“When I found out I had HIV, the first thing I thought was how am I going to tell my partner, family and friends. HIV is not something we had discussed and I didn’t know how they would feel about it, or about me. Looking back my reaction shows me that despite not knowing much about HIV, I was aware of the stigma around it. Living with HIV I can tell you that not only external stigma but self-stigma is also a real barrier to tackling the virus and my motivation for starting this campaign.”

Gareth Thomas

“It has been amazing to see how much progress has been made in the fight against HIV. Since I started campaigning on this issue I have been honoured to spend time with the people who are leading this charge. Thanks to them, we have moved from a time of social panic and hatred, to a time when the public come out into the streets to cheer for Gareth, a man living openly with HIV, as he cycled the length of Britain. But this progress hides how far we still have to go. Stigma, misunderstanding and discrimination remain the greatest barriers to defeating this virus. I hope everyone is inspired by ‘Alfie’, and will support him and the Tackle HIV campaign to improve understanding of it, and better support people who are living with it.”

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

“In under a year, Gareth’s already had a huge impact on public perceptions of what it means to live with HIV. Gareth knows from his own experiences the negative impact stigma has on the lives of far too many people living with HIV and that’s why he’s so committed to doing something about it. We welcome the launch of Tackle HIV and its ambition to take the facts about HIV to as wide an audience as possible. We want to replace all of the outdated beliefs people are holding onto with the realities, including that someone living with HIV and on effective treatment – like Gareth – can’t pass it on to anyone else. Because we won’t end HIV transmissions in this country without also eradicating stigma and misinformation.”

Ian Green, CEO, Terrence Higgins Trust, Tackle HIV’s charity partner.

Tackle HIV Survey results1

HIV stigma is where people with HIV are seen in a negative way

Myths around HIV mean people are still misinformed and as a result make moral judgements about people living with HIV – this causes stigma. Stigma is rooted in fear of HIV, lack of understanding of HIV, particularly around transmission, and what it is like to live with it.2

 

People living with HIV can experience stigma at work, in their relationships, with family and friends, in the community and even in healthcare settings3,4 Stigma leads to discrimination where people living with HIV are treated negatively because of their HIV status.2 They may face hostility, physical or verbal abuse, or being avoided or excluded.3

 

People living with HIV may also suffer from self-stigma, where the stigma they experience externally causes them to judge themselves, the consequences of which can be profound.2

 

Stigma can have a devastating effect on people living with HIV, on their mental wellbeing, quality of life and also their physical health – stigma may prevent people from disclosing their status or getting treatment.2,5

 

A fear of this stigma and resulting discrimination can also stop people from getting tested, undermining the efforts that are being made to control HIV.5

 

Science has enabled incredible advances in treating HIV but without addressing HIV-related stigma and discrimination, the world will not achieve the goal of ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.5

What can you do to Tackle HIV stigma?

  • Treat people living with HIV as you would treat anyone else
  • Educate yourself, know the facts and talk about HIV to educate others
  • Follow us on social media as we tackle stigma head on
  • Become an official supporter. Please contact us at [email protected] for more information

Further information on stigma and HIV

References

  1. Data on file. Tackle HIV Survey. Research conducted by Yolo Communications March 2020
  2. Centers for Disease Control. Facts about HIV Stigma. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/hiv-stigma/index.html Last accessed 05.04.20
  3. Terrence Higgins Trust. Stigma. https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/living-well-hiv/sex-and-relationships/stigma Last accessed 05.04.20
  4. Kings Fund. The future of HIV services in England. Shaping the response in changing needs. 2017. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/future-hiv-services-england Last accessed 05.04.20
  5. UNAIDS. Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination. 2018. https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/global-partnership-hiv-stigma-discrimination_en.pdf. Last accessed March 2020