Dealing With HIV Stigma and Discrimination


What Is HIV Stigma?

HIV-related stigma refer to negative beliefs, feelings and attitudes towards people living with HIV, their families, people who work with them (HIV service providers), and members of groups that have been heavily impacted by HIV, such as gay and bisexual men, homeless people, street youth, and mentally ill people.

What Is HIV Discrimination?

HIV discrimination refers to the unfair and unjust treatment of someone based on their real or perceived HIV status. Discrimination can also affect family and friends, and those who care for people with HIV. HIV discrimination is often fueled by myths of casual transmission of HIV and pre-existing biases against certain groups, certain sexual behaviors, drug use, and fear of illness and death. Discrimination can be institutionalized through laws, policies, and practices.

What Support Services Are Available for Someone With HIV?

Know your rights. You are entitled to the same rights as any other patient in the medical system. These rights include safety, competent medical care, and confidentiality.

  • The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program helps people with HIV/AIDS who have nowhere else to turn for the care they need. If you are living with HIV, you can get medical care and some other services -- even if you do not have health insurance or money to pay for health services.
  • The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) Program is the only Federal program dedicated to the housing needs of people with HIV/AIDS. Under the HOPWA Program, HUD makes grants to local communities, states, and nonprofit organizations for projects that benefit low-income people with HIV/AIDS and their families.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people who are discriminated against because they have HIV or have a relationship with someone with HIV.
  • If you have HIV/AIDS and cannot work, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a law that was passed to help ensure that Americans have secure, stable, and affordable health insurance. The ACA created several changes that expand access to coverage for people with HIV. Because coverage varies by state, talk to your health care provider or a social worker to get information about the coverage available where you live. You can find additional information about the ACA and living with HIV from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can also contact the ACA helpline at 1-800-318-2596 for more information.
  • You may also choose to join an HIV support group of peers with HIV. These support groups usually meet in a safe and supportive environment to provide support to other people with HIV.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice explains HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination laws and how to file an HIV/AIDS discrimination complaint.

CDC's Act Against AIDS Campaign HIV Treatment Works features people with HIV and their stories, including some testimonials about dealing with stigma. The Act Against AIDS Campaign Let's Stop HIV Together has additional information on stigma for persons with HIV.

[Note from TheBody: This article was created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who last updated it on Aug. 27, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]