World Red Cross Day in Fight Against AIDS Stigma
May 9, 2003
The stigma, discrimination and marginalization surrounding HIV/AIDS was the focus of Thursday's World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, marked by promotional events to dispel myths and taboos under the slogan "The truth about AIDS. Pass it on." The Red Cross said people with HIV/AIDS may not know or are afraid to acknowledge they have the disease and governments refuse to recognize its existence, while cultural barriers and beliefs have made the issue taboo and people with AIDS are actively discriminated against.Adapted from:
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent sharply criticized some religious groups over their attitude toward HIV/AIDS on Thursday, charging that they were helping to fuel the stigma surrounding the disease. "Each year, more and more people die from the disease and it is the stigma and misinformation around HIV that is killing people," said Juan Manuel Suarez del Toro, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Federation warned in a statement that "faith-based or other prominent organizations" that single out high-risk groups for "blame and discrimination" or condemn the use of condoms obstruct the fight against HIV/AIDS. Bernard Gardiner, of the Federation's HIV/AIDS program, said that while many religious figures were in the forefront of constructive community action, "faith-based messages get in the way of science." "What we need are clear messages for people and one is that condoms work. This message should not be muddied," explained Gardiner.
Gardiner pointed to Swaziland, where approximately 40 percent of the population has HIV/AIDS. "It is surprising in a country with a 40 percent infection rate that no one there talks about the disease. Stigma is learnt and stigma kills," said Gardiner.
Agence France Presse