The Impact Of Stigma On HIV/AIDS: Breaking The Silence

The Impact Of Stigma On HIV/AIDS: Breaking The Silence

Support groups that help PLHIV are the need of the hour where one can openly discuss the fears, the taboos and discrimination faced, etc.

Written by Tavishi Dogra |Updated : December 1, 2023 3:54 PM IST

World AIDS Day 2023: The growing number of people living with HIV(PLHIV) is also exponentially increasing the stigma around the disease. There are 24 HIV-afflicted people as of August 2022. The most essential barrier-breaking pillar against such stigma is a comprehensive awareness of the infection. Various myths need to be busted and facts established in HIV awareness. There are so many groundbreaking advances in HIV treatment that the life span and quality of life-improving medicines are available. Dr Dilip Gude, Senior Consultant Physician, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad,explains how this makes PLHIV less contagious and infective to others by decreasing viral load to less than 100.

HIV Testing

Government agencies should proactively come forward and offer free HIV testing, the results of which shall be kept confidential. If we achieve a testing rate as close to 98-99% as possible, then there is a fair chance of decreasing the number of newly afflicted HIV patients.

  • The mental health of an HIV-afflicted patient may range from mild grief reaction to major suicidal depression. And more importantly, the stigma, taboo, and outcasting nature that society sees them needs to change. Apart from sexual transmission, there are other mechanisms, such as needle stick injuries, contaminated blood transfusions, non-sterile medical/dental procedures, etc.
  • The higher and more comprehensive the awareness in society, the easier it may be to stop the spread of HIV as well, apart from improving the mental health of PLHIV. Safe sex measures and education on the spread of HIV need to start early in schools, colleges, etc. The proper use of condoms, such as a new condom every time, careful discarding after use, etc., are essential and should no longer be considered taboo to discuss and converse about openly.

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  • In case there occurs a tear in the condom after sex, immediate post-exposure prevention is to be encouraged as it can bring down transmission to near zero. People who get vasectomy/tubectomy may tend not to use mechanical barriers such as condoms as they feel they are protected from unwanted pregnancies. Still, the risk of STDs goes up exponentially.
  • Some of the stigmas that exist against HIV may include highly opinionated statements such as PLHIV 'deserve to get HIV because of the choices they made', commenting on their 'amoral nature', etc and believing that a specific subset of the population can only get HIV. The awareness and fight against such stigma should enlighten us that there shouldn't be a need for such a judgemental nature and that anyone and everyone is at risk, especially with intercourse outside a monogamous relationship.


These stigmas may discourage the general public from getting tested as a positive result may outcast them and, in return, result in increased spread of HIV. Any discrimination faced by PLHIV, including health care workers refusing to treat, societies banning them from entering premises/casual contact, and socially isolating, are all unethical, immoral and even illegal. Families, communities, education centres, workplaces, justice systems, etc, are places where PLHIV can face discrimination, and these centres need education and awareness against the stigma. Support groups that help PLHIV are the need of the hour where one can openly discuss the fears, the taboos and discrimination faced, etc.