For many of us living with HIV there is always the niggling thought at the back of our heads that other people will talk about our status, often behind our backs, and if we are particularly unfortunate it may even be to our face.
The number of times that I have had negative responses to my face from people knowing that I am living with HIV can be counted on the fingers of one hand. But it seems that I have been lucky.
“the accounts of a group of gay men living with HIV in Dublin, most of whom rarely, if ever, disclose their HIV status to casual sexual partners” (aidsmap.com)
come the stark revelation of the extent of HIV stigma in the gay community in the city. In the study,
Murphy notes the language used by his interviewees – ‘slut’, ‘leper’, ‘criminal’ and ‘AIDS-riddled whore’. In this context, not disclosing HIV status was a form of self-protection. The benefits of disclosure were uncertain while its negative consequences were all too frightening.
Can we do anything to help stop this stigma?
It is now two months until World Aids Day 2015. I have been thinking about what I can do to mark the day. In the last few years, I have been interviewed by several newspapers, broadcast media, and have spoken to school students in Assembly as well.
One idea that springs to my mind is organising to take part in the People Living With HIV Stigma Index. The Index helps to increase the understanding of how stigma and discrimination is experienced by people living with HIV. The evidence gained can then shape future programmatic interventions and policy change.
Policy and programme managers have long recognised that action is needed to address stigma and discrimination. The information gained from the Index will provide evidence for the success (or failures) of current programmes and highlight neglected areas requiring future action. These include improving workplace policies, informing debates about the criminalisation of HIV transmission, and promoting the realization of human rights. Consequently, the Index will be a powerful advocacy tool which will support the collective goal of Governments, NGOs and activists alike to reduce the stigma and discrimination linked to HIV. (stigmaindex.org)
I am somewhat surprised not to find Ireland within the countries that have taken part. Who is up for helping change this?