The Oxford dictionary defines stigma as: “A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person”.
Stigma begins with the devaluing of a person because of a difference which attributed with a negative connotation. Stigma and discrimination often go hand in hand, as discrimination often occurs as a result of stigma and stigmatising attitudes.
Stigma can disempower many people, but it is equally important to note is that experiences with stigma have forced individuals into situations where they found new skills, strength, community and resilience.
Where does stigma come from?
Stigma can be experienced in a variety of ways. Some examples of HIV/AIDS stigma include:
Ignorance or false information as to how HIV is transmitted
False information that HIV is highly contagious
Moral judgements about people and assumptions about sexual behaviour and or injecting drug use
Fear of death and disease
Stigmatising behaviour can be embodied from a variety of sources including interactions between individuals, community and systemic stigma as well as internalised stigma.
Internalised stigma (or self-stigma) is where a HIV positive person places feelings of difference or inferiority or shame about their status on themselves. If you or someone you know is experiencing this, please contact QPP as we can help. You may also wish to check out our Need Help Talking part of our website.
What are some impacts of Stigma?
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon stated that:
“Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world”
Ban Ki-moon op-ed(2008, 6th August), ‘The stigma factor’, The Washington Times
Stigma affects the entire community through perpetuating fear and false information about the HIV virus. Stigma discourages:
People from accessing or getting tested
Disclosing their HIV status to friends and family
All of these impacts undermine and work against Australia’s efforts to realise the Melbourne Declaration on HIV/AIDS that galvanises Australia’s HIV commitments under the United Nations 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS:
50% reduction in the sexual transmission of HIV
50% reduction in the transmission of HIV amongst people who inject drugs
Eliminate mother to child transmission
Increase universal access to antiretroviral therapy – and Australia has adopted a target of 90% of PLHIV on treatment
Read the UN Declaration on AIDS
How can I reduce the effects of stigma?
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a [person] changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards [them]… We need not wait to see what others do.”
Here's my story
What do you think?