- Leverage school-based efforts and requirements related to sexual health education to promote prevention and reduce stigma.
- Incorporate reduction of stigma into provider and staff education, and implement clinic-based policies, processes and systems as a means to reduce stigma (e.g., standard HIV wellness check, questions about stigma-free encounters on patient satisfaction surveys).
- Develop and disseminate a Getting to Zero Campaign(s) focused on the general public and priority populations across the focus areas of the initiative, with an emphasis on reducing stigma as a means to promote HIV prevention and universal screening. Targeted campaigns will capitalize on social media platforms and tools.
- Conduct action research to better identify the nature of stigma surrounding HIV and how stigma affects specific populations, in order to inform messaging and identify priority populations.
What is stigma?
Stigma is shame and disgrace that result from prejudice associated with something regarded as socially unacceptable. Stigma around HIV includes certain words, beliefs, and actions that have negative meaning for those at high risk for getting HIV or those already living with HIV.
Here are a few examples:
- Referring to people as HIVers or Positives
- Believing that only certain groups of people can get HIV
- Refusing casual contact with someone living with HIV
- Making moral judgments about people who take steps to prevent HIV transmission
- Socially isolating a member of a community because they are HIV positive
- Refusal by a health care professional to provide high-quality care or services to a person living with HIV
Ongoing stigma in our communities leads to perceived discrimination, fear, and anxiety. It affects the emotional well-being and mental health of people living with HIV and prevents some from getting tested and treated for HIV.
Get the facts
Sharing information can help reduce misunderstanding and decrease stigma associated with HIV.
According to the CDC…
- More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV.
- Approximately 45,000 Americans become infected with HIV every year.
- About 1 in 8 people living with HIV don’t know they have it.
- If you nd out you are HIV posi ve, you can start taking medicine for your HIV. Ge ng treated for HIV improves your health, prolongs your life, and greatly lowers your chance of spreading HIV to others.
What can I do to stop HIV stigma?
There are many ways we can all fight HIV stigma in our lives and in our community, whether you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative:
- Break the silence surrounding HIV stigma in our community. Talk about your experiences, fears and concerns about getting HIV or transmitting HIV with friends, a counselor, or a partner.
- Learn how to better deal with and react when someone tells you they have HIV.
- Take responsibility for the prevention of HIV. The prevention of HIV is a responsibility that all people share – HIV-positive, HIV-negative and HIV status unknown.
- Challenge attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that contribute to HIV stigma. Don’t be a silent witness to it when it happens around you.
- Avoid using language that overtly stigmatizes others.
- Treat people with HIV as you would treat anyone else: with respect, empathy, and compassion.
- Get informed about how to protect yourself from HIV and be confident in that knowledge. We know how to prevent HIV.
- If you have difficulty playing safe, take charge of your sexual health and get the help you need to ensure you do not get infected with or transmit HIV.
Testing is the only way to know if you are HIV positive but many people avoid testing because of stigma. Knowing your status may empower you to talk openly about what it’s like to get tested and encourage others to do the same.
You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too. You can also find a testing site near you by:
- calling 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636),
- visiting gettested.cdc.gov or locator.hiv.gov, or
- texting your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948).
- You can also buy a home testing kit at a pharmacy or online.
Every conversation we have about HIV helps eliminate the stigma that is often associated with the disease. These conversations can happen in person but they can also be over the phone, or online. Every voice matters, no matter how the message is shared.