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What Does HIV Stigma Look Like in the U.S. South?

March 14, 2014


Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith

Samaritan Ministry, Knoxville, Tenn.

I still think a large part of the stigma is based on the idea that people who get HIV are bad people. So, if you're talking about gay or bisexual men, they're doing stuff that they shouldn't be doing, and when we talk about IV drug use, we're thinking "bad people." I think a lot of the stigma has to do with, "Well, if you weren't behaving badly, you wouldn't have HIV." And that, to me, is the root of that whole thing. We just need to continue talking. It's old adage, it's trite to say, but when people have a face to this disease, they know somebody, I think the stigma part really starts to wash away, because it's not some unknown person out there who has HIV. It's Billy or Susie or Johnny, or you know, someone that they know who is HIV positive and then they start to see that person as that human being and HIV doesn't define who they are anymore.

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