than 25 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, scientific advances are helping
HIV-positive people live longer. But some of the same problems that existed in
the early days of the epidemic continue today, such as stigma and
growing use of anti-retroviral drugs has improved the quality and longevity of
the lives of people infected with the AIDS virus, HIV. But Paul Perchal,
director of HIV/STI program for the reproductive health organization EngenderHealth, says the
drugs do not treat stigma and discrimination.
lot of people think, for example, that stigma will go away once you've scaled
up treatment and care services. But in actuality that doesn't always happen,
and stigma and discrimination are still very prevalent in most countries around
the world and it's still contributing to the spread of HIV," he said.
and discrimination go hand in hand, with one fueling the other.
says, "Stigma refers to the beliefs and attitudes that deeply discredit a
person or a group because of an association with HIV. This leads to
discrimination, including actions or omissions that harm people or deny
services or rights for stigmatized individuals. And stigma and discrimination
are particularly harsh for populations already socially excluded or that do not
have equal status in society, such as women."
Nations and health officials say women and girls are much more vulnerable to
HIV/AIDS than men and have borne the brunt of the epidemic.
women, for example, are more prone than men to being abandoned and gender-based
violence. Their partners find out that they are HIV positive. They generally
have limited access to information about HIV and AIDS. And they're often denied
HIV services, initially because they weren't perceived as a risk group. So,
even if they were at a healthcare facility, they weren't necessarily offered an
HIV test. And for women who are HIV positive, it's often because of
stigmatizing attitudes and practices of health providers," he says.
says the problems women face have root causes common around the world.
three root causes are a lack of awareness and knowledge of HIV-related stigma
and discrimination, fear of acquiring HIV through everyday contact with people
living with HIV, and a tendency to link people living with HIV to behaviors
considered improper and immoral," he says.
operates programs on various levels of society where stigma and discrimination
exist. One example is Ghana.
in Ghana, through a program called Community Health Partners, EngenderHealth is
scaling up its efforts to address stigma and discrimination at 25 public
hospitals and clinics across all 10 regions of Ghana, covering more than 75
percent of all the clients receiving ARV (anti-retroviral) treatment. We're
also collaborating with other partners to address stigma at the community level
through BCC activities and the involvement of community leaders," he says.
phrase "BCC" activities means "behavioral change communication." The goal of
BCC is to dispel myths about HIV/AIDS. The activities include sensitivity
training for healthcare workers and supportive environments for those living
with HIV/AIDS. EngenderHealth integrates HIV/AIDS care with primary health
services, such as family planning.
says the fact that people with HIV/AIDS are now living longer with the help of
new medicines signals and era of hope. But it also signals an new era of