5 types of HIV stigma
People living with HIV are often stigmatised in many forms because of society’s fear and misunderstanding of HIV. Stigma is something we don’t talk about often enough so I decided to break it down a bit more. Here are different ways people living with HIV can experience stigma.
Internalised stigma is when someone living with HIV experiences negative thoughts or feelings about their HIV status. For example, if you’re living with HIV, you might feel extremely disappointed in yourself or judge yourself because of your status. This is often based of what society feels about HIV or what you’ve been taught about it that causes you to treat yourself negatively based on your status. Remember Choma, HIV is not a death sentence and you can still live a perfectly normal lifestyle.
Community stigma refers to the discrimination and prejudices a person living with HIV may experience from people in their community. This form of stigma can lead to rejection and isolation - which may force the victim to leave their home or their community in order to avoid it.
Sometimes, people living with HIV may experience stigma at work from their colleagues and/or employers. This can be done through isolation, getting teased about their status or even discriminatory workplace practices - like getting fired. Losing your job or being discriminated at work because you’re HIV positive is illegal and you can actually report it.
Healthcare providers are meant to equip you with the necessary information regarding HIV, help you maintain the virus through medication and support you in your journey. Unfortunately, people living with HIV don’t always get the best treatment. You can experience stigma from healthcare providers in many forms, like compulsory testing without proper counselling or consent, healthcare providers refusing you care, as well as denying you, or delaying, your treatment. If you or someone you know has experienced this, it’s best to report it as soon as possible because we all have a right to get adequate healthcare.
Some countries have discriminatory laws and policies regarding HIV which reinforces the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, by isolating people living with HIV. Some countries may have laws that limit the entry or residence of people living with HIV and that on its own is discriminatory.
When you’re living with HIV, it’s easy for you or those around you to be judgemental of your HIV status. It’s also easy to be made to feel like you’re worthless because of the virus. A lot of this comes from fear and people just not knowing enough about HIV (and the fact that it is a completely manageable condition!). You’re not less valuable because of your status and learning about your rights will help you understand that.
It’s important that we all stand up against HIV discrimination and stigma. I am #DoneWithSilence when it comes to HIV stigma. What about you? Be part of the conversation here. Be #DoneWithSilence!
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