How would you react if someone told you they were HIV positive? Would you treat them the same as any other person? Would you still hug them without thinking twice? Would you take a sip from their glass of Coke? Or would you suddenly feel as though you needed to keep your distance from said person, in case you caught their 'impurity'?
It sounds harsh, but unfortunately a negative stigma has developed around HIV that causes many people to react with fear towards anyone who tests positive. Does HIV Look Like Me? International's campaign aims to put an end to these sentiments of unnecessary negativity and create a society in which those affected by HIV can live without being judged and ridiculed, but rather given the support they need.
One of our campaign's projects has highlighted the travel restrictions that have been placed on people with HIV, making it difficult for them to visit, work or live in those countries. Despite there being no public health impact behind these restrictions, a shocking 42 nations around the world have implemented rules that isolate HIV positive individuals.
While Aruba does not grant people with HIV a work or residency permit, Yemen has gone one step further and prevents HIV positive people from visiting the country even for a short stay, while expelling those who they find out have been tested positive.
Suriname demands that a health certificate stating the absence of HIV and AIDS is presented - but only by people from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, further creating a false understanding of HIV. Does HIV Look Like Me? International is determined to educate people about the facts of HIV and AIDS in the hope that perhaps if people realised that it is something anyone could get and understood more about the reality of it, some of the negative stigma might begin to fade.
'Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action.It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world' says Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations