Rae Lewis-Thornton, Activist, Blogger at Diva Living With AIDS, Chicago
The stigma around HIV created an enormous amount of shame for people living with HIV and their family. This stigma is embedded in American culture. In the 21st century it's become politically incorrect to talk negatively about HIV and people living with HIV openly, but the whispers float in our society just like the air we breathe. I can understand at one level the black community saying, "Not Me!" I mean who wants to admit that HIV is rampant in their community. Shoot, I kept my infection a secret for seven years because I was afraid that people would judge me. Still today, I get nasty tweets about my dating and sex life, but I tackle it head on.Show More
Stigma for the most part drives this disease in many ways. Let me explain. People are afraid of going to get tested for fear that they will be judged. Many private doctors will ask their patient, "Why do you think you need an HIV test?" And by doing so, their behavior has been called into question. While other doctors have gone as far as to say, "You don't need a test, you're in a monogamous relationship" or "you're married." When in fact, everyone -- including the doctor -- needs an HIV test. Other options for testing are in a HIV clinic or at a Department of Public Health and many people are afraid of being "spotted" in one of these places.
Now let's take that as our baseline: Fear of getting tested for HIV because of being judged. Now, the CDC says that 38 percent of newly infected people are infected by people who didn't know they were infected. And contrary to belief, statistics show that most people with HIV don't want to deliberately infect someone. So, it stands to reason if more people knew their HIV status, less people would be infected.