Fear, Prejudice, and Lack of Knowledge
by Luiz Correa
For over 30 years, a disease has spread the world passing like a great tsunami taking millions of lives and leaving families and friends in mourning.
HIV/AIDS has long been considered to be the disease of homosexuals, drug addicts, and sex workers. However, the risk of infection is not limited to any particular group. Whether homosexual or heterosexual, cisgender or transgender, or queer, the risk of infection is real. Many young people are careless about the risk of transmission and neglecting to be tested or seek needed treatment.
Due to lack of information or the stigma surrounding HIV, many young people do not get tested. Because of this, treatment is delayed by those who may be infected.
While Brazilians have access to the best HIV/AIDS treatment in the world according to the World Health Organization, social exclusion and prejudice against people with HIV/AIDS remain a significant barrier to prevention, testing, and treatment.
Nobody wants to receive the news that they have HIV, but it is in that time that the support of family and friends is needed the most. Many who are diagnosed feel lonely and isolated.
In the article Aids and Human Rights, journalist Paiva Netto writes, “If the person feels humanly supported, it will create a kind of very strong inner resistance that will aid in recovery or resilience in the face of pain. I often say that the virus of prejudice attacks more than the disease.”
Fear and doubts about being discriminated against by family and friends cause many to hide the disease. Unable to cope with the prejudice of those close to them, they abandon treatment.
While correct information about how HIV is transmitted is widely available, many people still fear infection from merely being touched by someone with HIV. This lack of understanding must be combated by campaigns to inform people of the facts and that those living with HIV should never be stigmatized. We must work to end discrimination against HIV-positive people, removing discrimination as a barrier to prevention, testing, and treatment.
In his book Reflections of the Soul, writer Paiva Netto says: “The human organism is the most extraordinary machine in the world, yet it fails. But with love, even the remedies are better.”
World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Related Links: Get Tested, Learn HIV Basics, Living with HIV, Treatment as Prevention (PrEP)