Hiv/Aids Stigma and Discrimination

Cepeda Social Psychology HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination Strayer University November 19, 2011 Internationally, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, triggered at least in part by growing recognition that negative social responses to the epidemic remain pervasive even in seriously affected communities. Yet, rarely are existing notions of stigma and discrimination interrogated for their conceptual adequacy and their usefulness in leading to the design of effective programmers and interventions.

Taking as its starting point, the classic formulation of stigma as a ‘significantly discrediting’ attribute, but moving beyond this to conceptualize stigma and stigmatization as intimately linked to the reproduction of social difference, this paper offers a new framework by which to understand HIV and AIDS-related stigma and its effects. It so doing, it highlights the manner in which stigma feeds upon, strengthens and reproduces existing inequalities of class, race, gender and sexuality.

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It highlights the limitations of individualistic modes of stigma alleviation and calls instead for new programmatic approaches in which the resistance of stigmatized individuals and communities is utilized as a resource for social change. Here are some related stories from personal experiences and some from other resources. AIDS stigma is expressed around the world in a variety of ways, including: •ostracism, rejection, and avoidance of people with AIDS (PWAs) •discrimination against PWAs compulsory HIV testing without prior consent or protection of confidentiality •violence against persons who are perceived to have AIDS or to be infected with HIV •Quarantine of persons with HIV. AIDS stigma is effectively universal, but its form varies from one country to another, and the specific groups targeted for AIDS stigma vary considerably. Whatever its form, AIDS stigma inflicts suffering on people and interferes with attempts to fight the AIDS epidemic.

Indeed, a 1988 Institute of Medicine panel observed that “the fear of discrimination is a major constraint to the wide acceptance of many potentially effective public health measures” in the United States. HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in healthcare communities It all started at a healthcare centre. Due to recurring symptoms, her doctor suspected she had AIDS and arranged her HIV/AIDS screening without her knowledge and consent. His guess was right; she had HIV/AIDS. The doctor gave her some treatment for opportunistic infections and allowed her to return home without revealing that she was HIV/AIDS positive.

The next time she came to this health centre, the atmosphere was very unwelcome; she could even see that the duty nurses were mocking her behind their counters. After a long and painful wait, she managed to see the doctor, who gave her some septrines and also rudely informed her that her disease is incurable. To her, this was an indirect way of saying, “Treatment or no treatment, you are going to die anyway. ” HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in families The news of her HIV/AIDS status had reached home first before she came back from the health centre.

In her own home, this young girl living with HIV/AIDS experienced family rejection and furious accusations from her own parents and siblings. Her family members emphasized that she must only use her own plates, cups, soap, basin etc. She also had to drop out of her high school since her father claimed that he would not spend his money on a “moving corpse. ” After one year, as if the isolation and rejection were not enough of a punishment, her father expelled her from his home, claiming that if she remained, her young siblings would follow her footsteps and get AIDS too.

HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in schools After her father’s expulsion from home, she ran to her aunt’s home. Her aunt decided to re-enroll her at the high school. When news of her HIV/AIDS status reached her school, she started experiencing mockery, offensive comments, harassment and abuse from her schoolmates. She also reported being excluded from participating in some school activities, just because she had AIDS. HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in employment Getting a job after school was not easy for her.

After suspecting that she was denied jobs from the local businesses because of her HIV/AIDS status, she decided to look for a job in a distant town. She got the job, but after her employer and workmates learned of her HIV/AIDS, things never remained the same; she suffered rejection and offensive comments from workmates, and eventually, her employer terminated her employment. HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in religious communities Instead of love and compassion from religious groups, the young girl instead was perceived to have brought double portions of shame, disgrace and reproach to her religion.

She was blamed for moral and religious irresponsibility. Religious groups generally considered her as a sinner paying for her sins, as they believed that her AIDS is curse from God inflicted on fornicators. The consequences In fear of stigma and discrimination, she stopped seeking for treatment and refrained from disclosing her status. She went into prostitution; selling her body, often in unprotected sex, to earn money for a living. Stigma and discrimination did not help her prevent or manage her HIV/AIDS infections, and it did not stop her from infecting other people with HIV/AIDS.

She felt hurt and psychologically tortured. Given the opportunity, she would like to prevent new HIV/AIDS infections and re-infection, seek medical treatment and live a happier and purposeful life like any other young person. •How can we work together to reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination? AIDS is no longer the disease of “other”; today it is her, tomorrow it could be you, it could be me, it could be your relative, or your friend living with HIV/AIDS. We all have a role to play. Now is the time to protect the rights of young people living with HIV/AIDS. How do I personally help reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination? You can help by sharing your opinions in this blog. In preparation for the upcoming World Youth Conference in Mexico (Aug 23-28), we, the young activists of positive living, request your opinions about this crucial yet often neglected area of empowering and protecting the rights of young people living with HIV/AIDS. Join this conversation online, it is a great way to share your ideas with the international community that is committed to ensuring positive living among young people all over the world.

Remember there is no right or wrong opinion; anything you write down counts. We will be very grateful if you can take some time and share your opinions on the following questions: •How can we reduce prejudicial and stigmatizing attitudes and discriminatory actions in communities against young people living with HIV/AIDS? Strategies for discussion include, but are not limited to: – Community mobilization, education and advocacy aimed at reducing stigmatizing attitudes and discriminatory actions. Recruitment and training of HIV/AIDS positive young people themselves as community health workers to provide social support for lobbying and advocacy for stigma reduction and fighting for the rights young people living with HIV/AIDS. •How can communities work together to empower young people living with HIV/AIDS especially those who choose to be open about their HIV status? Topics of discussions in this empowerment include, but are not limited to: – Helping young people living with HIV/AIDS get access to HIV/AIDS treatments from friendly healthcare environments. Helping young people living with HIV/AIDS prevent new infections/re-infections, adhere to their treatments and prevent further spreading of the disease. – Capacity-building and provision of financial support to help HIV/AIDS positive young people live happier and purposeful lives. – Mobilizing community-based confidential screening tests, HIV/AIDS counseling and provision of post-test services to young people infected with HIV/AIDS. – Provision of pastoral care and psychosocial support to help HIV/AIDS positive young people cope with their illnesses and deal with stigma and discrimination.