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Living with HIV

Stigma and Disclosure

The negative impacts of HIV related stigma tend to have a major impact on whether one chooses to disclose their HIV status. This can have disastrous effects not just upon individuals but upon whole communities primarily by reduces testing rates, which increases the number of people with undiagnosed HIV.

The label and stereotyping attached to an HIV positive result leads undiagnosed people to delay testing, and reluctance to disclose stigmatised behaviours (such as sex between men or injection drug use) means doctors don’t know to offer testing, safe sex advice and other information which could save people’s lives.

The ‘us vs. them thinking’ dimension of stigma can be used by people who are fearful about HIV to avoid feeling personally vulnerable – even though they are – and to neglect messages they should heed.

Because of HIV stigma, people focus on ‘moral judgments’ rather than learning about the different experiences of other people.  This makes it difficult for prevention educators to talk about complex issues.

Stigma impairs sexual negotiation between people of potentially different HIV statuses.  Stigmatizing questions like ‘are you clean?’ stops an open discussion about someone’s HIV status.

Stigma has again and again been demonstrated to have concrete negative effects on mental and physical health and overall wellbeing. It causes shame, which in turn induces silence and paralysis of all kinds of expressive action – the fear that something could give away their secret.