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Fighting the Stigma of AIDS - 2002-05-17


The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched a new campaign to fight the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Alvaro Bermejo – head of the Red Cross’ health department – says stigma and discrimination are driving forces behind HIV/AIDS.

He says, "Our prevention programs and our programs that are designed to provide care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS will never succeed as long as the current levels of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS continue."

The slogan for the two-year campaign is: “The truth about AIDS. Pass it on.”

"A lot of the stigma and discrimination is based on unfounded fear," he says. "On not knowing how AIDS is transmitted. Studies have shown that even today 20 years into the epidemic in many countries that have been surveyed between 60 and 80 percent of the population still thinks that casual contact with an infected person will transmit the infection. Or that mosquitoes, for example, will transmit the infection."

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies say many individuals who are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, refuse to talk about it. It says some governments have even refused to acknowledge the existence of the disease. As a result, it says it has an “obligation to speak out, to lobby for policy changes and to fight stigma and discrimination in all its forms.”

He says, "This knowledge, this truth, has to move faster than the virus does. We have to be able to transmit it quicker than the virus spreads and that stigma spreads. We must say that up till know the virus is spreading faster. It’s defeating us and we really need to catch up.

Dr. Bermejo calls stigma and discrimination an “offense to human dignity.”

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