People living with HIV/AIDS continue to suffer a lot of stigma and discrimination in Uganda. But stigma and discrimination are not the same thing. This is why it is important to differentiate them.
- It’s a negative attitude, reaction and actor from self and others (due to HIV infection)
- Bad feeling about self or about others
- “The epidemic of stigma, discrimination and denial is as central to the AIDS challenge as the disease itself”
- Condemnatory and judgmental attitudes/actions associated to HIV infection or AIDS related illnesses
- Unfair, unfavorable and unjust treatment based on prejudice regarding race, color, sex, perceived HIV status, diseases, etc which is characterized by rejection, isolation, denial, discrediting, etc.
Therefore stigma refers to an attitude or belief, discrimination is the behaviors that result from those attitudes or beliefs. HIV discrimination is the act of treating people living with HIV differently than those without HIV.
An HIV positive client has self-stigma due to the people surrounding him, that’s to say: a friend or the health workers looking after him or her.
People living with HIV/AIDS get stigmatized in different ways i.e self, families, friends (secondary) and by the community.
One may not notice they are stigmatizing another but by name calling, avoidance, rejection, finger-pointing, harassment, separating/not sharing utensils, keeping a distance, unequal opportunity for jobs due to status quo etc.
PLHIV/AIDs also Believe they are: Incompetent, useless or very dangerous so they lose hope, think they are dying soon and some get suicidal feelings.
Consequences of HIV stigma does not begin and end with People living with HIV/AIDS but also extend to their families and friends by accusing them of their misbehavior or being seen as “unlucky”. Hence people living with HIV/AIDS internalizing stigma and believe are not good, not humans.
“Why stigma and discrimination?”
- Ignorance: Believing that casual contact with HIV positive clients can result into HIV infection. The lack of information and awareness combined with outdated beliefs lead people to fear getting HIV. Additionally, many people think of HIV as a disease that only certain groups get. This leads to negative value judgments about people who are living with HIV.
- HIV stigma is rooted in a fear of HIV. Many of our ideas about HIV come from the HIV images that first appeared in the early 1980s. There are still misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted and what it means to live with HIV today.
- Social-economic status: children from poor families are stigmatized more than the rich
“What can be done about HIV stigma?”
Talk About HIV: Talking openly about HIV can help stabilize the subject. It also provides opportunities to correct misconceptions and help others learn more about HIV. But be mindful of how you talk about HIV and people living with HIV.
Take Action: We can all help end HIV stigma through our words and actions in our everyday lives. Lead others with your supportive behaviors.
- Create awareness on HIV & AIDS epidemic
- Be role-models (Health worker)
- Be advocates for the stigmatized
- Support the stigmatized to express their emotions and feelings on the issue of stigma.
- Enhance self-esteem
In a nutshell Stigma exists, We are all involved in stigmatizing even if we don’t realize it Stigma hurts and is harmful to people having HIV/AIDS and their families, It’s an obstacle to HIV Prevention, care and treatment.
Article written by the KICA Team at Kisubi Hospital