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HIV: Free of Stigma

by Bradford McIntyre

Photo: Bradford McIntyre, a long time survivor living with HIV since 1984 - Photo Credit: Jaime Kowal

December 1, 2009

    In the early years, there was little understanding of HIV and a misguided belief existed that an HIV infection was an automatic death sentence. This fueled fear, stigma and discrimination. With time came a better understanding; one where it was clear how infection occurred. Before long, a new understanding evolved; not everyone who became infected with HIV died!

HIV is not an airborne disease and it has very specific means of infection. With this knowledge, one would think that we could have abolished the stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS a very long time ago. Out of ignorance, people living with HIV and AIDS have been subjected to and continue to endure these attitudes. In reality, there is no reason to fear an individual, who is infected with HIV! The dangers of infection arise through having unprotected sex, sharing needles or receiving a blood transfusion of HIV infected blood.

With the new understanding, individuals infected with HIV should never have been treated any differently than anyone else living with other illnesses. Fear set the tone and lack of knowledge fueled it. Living with HIV for some 25 years now, I am amazed at the high level of ignorance about HIV and by the rate of new infections. HIV could have been stopped dead in its tracks if people had received the proper information and if everyone practiced safe sex.

Fortunately, many people are aware there is no need to fear individuals infected with HIV. Those, who are infected and who have disclosed their HIV status have worked hard to break down the barriers of stigma and discrimination. However, we have failed to put these courageous individuals in the forefront, to assist in educating the general public. People need to see others living with HIV!

Many people, living with HIV and AIDS, are not being stigmatized or discriminated against and are living long and healthy lives. Yet, the misconceptions continue. People continue to hide their HIV infection for fear of stigma and discrimination. How many more years will it take before we get it right? The time is long overdue, to accept and not fear those, who are infected with HIV. Now is the time to be free of hiding and free of stigma and discrimination.

copyright © Bradford McIntyre



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