There are many ways people can fight HIV stigma in our lives and in our community, whether you are a person living with HIV or HIV-negative.
In many cases, stigma around HIV exists alongside other forms of stigma and discrimination, such as discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual (called homophobia); discrimination against people who are transgender (transphobia); and, discrimination or stigma directed at people who use drugs.
Ageism, or negative feelings toward people who are young or old, can also play a role in HIV stigma. To effectively address HIV stigma, it is important to address homophobia, transphobia, stigma directed to people who use drugs and ageism.
Reducing stigma around HIV is about promoting a community where people are accepted for who they are and we celebrate our similarities and differences.
Here is some idea for how to address stigma:
- Challenge attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that contribute to HIV stigma. Don’t be a silent witness to it when it happens around you.
- Break the silence around HIV in your community. Acknowledge HIV just as you would any other chronic illness.
- Get information about HIV testing and know your own HIV status.
- Treat people living with HIV with compassion and acceptance.
- Learn supportive ways to react when someone tells you they are living with HIV.
- Educate your community that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact.
- Avoid using language that overtly stigmatizes others.
- Treat people living with HIV as you would treat anyone else with respect, empathy, and compassion.
Check out the HIV Stops with Me Campaign at http://hivstopswithme.org/. This is a multifaceted, national social-marketing campaign that aims to prevent the spread of HIV, promote the benefits of HIV treatment and reduce stigma associated with the disease. The campaign features real people living with HIV talking about any issues they may face.