In addition to the disease itself, HIV/AIDS also carries a specific stigma that affects all aspects of a person's live, including employment, housing, self-image, access to care, and relationships.
This stigma is very real, and it's also a very real problem in and of itself.
This stigma is different from that of other diseases in that it's often based on a judgmental perception of "lifestyle choice," and it also affects caregivers, advocates, friends, coworkers, and volunteers, as well as people living with the disease.
The Western North Carolina AIDS Project has developed a set of resources to help address the issue of stigma around HIV/AIDS.
Check out their I Need U2 Know campaign. While it's specific to Western NC, the ideas and information can be used to replicate this program in other areas. They provide a list of things to do to get involved in your community, as well as links to articles and information posters about HIV/AIDS and its associated stigma.
They are asking people to sign on to their efforts to end this stigma by literally signing a form that says:
I know that:
- People living with HIV/AIDS deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
- People living with HIV/AIDS deserve unconditional love from their families.
- People living with HIV/AIDS have right to equal access under the law to safe and affordable housing, employment, healthcare, and education.
- People living with HIV/AIDS should be seen as productive members of society.
- People living with HIV/AIDS have a right to LIVE, just like everyone else.
Awareness, education, and compassion are how we overcome it.