Category Archives: Stigma

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.

Philly LGBTQ conference addresses deadly stigmatization of HIV

From Newsworks

“We can find a way to end HIV. We got heart, and maybe that’s enough to fight the racism, stigma, homophobia, gender inequity …. We got to stick together. We got to stay strong.”

Performer Todrick Hall

Performer Todrick Hall

Todrick Hall sang these words, kicking off “Convergence: Forging the Path to End HIV,” a panel discussion plenary at the five-day Creating Change Conference, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force in Center City Philadelphia. Hall, an openly gay and popular YouTube entertainer, received great applause from the audience.

The aim of the discussion was to address the stigma surrounding HIV in hopes of eliminating the virus.

When compared to other countries, the United States has a realtively low suppression rate, which is the number of people living with HIV but undergoing treatment, thereby decreasing the likelihood of spreading the virus.

Panelist Dr. Richard Elion of George Washington University explained that, “[In] Uganda, the rate of suppression runs at about 55 percent, compared to 30 percent in the United States. So clearly, our country is not doing something that we need to be looking at.”

Elion said there is more to decreasing the spread of HIV than affordable diagnosis and treatment options, and that combating the stigma of HIV is vital.

Read the full article. 

An open letter by Tyler Curry

From Advocate.com

Before I sprouted out of the closet as a little gay sapling, my mother had never met a single homosexual person in her life. And in the suffocating Southern Christian confines of Texas, her limited perception was open to the most horrific creative interpretation. The nightmares of evil drag queens and insidious perverts quickly faded away, however, once her son told her that he liked boys.

The majority of gay men know how it feels to secretly live in the presence of someone who is blindly afraid of you, yet that blind fear is exactly what we inflict on HIV-positive men. It is because of this that I write an open letter to gay men young and old.

Your friend is living with HIV.

dear-gay-menx750It doesn’t matter who you are or where you hail from; if you are a man who kisses other men, someone you know is HIV-positive. Hopefully, this is already yesterday’s news because you live in a collective space where your friends are not afraid to discuss their love and sex lives, regardless of status. But if you care to argue that this is a false narrative, then you may be creating barriers for your HIV-positive friends without even knowing it. This isn’t just a hindrance to their mental health; it is also a risk to your own HIV-negative status. If you don’t acknowledge the reality that your friends may be living with HIV, you probably think that you’ve never slept with an HIV-positive person either.

In the first six months after my diagnosis, I was petrified to tell my best friend about my status. As much as I knew he wouldn’t judge me or toss our friendship aside, something he had previously said kept ringing in my ears:

“I would never date someone with HIV. I just don’t think I could get over it.”

A world where my best buddy would reject someone just like me was a world I could live without. Yet I tucked it inside and hid something from my friend to avoid any stigma from someone I loved. When I did tell him my status and the reason for my hesitation, he was immediately overcome with unquestionable support and complete remorse. And just as happens with anyone who made a judgment before getting to know someone, his benign HIV stigma has become undetectable.

Although most days I do feel like a rainbow unicorn, my story and my status are nothing unique. If you are a gay man, or any other person who knows more than a handful of gays, then you know a person with HIV. Instead of trying to figure out who it could be, think about how you would feel if one of your closest friends were judged, rejected, and ridiculed for his status.

Or worse: How do you feel if one of your friends is remaining silent because he feels you might judge and reject him as well?

HIV isn’t exclusive to the LGBT community, but it is the backbone of its legacy of tragedy and strength. Today, HIV doesn’t have to rob a person of anything in their life, but only if they are surrounded by an educated and loving community that understands a disease is not a characteristic or a flaw. It’s just another thing to overcome, and the LGBT community overcomes its struggles together.

Be a part of that community. Be a friend, a lover, and an ally to people with HIV.