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What is HIV related Stigma and Discrimination?

Living with HIV now is a very different experience to what it was ten or twenty years ago, and living with HIV in the UK is quite different to living with HIV in some other parts of the world.

People living with HIV in Scotland are living longer healthier lives and therefore attend a full range of NHS services not connected to their HIV status.

Poor knowledge around HIV and misconceptions surrounding exactly how the virus can be passed on still exists. This means that HIV can evoke fears, prejudices and negative attitudes. As a result many people living with HIV still experience stigma and discrimination even in our own heath care services.

Stigma is a person’s attitude or beliefs. It is attached to a strong feeling of disapproval. If something has a stigma attached to it, people think it is something to be ashamed of.

Discrimination is about behavior. Discrimination means treating one person differently from another based on their characteristics.

HIV carries its own stigma[i]. It is defined as the negative beliefs, feelings and attitudes towards people who are living with or are affected by HIV. Often, dated and inaccurate views of HIV as an untreatable disease and lack of knowledge have contributed to stigma and criminalisation of people with or affected by HIV, as does the fact that transmission often involves taboo topics – sex and drug use.

Examples of stigma or discrimination patients living with HIV report include:

  • “Your appointment is delayed or you are moved to the end of the list”
  • “The person puts on two pairs of gloves to treat you”
  • “Openly discussing status in front of other staff or even patients”
  • “Treatment was poor. Their fear made them aggressive towards me”
  • “The look”

The Equality Act protects against discrimination at work, in education and when using shops, businesses and services.

 

[i] UNAIDS (2014)

Reduction of HIV-related stigma and discrimination