HIV/AIDS stigma as a major challenge in achieving universal access
Since the face case of HIV/AIDS was reported in the world, the pandemic has change the behavior of the world, the disease has killed 25 million people and infected 40 million more. It has become one of the world’s leading causes of death among both women and men aged between 15 and 59. It has inflicted the single greatest reversal in the history of human development. In other words, it has become the greatest challenge of our generation.
As the number of infections continues to increase, stigma and discrimination remains a formidable challenge to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support. HIV/AIDS-related stigma and its associated discrimination affect all aspects of HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. HIV thrives in an environment of ignorance and erodes social support for infected people, which is access to information, support, economic and legal services.
One lesson we have learnt in the Care and Support Project is that stigma and discrimination promotes the culture of silence – people fear to talk about HIV ands AIDS, let alone disclose there status. Stigma, discrimination, Poverty and denial, as well as lack of confidentiality, contributes to a climate of fear. This undermines prevention, care and treatment efforts and further increases the impact of the epidemic on individuals, families, communities and society at large.
The impact of stigma on the affected individual can lead to depression, guilt and shame, as well as to behaviour that limits participation within communities and access to services intended to assist them. HIV/AIDS-related stigma constantly reminds members of the discriminated groups that they are social outcasts or even deserve to be punished. If people are mocked or treated with hostility, they may feel uncared for and are therefore less likely to take steps to protect themselves.
HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination is a major obstacle to effective prevention and care for it can prevent governments (national authorities) from getting a true picture of the burden of the pandemic because people are not coming forward for testing, care and support. This compromises planning, allocation of resources and provision of services to people with HIV and for people from other highly vulnerable groups.
Stigma and discrimination hinders prevention interventions by fostering ignorance about facts on HIV. HIV/AIDS-related stigma discourages people to get tested or when they get tested, from returning for their test results. Some avoid clinics known to be testing for HIV. Others believe that the fact that they have been tested it will eventually reach the rest of the community.
The fear of being stigmatized results in women, men and young people being unable to look after their sexual and reproductive health – accessing sexual health information, treatment and methods for HIV and STI prevention, such as the condom use. Some infected individuals may choose not to change or adapt their behaviour to reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission for fear that such a change would arouse suspicion and stigma. Stigma by health-care providers nurses, doctors impacts on access to treatment in health centers and hospitals. Some medical workers, in an attempt to avoid having contact with people living with HIV/AIDS or provide care, pass patient from one health worker to another or from one hospital to another.
Stigma and discrimination has made the medical management of HIV and AIDS very stressful despite efforts to create more awareness. Social stigmatization of the disease frustrates efforts to apply the most effective medical interventions in the management of HIV and AIDS, counseling, testing and treatment. It causes individuals to shy away from tests hence treatment is delayed or not received at all. Delayed treatment can contribute to the continued spread of the Virus because people do not know their status.
Reducing stigma and discrimination is crucial to the success of Universal Access to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, care and support programmes, as the quality of such programmes can and do depend on the degree at which health centers and hospitals welcome and respect the rights of the individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
Hon. Ibekwe Alexander Director, Health Link Organization South East Coordinator, Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN) Chiarman Director of Health National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) source: Global Network of Poeple living with HIV