Stigma can be anywhere -- and sometimes, it feels like it's everywhere. We asked people -- activists, care providers and community members -- what they thought about stigma in the U.S. South, an area that is burdened with a large portion of the country's HIV diagnoses and its HIV-related deaths. Because the key to fighting HIV lies in fighting stigma, we asked these people: "What do you think HIV stigma looks like in the South and how can we break it?"
Comment by: My nickname is Aberism
(Virginia, Va )
Sun., Mar. 8, 2015 at 6:14 pm EDT
Stigma is not a new phenomenon. People have been stigmatized because of their sex , age, gender, educational and economic background, race and name it... HIV is not any different reason to stigmatize and discriminate people based on their health status. It is also fueled by the miss interpretations of Bible, Koran and other religious doctrines by individuals who have neglected the essence of Love and Care as the central idea of all religions. No wonder these interpretations have brought such stigma on people with HIV because the religions themselves are not free from stigmatizing and discriminating each other and there is no learning in it this time.
Stigma is not an action but it is an adverse idea or a concept towards individuals or group of people because of their attributes, status or because of who they are or what they think. Discrimination is the action and one can put a law or several laws to protect people from discrimination. However, no one can address stigma by simply putting law and policing because it is not an action for which we can find evidence as a result. Hence, as a remedy it is very important to work on the underlying causes of stigma and deliver people from such traumatic lives existed because of simple spiritual and material ignorance among those who stigmatize and discriminate even their own fellow men and women.
Comment by: SortaJadedDefinitelyDespondent
Sun., Feb. 8, 2015 at 10:27 am EST
I got diagnosed 3 yrs ago this month and it's been a rough road! Tried to date a few times since then and encountered either:
1) I'm pretty easy to sleep with because of my health status(so an easy hook up
2) I'm TOO easy to entertain because of my health status (so some guys avoid me even after getting to know me...once I disclose they're gone)
3) I'm a walking time bomb out to take others with me!(positive equates death ...what's worse is any interaction with positive ensures an imminent death)
4) HIV apparently is suppose to look a certain way( destitute,physically fragile, malnourished etc. apparently everything bad )
I have worked in HIV research (I'm a scientist) and I've encountered everything from discrimination, HIPPA violations via gossip and marginalization in the ONE field you would think is evolved enough to handle his issue...I even was rejected after disclosure to a Medical Doctor I was dating for a while. He essentially told me that he is afraid of "it" (which is natural...I guess) and doesn't know enough about it!(REALLY??? Excuse me while I jump outta this window!)
It's disappointing and disenchanting to know that the stigma is alive and well among even the scientific community! The same people charged with curtailing this disease's prevalence (either via providing treatment or seeking a cure ;I'm apart of the latter) are the same individuals contributing to the perpetuation of the stigma!
HIV isn't Gay/Bi, Black/white/latin etc., it's not sin or punishment, and thank goodness it's no longer the disease it used to be (regarding progression and treatment advances).
Comment by: Ellis Colleton
Wed., Sep. 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm EDT
Cedric Sturdevant is absolutely correct about us first starting to talk about sex. I have watched a few videos on YouTube -"testimonials" I'll call them. I commented on one saying that my family never talked about sex. I have 13 aunts and uncles on one side of my family and about 9 on the other side of my family and I never once remembered a conversation in my youth about sex from one person. It was as if sex was a secret...they somehow wanted us to think that the stork just dropped babies into our lives and flew off. There is a lot shame when it comes to HIV, but there is also a lot of generational shame that stems from people being comfortable in their own skin. The church and society can make ones own perception of who they are to be tucked aside because we don't want to offend traditional norms -or be ostracized. Since my diagnosis with HIV a few years ago I have been haunted by my past experiences so much so that I felt the only way to truly live a better quality of life is to release the shame. I created a YouTube channel and I will discuss several topics stemming from my childhood and adult life, including my experience with HIV. My aspirations for the future are unlimited. Feel free to join me as I post new videos on or before September 8th, 2014. -Ellis
Comment by: TidalFlowHealth on Twitter
Wed., Aug. 6, 2014 at 8:09 am EDT
As Antwan and Cedric noted, so much of the stigma comes from lack of education about the facts. "AIDS in the Endzone" is a graphic novel that educates teens about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. It was written by South Carolina Juveniles in detention. The young authors created the characters, plot and dialogue that they believed speak most impactfully to teen audiences. Schools embrace the book for their health curriculum. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1611174244/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_UMhJtb0CYQKMKSE8
Comment by: Robert James
Tue., Mar. 25, 2014 at 6:26 am EDT
I lived in the south, east, north, and now west, no one else is getting better, louder, information of the leaps and bounds our medical professionals have made in the past 20 years. Medications to allow us to survive are today, a realistic expectation. Try to research HIV that subject alone, is when you see the "stigma", or the "poor thing you",which is more fear than anything else.
Several of the folks who have taken the time to comment are right there on the edge. Mostly it is education or the lack of. I will say though that the Tom Hanks movie "Philadelphia" yes, it was a movie, but that was all I knew, outside of, if you were Majic Johnson, and if you could afford it, or travel to some third world country for medications not yet approved by our FDA, you were pretty much on borrowed time.
Personally I was scared to the bone, what happens next? how long do I have to live? Frantic as I got the news on a Friday late afternoon and knew of no one to speak to, the clinic was closed.
We need "HollyWood" to get involved, do a new movie. Speak the new truth, hope is real, and survival? it is no longer a direct death sentence.
I believe the fear, media, homophobes, and those spewing laws, even religious leaders, are not sure what telling the world it is survivable would mean. The preconceived notion that all drug users, or homosexuals are preditors, or evil doers.
I am one of the mind that those old beliefs are outdated and just plain false. The flip side, without an educational/informational sustained promotion, from those who we humans would believe/listen too, respect , may lead us down a path of some recklessness. "Some" is the operative word there, as we have seen with the legalization of Marijuana in some states, just because you can, does not mean they/we humans, are robbing banks, stealing grandma's purse, for that next "puff".
I believe it is time to stand up, speak out, educate ourselves, and loved ones.
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