This Valentine’s Day, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) is calling on Canadians to spread messages of love and challenge HIV stigma.
A Valentine’s Day message from our National Ambassadors.
Watch as our National Ambassadors bust common HIV myths in under a minute.
Why should I care about HIV stigma?
Stigma remains a significant challenge for people living with HIV in Canada.
Many people living with HIV experience unfair treatment due to their status.
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.
What are some examples of myths that drive HIV stigma?
What can I do to challenge HIV stigma?
Learn about how far we’ve come with HIV treatment, and tell others that U=U.
Thanks to decades of research supported by organizations like CANFAR, we have come a long way in our ability to treat HIV. While there is no cure for HIV, medication is available that allows HIV-positive people to live long and healthy lives.
Nowadays, people living with HIV can take medication that suppresses the virus so effectively that they have an undetectable viral load, which means that they cannot pass HIV on to others.
Undetectable=untransmittable. For more information on U=U check out this website.
Be mindful of how you use your language. Don’t say things that might make people living with HIV feel blamed, shamed, or unwanted. For example, referring to yourself as “clean” because you don’t have HIV implies that people who are positive are dirty, which is untrue and stigmatizing. To learn more about destigmatizing language, check out this guide.
If you know someone living with HIV, show them that you care. Lend a listening ear, have a warm conversation, and do all you can to make your positive friend or family member feel loved and supported.