Biomedical technological advances, both in treatment and prevention, are taking us to a new level where the quality of life of people living with HIV, their rights and the impact of social aspects on their lives are being discussed much more seriously. It also shows how the efforts to increase knowledge among young people can help them overcome barriers to accessing HIV prevention services and break down prejudices about sex, HIV and people living with the diseases.
As we advance globally in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, our positions, facts and goals are changing.
Biomedical technological advances, both in treatment and prevention, place us on a new level that discusses the quality of life of people living with HIV, U=U, their rights and how social aspects affect their lives, especially stigma, much more seriously. It is common to have a certain hierarchy, due to the common sense that such biomedical strategies have a greater impact on the large scale of prevention. However, there is scientific evidence that shows precisely how these factors that affect the social fabric reflect on individual actions in relation to HIV. An American study investigated the influence of HIV knowledge on the relationship between HIV testing history and stigma in college students.
The study findings demonstrate a relationship between testing for HIV with: i) greater knowledge about HIV and ii) less stigma. This association demonstrates how the efforts to improve knowledge in young people can help them overcome the barriers to access HIV prevention services and helps mitigate prejudices towards sex, HIV and people living with HIV. In 2018 research was conducted in New Jersey (USA), using the STIGMAINDEX, a powerful and important tool used worldwide to measure the impact of HIV stigma in different settings; the research found out that the most frequently cited sources of stigma were family and friends. Gossip was the most common type of external stigma experienced by participants: 61% had ever been gossiped about; 51% feared being gossiped about.
In our activities this must always be taken into account, both passively: taking care that our messages and actions do not reinforce stigmas about people, places and practices; as active: building receptive spaces, deconstructing prejudices in relation to HIV and sex and increasing information about testing and prevention.
To fight stigma is a continuous and hard work, but it must be done consistently, once we have evidence how it impacts the life of People Living with HIV and people looking for/needing prevention.
Citation: James TG, Ryan SJ. HIV knowledge mediates the relationship between HIV testing history and stigma in college students. J Am Coll Health. 2018 Oct;66(7):561-569. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1432623. Epub 2018 Mar 26. PMID: 29405896.