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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid