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Editorials and Commentary

AIDS Sufferers Face a World of Hostility

December 5, 2002

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

"Not since an Indiana community ran off a 13-year-old hemophiliac -- shaming itself and prompting national soul searching -- has overt discrimination against people with AIDS been socially acceptable. Yet more than a decade after the death of Ryan White, AIDS-related stigma continues on a more subtle, but still painful, level. Around the world, discrimination against people with AIDS is alive, well -- and deadly. ...

"Poverty, ignorance, promiscuity and women's unequal status all play a part in the spread of AIDS in developing countries. So do stigma and discrimination.

"Those who have experienced the sting of alienation learn quickly to hide their disease. Many never get tested, seek treatment or find the support they need to live with AIDS. They see what happens to those who admit their HIV status: eviction, unemployment, violence, even murder. They see children stigmatized by their parents' disease. ...

"To its shame, the church has been largely silent -- even complicit -- in the mistreatment of those with AIDS. Distracted, perhaps, by the desire to separate themselves from the perceived sins of those with the virus, many Christians have neglected their first call: to love the sick and hurting. ...

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"Despite the best work of science, neither a vaccine nor a cure is on the horizon. New strategies are needed to fight the disease. We must allow those with AIDS to feel safe admitting their illness. We must embrace them, regardless of our opinion of their sexual practices. We must help them find medical care and we must provide them, and their families, with emotional care.

"Each of us can play a part:

  • Volunteer with a local organization serving people affected by AIDS. ...
  • Write to your representatives in Congress. Let our political leaders know that you support increased funds to stop AIDS internationally and in the United States.
  • Give to organizations fighting AIDS internationally. ...

"Ryan White and his family brought the plight of those infected with and affected by this disease into our living rooms. What many of us did not know then, we cannot deny today: Love, acceptance, support and care are life-affirming answers to the AIDS pandemic -- and our best weapons in fighting this disease."

The author is founder and pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, Mass., and a graduate of Harvard Medical School.

Back to other CDC news for December 5, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Boston Herald
12.01.02; Ray Hammond

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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