Stigma and discrimination

The stigma (social stigma) implies the severe disapproval of, or discontent with, a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society which significantly discredits the person in the eyes of others. Identifying which human differences are salient, and therefore worthy of labeling, stigma may be attached to a person, who differs from social or cultural norms.

Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on actual or perceived membership to a certain group or category and restricting members of that group from opportunities that are available to others, leading to the exclusion. Discrimination may involve making the difference in treatment of people based on actual or perceived membership to a group, unfair treatment and denial of rights.

Talking about discrimination means actually talking about basic human rights violations.

AIDS-related stigma and discrimination exist worldwide and refers to prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV and AIDS. The consequences of stigma and discrimination are wide-ranging: being shunned by family, peers and the wider community, poor treatment in healthcare and education settings, an erosion of rights, psychological damage, and a negative effect on the success of HIV testing and treatment. They occur alongside other forms of stigma and discrimination, such as racism, stigma based on physical appearance, homophobia or misogyny and can be directed towards those involved in what are considered socially unacceptable activities such as prostitution or drug use.

Discrimination and stigmatization associated with HIV infection are present from the very beginning of the disease. It emphasized that it is the only disease that manifests itself in three outbreaks:
• Infection with HIV
• Diseases of the side
• Public reaction to the first two

This third 'epidemic' is characterized by fear, ignorance, stigma and discrimination, as well as blaming patients for the disease they carry.

Stigma also interferes with attempts to fight the AIDS epidemic. It can deter governments from taking fast, effective action against the epidemic and it can make individuals reluctant to access HIV testing, treatment and care.

HOW PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV / AIDS LOOK LIKE?

They look like all the others! People living with HIV can not be recognized, they look the same as everyone else. Many people living with HIV, are not even aware of their infection. The period from getting the virus in the body can be between 2-15 years until the first symptoms show, depending on the strength of the immune system of individuals, as well as the characteristics of the virus.

People living with AIDS often suffer from pneumonia, herpes or other diseases, depending on the opportunistic infection. Like the one living with HIV, people living with AIDS are not recognized among other patients because AIDS has no specific symptoms.

How dangerous is to have a person living with HIV / AIDS for a friend?

It is not dangerous! HIV can be transmitted only in contact with an infected person in three ways: through unprotected sexual intercourse, through infected blood and blood products or from HIV positive mother to the fetus. All social contacts are harmless (handling, kissing, sharing clothes, bathing in the pool, eating food prepared by a person living with HIV, etc ...). There are examples of people living for years in a normal marriage where only one partner is infected.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, besides members who speak explicitly against discrimination of any kind, says that everyone has the right to social and health care, and the right to work in accordance with their capacities.

The law in Serbia does not mention people living with HIV, which means that they are healthy and able to work as much as people without HIV. People living with AIDS have the same treatment as other patients. The reimbursement of medical expenses is covered by the Republic of Serbia despite the high price of drugs.

The Criminal Law considers intentional and negligent form of transmission of HIV infection as a crime.

Who is the one to blame for the Infection with HIV?

You are not getting HIV, you are taking it! The person living with HIV / AIDS is responsible for his/her status. HIV can be taken through unprotected sexual intercourse and through blood and blood products, use of unsterile instruments and other equipement to prepare and inject drugs.

From this principle we have to exclude persons who have been infected with HIV by vertical transmission (from mother to the fetus or child) as well as hemophiliacs infected by receiving blood products at a time when there was still no requirement for routine blood testing of blood donors for HIV.

IF people living with HIV are the ones to blame for their own status, do they still deserve the respect?

Of course they deserve! We are all threatened by our actions. It would be like someone is blaming a person with a canser because he/she was a smoker or to blame someone with a cold for not taking a warm clothes and vitamin C. Or to blame wounded person in the war for not deserting from the army.

ARE PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV / AIDS socially useful?

Sure! The idol of young generations around the world, basketball player Magic Johnson lives with HIV. Freddie Mercury from Queen died of AIDS. For many people, life with HIV was a help to mature spiritually and to performe their work with more responsible approach. People living with HIV / AIDS are bright and conscientious parents, spouses, teachers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, monks, humanists

CONCLUSION

People living with HIV / AIDS are not dangerous to their environment, but the danger lies in the risk behavior of those who take HIV. People living with HIV / AIDS have equal rights with others. Also, people living with HIV / AIDS can be and are useful and necessary for society, but instead of limiting their rights, we have to encourage them.