support network; you are not alone. In fact, help is available to you to ensure you’re able to receive medical treatment and stop the spread of HIV to loved ones.
Be the Change You Want to See
Ending the stigma starts with you. Whether you are living with HIV or thinking about getting tested, you can influence how the future of HIV unfolds. Below are some ideas on how you can contribute to ending the stigma.
For many years, HIV was a topic that people didn’t discuss. Misinformation and lack of education resulted in fear. Education plays an important role in ending the stigma. If you are a medical provider, someone living with HIV or a high school teacher, speaking openly about HIV and providing others with facts about advancement can help to break the cycle of stigmatization.
Throughout history people living with HIV have been fighting for equal rights, and there is still progress to be made. Understanding your rights and acting on violations help to prevent them from reoccurring. Staying up to date with anti-discrimination laws and challenging violence averts your rights from being violated.
Whether it is interpersonal, group or mass communication, it makes a difference. Talking about HIV puts an end to the circulation of false information and helps people feel confident about getting tested. When people start talking about the facts, the HIV stigma will cease to exist.
At Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania, we can provide you with the support and resources you need to take control of your health. Contact us today to learn more.