Break the Stigma

Stigma and discrimination have been a part of HIV since the virus was first being discovered in New York during the 1980s. Famously, the New York Times would publish an article calling the virus “The Gay Plague.”

Understanding Stigma

The destructive power of stigma means that despite advances in treatment, prevention, and detection, HIV is still equated with death and hopelessness. 

Stigma occurs when an individual is perceived to have a distinguishable and negative characteristic. This marginalizes the stigmatized person within their larger society. 

Stigma also leads to discrimination. People living with HIV can also face barriers when accessing sexual health services and health care. Statistically, people living with HIV are more at risk of unintended pregnancy and contracting other STIs. 

Many people living with HIV keep their status a secret for fear of how their friends and family will react. Stigma also makes it less likely that people will seek HIV or STI testing because they’re afraid of being associated with the virus. 

What you Can Do:

Speak out and share: Stigma grows from fear and ignorance but can be broken with truth and experience. 

Changing HIV’s name will help us take a significant step toward ending the stigma that remains around the virus. Help spread the word. If we succeed, it will make a difference for millions of people affected by HIV around the world. 


Break the Stigma

What is stigma? Stigma is a social process characterized by labeling, stereotyping, and marginalizing. It leads to status loss and discrimination against an individual or group. HIV stigma can be defined as negative attitudes and beliefs against those living with HIV. 

How is discrimination different from stigma?  Stigma is the result of stereotypes. These associated beliefs characterize a stigmatized group in an often-negative light, shaping society’s perception of them.

Discrimination stems from individuals’ prejudices. These create an attitude towards a discriminated group of people, leading to relationships within society that are strongly characterized by hierarchal structures.

How does stigma impact HIV transmission rates and sexual health? Stigma is a significant driver of HIV transmissions. 

The fear of stigmatization means that at-risk individuals are less likely to seek information or go for testing and treatment. Consequentially, they may remain unaware of their HIV status or unknowingly engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. 

Stigma can directly influence the level of care a person living with HIV receives. They may be denied care, face physical and verbal abuse, or be made to wait longer for medical assistance. As a result, people living with HIV may mistrust clinicians and not disclose their HIV status or sexual history, leading to incorrect or missed medical treatments.

What are the emotional costs of stigma for people living with HIV? Stigma is an external and internal force. Internal stigma is when people living with HIV internalize the negative beliefs of others. This can lead to cases of severe depression or self-hatred. Internal stigma is the result of external or societal stigma. External stigma is a negative public or cultural perception surrounding a person or group, in this case people living with HIV. 
How is racism connected to HIV? Three major pathways connect racism to health inequities. 
The first one is cultural racism: the embedding of the inherent inferiority of a racial group into the belief system, images, and norms of the dominant culture. 
The second is institutional or structural racism, referring to the social structures and policies that undermine the access of a marginalized group to better opportunities and resources within their society.
The third is discrimination on an individual level, where groups experience different treatment from both social institutions and individuals because of their ethnicity.
These pathways make it progressively harder for minorities to access health care and sexual health resources. 
Why does having a low socioeconomic status make you more likely to contract HIV? Socioeconomic status is measured by income, education, occupational status, and wealth, and has always been seen as a driver of health inequalities. In general, low-income individuals experience worse access to care compared to those with a higher level of income, making it harder for people with a low socioeconomic status to access HIV education and care services

Update HIV

Sign our petition and join the call to rename HIV.