HIV stigma has been understood to be a major obstacle to successful HIV prevention, care, and treatment. Since the early days of the disease, the combination of ignorance, bias and fear is the most difficult aspect of HIV to address. These negative social judgements create a barrier for those living with HIV to seek consulting, treatment and discussion. There have been four major dimensions of HIV stigma identified by USAID and partner groups. They include:
- Inappropriate fear of infection: Believe it or not, there are still people out there that believe HIV can be transmitted from casual contact with people living with HIV.
- Negative discrimination towards people living with HIV: Surveys show there are still opinions that reflect fault, guilt, and casting moral judgments on HIV-infected people.
- Authorized stigma or discrimination: There are both interpersonal forms of discrimination (e.g., isolating or teasing people living with HIV) and institutional forms of discrimination (e.g., being fired from work or denied health care because of HIV) still relevant in our society.
- Perceived stigma: Certain (usually marginalized) groups, such as sex workers or intravenous drug users are seen as having an association with HIV, when that isn’t always the case.
There are many things we can do to battle this stigma and discrimination. Some people have been led to a more drastic approach such as the Austrian magazine The Vangardist who has printed a recent edition with ink mixed with the blood of three HIV positive donors. Now this may seem very extreme, but they are making a profound point. Here at Scales, we want to combat this discrimination by doing these three things:
- Connecting with our local community and sharing the stories of those in the community that are HIV positive.
- Giving HIV positive individuals a safe and welcoming environment for them to shop, gather and discuss their challenges with the disease.
- Disseminating the accurate information about HIV care and how it affective it is.
We are not alone in our battle against HIV stigma. Colorado Health Network is continuing the war by pushing the boundaries of HIV/AIDS care. They have a plan to create a new facility for their statewide administrative office, DCAP’s client services space, and Howard Dental Center’s treatment center. This facility would be a safe, non-judgmental space where HIV-infected patients could receive compassionate care while also receiving socially-focused programs, services and staff trainings.
We will construct a dramatic multi-purpose locale that will expand and improve upon our current capacity to provide advanced HIV/AIDS specialty services, oral health care services, and other life-essential supportive programs to individuals residing in the Denver Metropolitan area, as well as throughout the state of Colorado.
They have also launched the “Compassionate Connections Campaign” which focuses on three areas. They are:
Mind & Body: Area of the new facility devoted to behavioral, dental and medical services
Services & Shelter: Portion devoted to financial services and housing resources
Cupboard & Community: Community food bank and other drop in services essential to well being.
We have a long way to go in our battle of HIV stigma, but with many allies in the fight, we can continue to make headway. Do you have some interest in joining the fight?
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get you in contact with the right people.