This World AIDS Day, December 1st, Positive People everywhere are standing up and asking that everyone join them in making a pledge to stamp out HIV related stigma.
Continuing stigma around HIV prevents people coming forward for testing. It stops people accessing life-saving treatment, and it makes people already living with the virus feel ashamed and isolated. If we are to reach the UNAIDS goal of zero new HIV infections by 2030, we need to eliminate this stigma.
Tom Hayes, a trustee of Saving Lives, and who has been living with HIV for eight years, explained: “It’s not until you’re diagnosed that you really notice HIV stigma. It’s everywhere, from how you’re treated in medical settings, to dating apps and social media.
Indeed, data from Public Health England’s ‘Positive Voices’ survey showed that 1 in 10 people living with HIV had been refused medical treatment because of their status, whilst 1 in 5 reported feelings of isolation around living with HIV. This stigma is even more strongly felt amongst minority groups who are already facing multiple other stigma because of who they are. (source: https://www.nat.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/web_PV_Changing%20Perceptions-Stigma-report.pdf)
“For the first few months of my diagnosis I kept it a secret, I stigmatised myself because I was afraid of being open and having other people stigmatise me,” Tom adds. “But it gets to a point where enough is enough, and you have to tell yourself, ‘I won’t be limited by a virus, or what people think of me for having it.'”
Doctor Steve Taylor, Saving Lives’ Medical Director, said: “It’s 2019, and there’s no longer any place for HIV stigma. The truth is that people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass the infection on to their partners – and enjoy a life expectancy the same as any of us. Prejudice must be a thing of the past.”
Meet the Positive People standing up to stigma this World AIDS Day in our photo gallery below…