Lets stop HIV stigma & discrimination

HIV stigma and discrimination is one topic that no one feels comfortable talking about but it’s a subject that i feel everyone should freely talk about. If you never experienced, you probably know someone who HIV positive.

With that, it’s essential that you know what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to dealing with stigma and discrimination.

Start a conversation; HIV is surrounded by a negative stigma, because of this, People Living with HIV cant open up freely because they probably fear being judged and discriminated.

That couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for individuals who have been diagnosed. We want to talk about our struggles and how we have overcome our obstacles.

Don’t walk up to someone and say, “Hey, do you have HIV?” that really feels like an attack. Not only is it rude but it also won’t accomplish your goal of starting a conversation. Instead, ask how someone is doing. Take the time to actually listen to them.

If you’re not sure of how to start the conversation, try getting a pin that you can wear on your shirt. “Ask me about my HIV status” or “End stigma” and see where the conversation takes you.

Share your story. Sometimes, all it takes is sharing your own story, if you, relative, a friend or a loved one is a person living with HIV, make the environment comfortable by sharing your own story.

Many of us are happy to share our stories because talking about HIV/AIDS is the first step towards ending that discrimination and stigma. First hand accounts are infinitely more effective than anything you will find in a textbook.

Focus on the positives. When we are talking about HIV, it’s easy to focus on the negative and on what is wrong with people. That’s a big part of the reason why the whole concept of HIV has such a negative stigma surrounding it. That’s where positive psychology comes in.

Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with someone, positive psychology looks at what is right with them. Instead of focusing on the illness and its treatment, it puts more effort on the patient’s strengths and how they can use those strengths to grow in the real world.

While learning the typical symptoms of HIV can be a great tool to help you become a health champion, learning how to focus on something other than the symptoms can be more to your friends or loved ones.

By using the positive, individuals with HIV can learn how to manage the negative side of their illness. This might not be a replacement for traditional treatment, it can be a great tool for individuals who aren’t responding to any of the typical tools or therapies used in this field.

Use it. Just because you have been diagnosed with HIV doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. Many famous individuals are living with mental illnesses. Recently, many of them have been much more open about their struggles.

The trick here is to use your experiences, either as an individual with HIV or as the loved one of someone in that situation. If you’re dealing with HIV, learn how to use it to your advantage. A therapist might be a useful tool here.

If you haven’t been diagnosed, challenge your friends or family members who have to get the help they need to thrive. Be there for them and remain supportive. When they’re ready to fly on their own, just get out of their way.

Lets break the HIV stereotype, You can be a champion for health awareness whether you’ve been diagnosed yourself or not. We need champions to help dispel the negative cloud around HIV once and for all.

Frank Byaruhanga is a human rights activist with years of experience in community dialogues, digital communication, advocacy and digital campaigns. He specializes in Media Relation Work, Management and Training with sufficient knowledge in Governance, Accountability, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Youth-led research, Content developer, Creative Activism, Social Media Management and documentary photography.

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