Category Archives: Stigma

HIV isn’t just a gay issue, it’s a ‘social justice issue’

From out.com...

Writer and activist George M. Johnson instructs us, on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, on the role we all play in the search for a cure.

BY TRE’VELL ANDERSON

George M. Johnson

The late activist and writer Joseph Beam once deemed the act of a Black man loving another Black man a “revolutionary act.” I imagine that doing so, while also living unapologetically with HIV, is doubly insurgent. But that’s perhaps the only way to describe the life and work of George M. Johnson. A writer, activist, and soon-to-be author, he’s committed to the work of toppling the patriarchy, challenging anti-Blackness, and confronting homophobia, transphobia, and HIV stigma wherever he sees it.

With over 40,000 Twitter followers and a much larger community that reads his words at Teen Vogue,Entertainment Tonight, The RootEbony, and countless others, Johnson is outspoken and defiantly visible as a Black gay man living with HIV, with which he was diagnosed at 25. Now, he’s set on being the resource he wishes he had when he was younger for other folks who are or might become HIV positive.

On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Out spoke to Johnson about his activism, the state of HIV advocacy, and what those living with the virus and those not can do to combat stigma.

Read the full article/interview here.

Five ways to flip the script on HIV

From HIVplusmag.com

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 HIV Surveillance Report, African-Americans represent 41 percent of new HIV diagnoses yet comprise only 12 percent of the U.S. population. In 2018, an article in Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities offered a five-point “action plan” for community leaders to address and reduce that disparity.

Be Immersive: Although the authors don’t go as far as suggesting all efforts must arise from black communities, they do note the need for work to be done in collaboration with those communities, and for answers to these challenges to be culturally relevant to African-Americans. (Pointing to an “unavailability of access to HIV healthcare and testing,” the researchers also call for “free or reduced-cost testing.”)

Be Nonjudgmental: The authors call for leaders and service providers to work to eliminate prejudices and unconscious biases that may interfere with HIV diagnoses and treatment. After all, they point out, some of the most-impacted populations are those who face stigma, including LGBTQ people, drug users, and those currently or formerly incarcerated. In particular, the researchers call out “cultural HIV/AIDS stigma” and “homo-negativity.”

Be Knowledgeable: The authors stress the importance of understanding “new approaches” to prevention and treatment—clearly referencing the recent consensus that undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U, which shows that once an HIV-positive person in treatment reaches viral suppression they are no longer at risk of transmitting the virus to a partner), and explicitly mentioning the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a highly effective barrier to transmission.

Be an Advocate: The authors want community leaders to become more vocal in calling attention to the epidemic and its impact on the black community. But that’s just the beginning. The action plan notes that much larger social issues must also be addressed in order to “eradicate secondary factors such as incarceration rates, poverty, STDs, and other factors that increase the chances of contracting HIV.” Essentially, they are calling for intersectional activism.

Be Innovative: The plan says to be “proactive and create solutions that evolve with the times and the changing needs of the affected populations.” Certainly, that includes new technologies and treatments, but the authors also point to innovative programs such as Many Men, Many Voices (3MV), aimed at black men who have sex with men who may or may not identify as gay or bi, in which small groups talk about cultural, social, and religious norms; sexual relationship dynamics; and how racism and homophobia influence HIV risk behaviors.

UNAIDS warns that HIV-related stigma is preventing people from accessing HIV services

GENEVA, 3 October 2017—UNAIDS has released a new report showing how stigma and discrimination is creating barriers to accessing HIV prevention, testing and treatment services and putting lives at risk.

The report, Confronting discrimination: overcoming HIV-related stigma and discrimination in health-care settings and beyond, was launched by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, during the Human Rights Council Social Forum. It shows that people living with HIV who experience high levels of HIV-related stigma are more than twice as likely to delay enrolment into care than people who do not perceive HIV-related stigma.

“When people living with, or at risk of, HIV are discriminated against in health-care settings, they go underground. This seriously undermines our ability to reach people with HIV testing, treatment and prevention services,” said Mr Sidibé. “Stigma and discrimination is an affront to human rights and puts the lives of people living with HIV and key populations in danger.”

Read the full article here.

Health insurance agency apologizes, reverses Truvada policy after HIV activists push back

From NBC News

Following outrage by HIV advocates after UnitedHealthcare sent a rejection letter to a patient seeking Truvada — denying him due to his “high risk homosexual behavior” — the insurer announced Friday it is changing its policy for the daily HIV prevention pill “effective immediately.”

“We apologize for the insensitive language appearing in the letter and regret any difficulty it caused. We have corrected our letters, removed the prior authorization requirement for Truvada and members can fill their prescription at the network pharmacy of their choice,” a spokesperson for the company wrote in an email to NBC News Friday night.

