A few years ago, ACNS, in collaboration with a variety of community partners, launched a province-wide campaign in response to the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs). It was a great success and the message is still relevant today.
Stigma is “a quality that is seen to mark an individual as different or bad,” and discrimination is “the behaviour or action tied to stigma.” The negative treatment of HIV+ people is discrimination, based on stigma.
Factors contributing to stigma and discrimination include:
- HIV is often seen as a life-threatening illness. This is often the result of the lack of resources for education and support across NS
- HIV is often associated with already stigmatized behaviours such as man-to-man sex, injection drug use or sex-work, etc.
Stigma and discrimination can cause real damage to lives – affecting someone’s work, housing, medical servicesand safety, causing fear and depression. A disproportionate number of PHAs are living with depression,which only further exacerbates a person’s ability to be well.
But it doesn’t stop there. According to the Canadian AIDS Society, “stigma and discrimination associated with HIV continue to make it difficult to teach prevention and awareness to those most susceptible to infection.”
Eliminating stigma altogether requires a paradigm shift some may think this is unrealistic. But studies show that through a variety of intervention strategies something can be done about stigma and discrimination on many levels. The general population can increase its knowledge about HIV, can improve its attitude towards PHAs, and can increase its volunteerism in the HIV field. Consequently evidence proves that this all can and will reduce the level of stigma and discrimination experienced by PHAs and increase their health and wellness.