Challenges Faced by PLWHAs

Loss of Hope – Prejudice and Discrimination -Stigma Loss of Hope

The PLWHAs, like everyone else, have dreams. They may aspire to be actors, doctors or engineers. Once diagnosed with AIDS, they may feel that all their dreams and hopes are shattered. Very often due to discrimination and stigma of being HIV positive and coupled with health issues, they may be faced with losing their income, family and friends and their identity as a person of standing in their family or a contributing member of society .
Without the support of family and friends, they may have to stay in a shelter facility until such time when they have regained their hope and confidence and are ready to live life independently again.

Prejudice and Discrimination

The overwhelming testimony of PLWHAs is that they have been subject to continuing prejudice in many different ways.
To truly develop adequate understanding of what it means to live with HIV/AIDS we must learn to appreciate the extent to which the PLWHAs have to live with the social stigma of the disease. As a result of this stigma, they have to live with the indignity of discrimination.

Why is there Stigma Related to HIV and AIDS?

Fear of transmission coupled with the negative, value-based assumptions about PLWHAs leads to high levels of stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS. HIV infection is often associated with behaviours (such as homosexuality, drug addiction, prostitution and promiscuity) that are already stigmatised in many societies and is often thought to be the result of personal irresponsibility.

Often people misinterpret religious teachings and beliefs thereby leading them to believe that since HIV-positive is the result of moral fault (such as a result of promiscuity or ‘deviant’ sex) it deserves to be punished. HIV/AIDS is, therefore, seen as punishment for immoral behavior.

The Effects of Stigmatization and Discrimination

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon says “Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world.” – The Washington Times 6 August 2008

Stigma makes it more difficult for PLWHAs to come to terms with HIV and manage their illness. Because of the fear of discrimination, people are reluctant to be tested, to disclose their HIV status or start on medication.

The fear, stigmatization and discrimination have also undermined efforts by well-meaning individuals and organisations to provide support and reassurance to PLWHAs.