Image: Daily Antiretroviral Pill Found To Protect Healthy From AIDS TransmissionBottles of Truvada are displayed at Jack’s Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The monthlong controversy started with a pre-authorization denial letter sent to Thomas Ciganko, a New York man whose physician prescribed Truvada for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). While the rejection came as a surprise, the stated reason was the real shock.

“The information sent in shows you are using this medicine for high risk homosexual behavior,” the letter, dated July 11, 2017, read. In the same paragraph, however, the letter listed an approved reason for taking the medication “to reduce the risk of sexually acquired HIV-1 infection in adults at high risk.”

Read the full article on NBC News online.

Mental health care is key to ending AIDS

From Advocate.com

Research shows a strong correlation between mental health disorders and living with HIV or AIDS, a correlation that is often overlooked. According to the National Institutes of Health, people with HIV have an increased risk for developing mood, anxiety, and cognitive disorders and are twice as likely to live with depression as those who do not have HIV. A 2010 U.K. study showed that one-third of HIV-positive men who participated in the survey met the criteria for a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.  

For those living with HIV or AIDS, depression is more than just mental hell — it can be a silent killer. Studies show that if people living with HIV feel stigmatized or suffer from mental illness, they are less likely to take their medication properly, which not only puts their own health at risk by not suppressing the individuals’ viral load, but also raises the likelihood that they will pass HIV on to others. Individuals living with HIV and depression are also more likely to think about suicide or even attempt to take their own lives. 

Despite what we know about the connection between mental health and HIV/AIDS, too few people living with HIV or AIDS, and those invested in their health and happiness, are getting the mental health support they need. That is why we are proud to announce the opening of the state-of-the-art GMHC Carl Jacobs Mental Health Clinic, which will allow us to incorporate innovative treatment and counseling into our service model. Services will be available to adult New Yorkers of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and income levels, regardless of HIV status.

Past traumas, stress, depression, reduced self-esteem, and other challenges can be grueling to deal with. We aim to offer holistic services that address not only our clients’ mental health issues, but their social, spiritual and health concerns as well. Meanwhile, the ability to reach more HIV-negative people with HIV-preventive interventions and mental health services will help us decrease new HIV infections. 

Read the full article.

Addressing stigma, coping behaviors and mechanisms in persons living with HIV could lead to better health outcomes

From medicalxpress.com

Investigators from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have developed a new conceptual framework highlighting how unique dimensions of individual-level HIV-related stigma might affect the health of those living with HIV. According to the paper’s authors, little is known about the mechanisms through which stigma leads to worse health behaviors or outcomes.

The framework, published in the American Journal of Public Health, looks at perceived community stigma, experienced stigma, internalized stigma and anticipated stigma as barriers to both HIV prevention and engagement in care. An intersectional framework looks at how multiple social statuses intersect at an individual level, such as HIV status, race, gender or sexual orientation, and a broader level, such as structural stigmas in society including racism, sexism, HIV-related stigma and classism, to produce health inequalities.

The conceptual framework suggests that individual-level dimensions of HIV-related stigma operate through interpersonal factors, mental health, psychological resources and biological stress pathways.

“Those living with HIV often fight fear and experiences of HIV-related stigma, affecting their quality of life and mental health, as well as engaging poorly in their HIV care and treatment,” said Janet Turan, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Public Health Department of Health Care Organization and Policy. “Our proposed conceptual framework for individual-level dimensions of stigma and potential individual and interpersonal mechanisms explains how stigma affects each individual’s HIV-related health.”

HIV-infected individuals may be judged by others to be in marginalized social groups, causing social stress because of their minority social position, which could lead to important implications for their health.

Read more at: https://medicalxpress.com.

The media can play an important role in helping to eliminate HIV stigma

From the HRC

by Diego Mora Bello, HRC Global Fellow

Stigma and discrimination continue to be common barriers for people living with HIV. Fortunately, the media can play an important role in helping to remove these and other barriers. In my own survey of Latin American news articles mentioning HIV and AIDS, and in meeting with media professionals and advocates, I found that Latin American Media has room to improve its use of correct and destigmatizing language when talking about people living with HIV. Covering HIV both correctly and responsibly is important, because doing so is an essential part of raising awareness, debunking common myths, and giving voice to an already marginalized group of people.

The importance of using correct and responsible language in journalistic coverage of HIV inspired me to research this topic and share my findings. The ultimate goal of HIV in the Media is to report on this subject in a scientifically accurate and responsible way that inspires others to follow suit.

Based on my research, here are the top three reasons why language is important when covering HIV and AIDS in the media.

Read the full article on the HRC Website.