S. Africa: Despite Years of "Awareness," HIV Stigma Persists
January 19, 2010
Awareness campaigns on the part of government and civil groups have failed to mitigate HIV-related stigma and discrimination in South Africa, preventing many from seeking testing and treatment.
The fear of discrimination and isolation is stronger than the reasoning that knowing one's status can protect and prolong life, said Merle van Oordt, WCCHAI's project manager. Most of the program's patients find out they are HIV-positive after multiple bouts with TB, she said. By that time, their immune systems are too weak to start antiretrovirals. "We have to treat the opportunistic infection first and can only start ARVs later. But for many that's too late," van Oordt said.
Denial is also a major hurdle. "We still get people who don't know what HIV is and who believe it doesn't affect them," said van Oordt. "It's a very bleak picture."
Inter Press Service
01.06.2010; Kristin Palitza