In my personal and professional life as a sex educator, I’ve talked to a lot of people about HIV testing. With those that refuse to test, I have the following conversation all too frequently:
“Have you thought about getting tested for HIV?”
“No! I mean, what if I have it?”
When I first started out, I didn’t understand it. Looking back, I can see where newbie me had it wrong: when people ask, “what if I have it?” they’re not just asking for a clinical account of their treatment trajectory or their life expectancy. Rather, they want to know how to deal with everything that goes along with being labeled a “person living with HIV (PLWHA).”
As the gut-wrenching panic of the early AIDS crisis fades into distant memory, more and more people can expect to live long lives with HIV. Unfortunately, that also means living with the stigma of being “HIV positive.” HIV-related stigma isn’t a mere inconvenience, it is a persistent obstacle to progress in the HIV epidemic. It results in new infections, keeps people from accessing treatment, and it makes people sicker.
Here are five of the more common stigmatizing beliefs about HIV that I hear on a daily basis. Have you caught yourself or someone you know sharing them? Continue reading