HIV stigma ‘still a significant challenge’


More than a fifth of people living with HIV in the UK have been verbally assaulted threatened or harassed in the last year because of their HIV status, according to a new report.

And more than ten per cent of those questioned in a survey for the report said they had been physically harassed because of their HIV status.

The report, Give Stigma the Index Finger!, is based on research developed by people living with HIV and was funded by the M.A.C AIDS Fund, and is part of an international initiative, The People Living with HIV Stigma Index.

The new research found that about one in six of the 867 people questioned had been denied health services because of their HIV status at least once in the previous year.

And about the same number said they were convinced their medical records were not being kept confidential.

But the research also found that people living with HIV were leading efforts to overcome stigma.

Nearly half those questioned had personally confronted, challenged or educated people who were stigmatizing them, while 84 per cent had supported other people living with HIV.

The report concludes that stigma remains a “significant challenge” in the UK, and affects access to health, legal, care and support services and the self-esteem and quality of life of people living with HIV.

Health secretary Andy Burnham welcomed the report and said the government would “carefully consider” its findings.

He said the government had worked with voluntary organisations and funded schemes to tackle stigma as part of its national strategy for sexual health and HIV.

He said: “Effective treatments have transformed the lives of people with HIV and today many more people with HIV can plan for their future with more certainty.

“But even in the UK, individuals and families affected by HIV can experience stigma and discrimination.”

The People Living with HIV Stigma Index – which had initial start-up funding from the UK’s Department for International Development – is part of a global initiative between the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the UN’s HIV/AIDS programme and two international networks of people living with HIV, the Global Network of People living with HIV/AIDS and the International Community of Women with HIV/AIDS.

1 December 2009