HIV-related stigma is a significant problem globally. Hiv stigma inflicts hardship and suffering on people living with HIV and interferes with research, prevention, treatment, care and support efforts. HIV stigma refers to negative feelings, beliefs, feelings and attitude towards people living with HIV, their families and people who work with them. The stigma often reinforce existing social inequality based on gender, race ethnicity, class, sexuality and culture. Stigma against many vulnerable populations who are disproportionately affected by HIV such as poor refugees, mentally ill and tribal minority; compounds the stigmatization and discrimination experiences by people living with HIV.
Stigma and discrimination add barriers which weaken the ability of people and communities to protect themselves against HIV. The stigma prevents people living with HIV from disclosing their status to family and friends and even sexual partner. This increases isolation and undermine prevention efforts such as use of preventive methods and avoiding drug abuse. To the vulnerable population, the way people feel the stigma varies across countries and communities.
Stigma discourage people from getting or seeking information and being involved in programmes for fear it will make other people think that they have HIV. Several factors help people cope with HIV related stigma; and respond to feelings or worthlessness, depression and anger associated with their diagnosis. Many people learn to manage and cope with the stigma quite well and habe positive relationships not impacted greatly to stigma especially if they have supportive family and friends.
Social support can help reduce the impact of any stigma. A study on African American living with HIV found that many had experienced stigma and discrimination, but the impact was softened by having social networks that take initiative to offer help. Stigma exists and should be targeted at multiple levels; individual, Interpersonal (family, friends and social networks) organizational, community and public policy. Increasing individual knowledge about HIV transmission, prevention and care helps fight stigma. Health care providers are often named to the people living with HIV as a source of stigma.
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