- Created on Saturday, 21 July 2012 21:56
- Written by IVN
Washington, DC - “More awareness is needed so that no one with HIV/AIDS is stigmatized or discriminated against.” ~ President Obama, June 8, 2011
In the beginning of the epidemic, no one knew how HIV was spread or how contagious it might be. Fear and ignorance were powerful drivers for stigma and discrimination. People living with HIV/AIDS lost their jobs, their homes, and even their friends and families. Despite our progress in understanding and treating HIV, stigma and discrimination continue to be serious issues for people living with HIV/AIDS across the globe.
Creating an AIDS-Free Generation
In 2010 President Obama unveiled the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is grounded in a vision that explicitly addresses stigma and discrimination: “The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identify or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination. The Strategy outlines the steps we need to take to reduce stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS:
· Engage communities to affirm support for people living with HIV: Faith communities, businesses, schools, community-based organizations, social gathering sites, and all types of media outlets should take responsibility for affirming nonjudgmental support for people living with HIV and high-risk communities.
· Promote public leadership of people living with HIV: Governments and other institutions (including HIV prevention community planning groups and Ryan White planning councils and consortia) should work with people with AIDS coalitions, HIV services organizations, and other institutions to actively promote public leadership by people living with HIV.
· Promote public health approaches to HIV prevention and care: State legislatures should consider reviewing HIV-specific criminal statutes to ensure that they are consistent with current knowledge of HIV transmission and support public health approaches to preventing and treating HIV.
· Strengthen enforcement of civil rights laws: The Department of Justice and Federal agencies must enhance cooperation to facilitate enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws.
Globally, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has had a transformational impact on stigma by replacing despair with hope. Perhaps the single most important step has been making lifesaving antiretroviral treatment widely available – currently supporting treatment for nearly 4.5 million people. As people on treatment return to health, HIV becomes known as a manageable chronic condition and the stigma around the disease has greatly diminished. This development also increases people’s willingness to get tested and learn their HIV status – a key gateway to prevention, treatment, and care.
PEPFAR programs address the needs of marginalized populations that face elevated risks of HIV infection, tailoring programs to meet their needs in ways that are sensitive to their situations. PEPFAR also confronts the gender dynamics around HIV that fuel discrimination by supporting significant work in the field to mainstream efforts to end gender-based violence into existing HIV programs. Over the last two years, PEPFAR has invested a total of $155 million in related programming, making PEPFAR one of the largest investors worldwide. In FY2011, PEPFAR supported post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection for survivors of sexual violence to almost 47,061 people, nearly 34% more than the year before.
American Leadership in Action
The President has taken significant action steps eliminating barriers to equality, fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, as recently evidenced by his support for marriage equality, and the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurance companies from charging women more than men. The Department of Justice has taken unprecedented steps to enforce civil rights laws that protect the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and has launched a website dedicated to fighting discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (ada.gov/AIDS). The President also recently appointed a Federal work group to take action on the intersections of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities. Similarly, PEPFAR is working to support hundreds of thousands of communities and families as they shelter, educate, and love the millions of children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable due to AIDS.