According to World Health Organization, there were around 37.7 million people who were living with HIV by the end of 2020 but unfortunately, because of the stigma surrounding HIV, the patients are still discriminated against. People living with such diseases are fighting to attain equality and make their voices heard. To stand with them, World AIDS Day 2022's theme is “Equalize”. WHO is calling on global leaders and citizens to boldly recognize and address the inequalities which are holding back progress in ending AIDS; and equalize access to essential HIV services, particularly for children and key populations and their partners - men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and people in prisons.
CitySpidey talked to Anjali Gopalan, an Indian human rights activist and executive director of Naz Foundation Trust and Ramesh Kumar Mumukshu, a resident of Dwarka who is working closely and helping orphan children with AIDS living in Uttarakhand to the various stigmas that surround AIDS.
How does the social stigma affect AIDS survivors?
Stigma and discrimination against people with AIDS are projected in different ways. AIDS patients have to face the societal consequences of their condition almost all their lives. In the past, AIDS patients were not treated fairly because of the lack of awareness about the disease, and still, things haven't changed much.
Anjali Gopalan said, “People living with AIDS suffer from emotional problems and low self-confidence. They tend to hide their health condition due to non-acceptance in the world, fear of discrimination and the view of society towards HIV positive people."
Inequality and stigma against people living with HIV can affect different aspects of the patient's life. Even in the current times, it is difficult for AIDS patients to lead a normal life, much because of the mental stress the condition brings along. Expert says people with HIV tend to develop mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, PTSD due to social stigma and discrimination around the world.
Ramesh Mumukshu says, "There is still a need for a big change in how the society views the AIDS survivors. Misunderstanding and lack of awareness among people make it difficult for patients to access quality healthcare facilities without any discrimination. Often patients are themselves not so comfortable to open up about their sufferings.”
How the world is evolving for AIDS survivors?
With time, sensitivity towards AIDS survivors is getting better. The Government is providing medical services free of cost which are easily accessible.
Gopalan says, “The major difference I have noticed is that better medicines are available and people are living healthier and longer lives in comparison to the past. Still, people living with HIV have not gotten 100% acceptance from the world."
Mumukshu says, “We really request our government to resume the help of 2000 rupees per month for orphan children surviving AIDS. We want our government to support children suffering from HIV at least till the age of 18 to make them independent.”
How can we help people living with HIV?
Awareness is the only cure for the stigma surrounding HIV and education is the key to spreading awareness among people about such diseases. This can further help the public to maintain a positive attitude towards people suffering from HIV. Not only the correct education provided to survivors can help them to understand their disease but it can also help them to deal with it. Gopalan says, "Self-detection and correct approach towards treatment is the first step anyone can take to make the world healthier and happier."