Many people living with HIV still experience unfair treatment due to their actual, or suspected HIV status. However, HIV does not discriminate. It affects people of all genders, races, sexualities, backgrounds, and lifestyles.
Attitudes and opinions of Canadians toward people living with HIV were assessed in a national study in 2012. In this study, 55 percent felt that people with HIV may experience difficulty in basic activities, such as: finding housing, healthcare, or employment, due to the existing stigma.
Why HIV Stigma Exists
Stigma remains a significant challenge for people living with HIV in Canada.
HIV stigma arises from fear, lack of knowledge, and existing prejudices against groups of people most affected by the virus.These include gay and bisexual men, people of colour, immigrants, Indigenous people, and injecting drug users.
Because of stigma, people living with HIV may have a hard time finding housing, accessing healthcare, or securing employment. They may also face emotional and mental health challenges associated with isolation and/or discrimination they experience due to stigma.
Stigma affects HIV prevention. Fear can stop people from getting tested regularly and knowing their status. It can also cause people living with HIV to feel uncomfortable disclosing their status to their partners. People who experience stigma are also more likely to miss check-ups with doctors or access medications due to fears of being ‘outed’ or discomfort speaking with others about their status. That can lead to an increase in their viral load and subsequently increase the risk of onward transmission.
HIV Myths and Facts
The People Living with HIV Stigma Index
The People Living with HIV Stigma Index is a community-based research and action project that is conducted for HIV-positive people by HIV-positive people.
It aims to understand the experiences of people living with HIV who have been affected by stigma and discrimination in 50 countries around the world. It also analyzes the trends around HIV stigma, while addressing the key barriers that perpetuate stigma. Click here to learn more about the project.
Stigma can only be changed through awareness, acceptance, understanding, challenging discrimination everywhere it exists, and ultimately through compassion.