News / Health

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Activists display placards during a rally at the AIDS Conference 2014 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) in Melbourne, on July 22, 2014.
Activists display placards during a rally at the AIDS Conference 2014 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) in Melbourne, on July 22, 2014.
Anita Powell

Stigma has stuck to AIDS from the very start. When the virus first began to emerge in the 1980s, it cut a wide swath through two groups that have historically faced their own stigma: gay men and intravenous drug users.

More than 30 years later, however, the face of AIDS has changed. Today’s new HIV patient is statistically likely to be a heterosexual African woman.

But as VOA’s new documentary, Living in the Shadows shows, as the reach of AIDS has expanded, stigma remains from Cambodia to Nigeria to Uganda. It even persists, in 2014, in developed nations like the U.S. and Canada, according to immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci noted the powerful role of stigma in discussing the famous recent case of the “Mississippi baby” -- an infant born with HIV contracted from her mother, then treated aggressively and put in remission for just over two years before again showing signs of infection. Fauci said the baby’s mother did not receive the prenatal care that would have identified her HIV status and protected the baby from contracting the virus. That failure, he said, is often a consequence of stigma.

“In the United States, a developed nation, there is still, as shown on the film, even in the city that I live in, considerable stigma associated with it, some of which is very subtle, which prevents people from getting into the appropriate care at the appropriate time. So there’s a lot of implications of that," the doctor noted.

In Nigeria, where it is against the law to be gay, gay rights activist Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike painted a dark picture of the stigma around AIDS and homosexuality.

“It’s incredibly amazing how we have lived through the work we do in Nigeria," Orazulike said. "And how we have been able to survive in terms of enduring that people have access to health care services and access to social justice. Because living, by the day, gets more scarier than it was the previous day.”

And AIDS stigma affects not just patients, but their providers as well. Dr. Julio Montaner has worked in the field for decades, and says that stigma could be holding back important advances. He described, for example, his struggles in getting government approval to set up a safe needle exchange site for drug users in Vancouver, Canada.

“Yet we suffer a stigma by association. I don’t see too many times when my friend who is a cardiologist gets asked, ‘Why do you do this work? What motivates you to do this work? Why are are you so passionate about it?’ I mean, people accept that being a cardiologist you are passionate about cardiac disease. But we get asked that all the time. ‘How the hell do you care about people who use drugs?’ and this and that and the other thing," Montaner said.

He does not offer an answer to that question -- adding why should he have to explain himself any more than any other doctor, treating any other disease?

That’s one of the many questions that haunts this deadly virus, and continues to plague the fight against AIDS.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: portugal
July 23, 2014 11:48 AM
Stop HIV on World

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid