HIV: Free of Stigma
by Bradford McIntyre
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