Where did the stigma surrounding HIV come originate? And are there realistic efforts in attempting to bring an end to this societal phenomenon?
The negative stigma that couples the HIV disease has deep connection to societal discrimination against traditionally marginalized individuals. As HIV initially claimed victims within communities of homosexuals and drug users, negative societal misconceptions regarding transmission emerged. As the disease struck those deemed as societal outcast, basic compassion and the priority to intervene with healthcare support was slow to commence.
Over time, a combination of transmission misconceptions, discriminatory laws, and brutal societal disregard for marginalized groups, has created the current state of stigma and discrimination. The question now stands, is how do we uproot and reconstruct social stigmas, which serves as primary barriers for prevention and treatment.
To bring an end to the polarizing stigma around HIV, the movement must occur across the individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy levels. Individuals need to increase knowledge about prevention and care. At the interpersonal level, healthcare workers and workplace leaders must address their own fears. Facing their concerns and dealing with them with a productive open conversation will spur the beginnings of an end to workplace discrimination. Individual and organizational changes will further lay the foundations for community wide stigma elimination. Fueling a source of compassion which currently is missing. To solidify these changes, policy makers will then need to eliminate laws which fuel stigma and stratify community members.
The seed which will send waves of change across society lies in a change in mindset. Education and advocacy will challenge stigma driven misconceptions and influence individuals to become more compassionate towards individuals living through the disease.