WORLD AIDS DAY: Stigma and trends
by Amber Maley, practice administrator, HopeHealth in Orangeburg
December 1st is World AIDS Day, an international day observed since 1988 for recognition of the AIDS pandemic and remembrance of those who have lost their battle with the disease and those who still face the stigma associated with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis.
Webster’s dictionary defines stigma as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Any kind of stigma is naturally thought of as unfavorable, and possibly even shameful. Disease-related stigma, however, can cause such distress and create barriers for individuals that it could cost someone their life. I have seen it happen:
- patients don’t go to the clinic because they are scared of seeing someone they know
- they don’t want family and friends to question why they are taking a medication
- they worry about coworkers finding out or losing their job
The list of concerns is endless. One would hope these problems and judgments did not still exist, but, for many, they do. They are very real and daily obstacles for many people.
This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience & Impact.” Fortunately, treatments that prevent and suppress HIV/AIDS exist.
Prevention tactics are at our fingertips. The medications prescribed for HIV/AIDS today are incredible, considering not long ago the diagnosis was declared an inevitable and horrible death sentence. Patients are living long and healthy lives with little to no symptoms. They’re getting married, purchasing homes, having families, and growing old. Thirty years ago, this kind of life would have been unheard of. Now, with PrEP, a once-daily pre-exposure prophylaxis, can be prescribed to prevent HIV transmission for those at risk.
What will your role be in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic? This World AIDS Day, get tested and know your status. Many tests can give you your results within minutes!
You can also help bring awareness to World AIDS Day by joining HopeHealth Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. for our virtual AIDSWalk event at Facebook.com/hopehealthinc.