Stigma is when a person is seen or treated in a negative way, because of something they experience (like a health condition) or because of something that makes up their identity (like their gender, age, sexuality, race etc.) HIV stigma is when a person is treated badly because they are HIV positive or are thought to be HIV positive. Stigma is often based on the wrong information and negative stereotypes. HIV-related stigma can lead to people thinking it’s unwise or even unsafe to talk about their HIV status.
Self-stigma (also known as internalised stigma) happens when a person from a stigmatised group, for example a person living with HIV, internalises negative public attitudes and believes them to be true. This can have a range of impacts on a person’s mental and emotional health and what they feel comfortable doing (e.g. starting a relationship or applying for a particular job). Self-stigma can even occur if a person has not directly experienced stigma or discrimination themselves.
- Watch this BBC short film on stigma and HIV, featuring former CYC chair Mercy.
Anyone can get HIV, but globally certain groups of people are more affected by HIV than others. For example, there are particularly high HIV rates in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa, and there are increasing levels in the Middle East. As well as places in the world, there are particular groups of people who are more affected by HIV. This includes transgender people, gay and bisexual men (around the world), and young girls and women (in West, East, and Southern Africa).
The people most affected by HIV tend to be those who are already more likely to face discrimination and stigma because of their gender, gender expression, sexuality, race, class and age. This means it is harder for them to access healthcare and get the necessary information to keep them healthy (including HIV tests and HIV medicine).
HIV can be passed on in different ways, but the most common way it is passed on is through sex. As sex is still stigmatised in parts of society for a range of reasons, this can also add to the stigma around HIV.
Since the 1980s, people from across the world have been campaigning to improve the lives of people living with HIV.
The Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (also known as Y+ Global) campaigns to improve the lives of young people with HIV and address this stigma. One project they collaborate on is to support young people who would like to get involved in campaigning. The project is called the READY Movement.
The Salamander Trust works hard to ensure that women with HIV have their voices heard and their needs met. They published a podcast series to share the experiences of women around the world: The WHAVE.
Over the years, the rights of people living with HIV have drastically improved and so have their life chances. Advances in medication and campaigning (including U=U) have really helped reduce HIV stigma and bust myths about HIV, but there is still some way to go.