London: International Center for Research on Women and Development, ICRW, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2010. 16 p.
International Center for Research on Women, ICRW
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Department of Public Health Policy
HIV stigma and discrimination adversely affect every aspect of life for people living with HIV and their families. In many settings, an HIV diagnosis still can be as devastating as the illness itself, leading to job loss, school expulsion, violence, social ostracism, loss of property, and denial of health services and emotional support. People living in fear are less likely to adopt preventive behavior, come in for testing, disclose their sero-status to others, access care and adhere to treatment. Reducing stigma and discrimination can dramatically improve the lives of people affected by HIV. With more than 33 million people living with the virus and an estimated 2.7 million new infections in 2008, the need for intensified action has never been greater. Scaling up current efforts to reduce stigma would also optimize investments in HIV prevention, care and treatment. For example, new estimates suggest that an effective stigma reduction program could result in significantly more mothers using HIV services and adhering to HIV treatments, potentially reducing mother-to-child transmission by as much as one-third in settings where stigma is prevalent. The challenge to expansion is that most efforts to address stigma are still small scale or in a pilot phase, and securing ongoing funding for programs remains a serious challenge. Therefore, sustained advocacy is needed to push for increased resources to scale up stigma-reduction efforts directed at families, communities, institutions and governments. This brief lays out the rationale for intensified action and what can - and must - be done to reduce HIV stigma and discrimination worldwide.
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