HIV stigma – what people living with HIV need to know

accreditation

Despite the fact that the world has made great strides in HIV education and treatment over the last 10 years, many patients still feel ashamed when they're diagnosed. This stigma is one of the most dangerous aspects of HIV and we still have a long way to go when it comes to eliminating the shame associated with the virus.

No longer a death sentence

This is according to Health24's HIV expert Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl. She explains that the humiliation HIV positive patients experience can be deadly because it keeps them from seeking medical assistance, and "although the virus is no longer a death sentence, some people would rather get sick than access treatment".

An anonymous Health24 reader confirms that feeling too ashamed to ask questions was a major hurdle for her when she was diagnosed.

"I had a million questions but didn't want to reach out because I was afraid that people would judge and reject me," she says. "It was one of the main reasons I didn't start treatment immediately."

Read the full question here: HIV stigma

Understanding HIV can be complicated, so we took a look at some of the common questions on Health24's HIV forum. These can provide answers for those that are too embarrassed to ask.

10 important questions answered by our HIV expert:

How accurate is the Rapid HIV (over the counter) test?

What should I know about CD4 and viral load?

Are there medical schemes that will cover HIV treatment immediately when you join?

How do you tell your partner that you are HIV-positive?

How long can I live on ARV treatment?

Multivitamins to supplement ARV

Can I take a break from ARV meds?

Pregnant and HIV-positive: will my baby get HIV?

Can I manage HIV/Aids with medication, diet and healthy lifestyle?

Can I still infect people if my viral load is undetectable?

Changing stigma

Unless the stigma surrounding HIV/Aids is better understood, it will continue to be a serious barrier to the testing, treatment and care of people living with HIV/Aids. Its negative effect will increasingly affect public health campaigns, and society as a whole.

Dr Sindi van Zyl says that patients living with HIV (whether newly diagnosed or living with HIV for a while) should always remember 3 important things:

1. Knowledge is power: If you are not comfortable asking questions, make sure you read up as much as you can about HIV and living positively with HIV.

2. ARV treatment requires commitment: Do not start antiretroviral treatment unless you are ready to take responsibility and be dedicated to medication times. Make sure you understand why you have to take it and how it works.

‎3. HIV is not a death sentence: HIV chronic manageable condition, if you are well informed and make the necessary lifestyle changes, you can live a long, full life with HIV.

Read more:

South Africans living with HIV still face rejection

How close are we to a world without Aids?

Assess your risk for HIV/Aids

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 511 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 6262 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
11% - 820 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.80
+0.2%
Rand - Pound
20.14
+0.3%
Rand - Euro
17.53
+0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
+0.6%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.3%
Gold
1,699.85
0.0%
Silver
20.89
+0.9%
Palladium
2,243.05
+0.8%
Platinum
910.54
+0.7%
Brent Crude
88.86
+4.2%
Top 40
57,850
0.0%
All Share
64,227
0.0%
Resource 10
61,646
0.0%
Industrial 25
77,524
0.0%
Financial 15
13,815
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE