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Stigma: key contributor to AIDS spread – UNYPA

Participants pose for a photo after the conference
Participants pose for a photo after the conference

Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV and AIDS (UNYPA) has said that the impact of stigmatizing young people living with HIV and AIDS is the major key contributor to its spread.

UNYPA Director, Jacqueline Alesi, said, “Stigma manifests itself in many ways – in the family, in relationships, at work, in the education, in the community, in religion, among health and governments workers.

It permeates every layer of life from, deeply personal relationships, to one’s professional world and, like racism, can also be institutional.”

From the beginning, the HIVand AIDS epidemic has been accompanied with fear, ignorance and denial, leading to stigmatization and discrimination against young people living with HIV and AIDS and their families A study conducted by Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) indicated that 64% of people who tested for HIV and AIDS did not disclose their status to partners due to fear of stigmatization.

Alesi added; “Often stigma is related to disapproval and taboos around sex. For example; if I tell you I have cancer you will be sad; you will start thinking how much life do I have left; what a pity; so young, and that kind of stuff. But if I tell you I live with HIV, you may think of these things, but you also start asking what you did; did you cheat on your wife; or, are you gay; so, you paid for sex with a sex worker; or, do you use heroin or cocaine; or, did you forget to use a condom? And the like.”

According UNYPA’s research, the taboo around sex has been increased by preaching morality, especially within Faith communities. In an effort to stem the rise of HIV and AIDS, many leaders have preached the ABC – abstinence, be faithful, use a condom – approach – which has led to greater isolation to those living with HIV and AIDS, since it reinforces assumptions that they are promiscuous and unfaithful. The research still looks at loopholes in this piece of advice.

Alesi added that: “The ABC model had been around for a long time and it slips off the tongue very nicely but when you actually unpack it especially with a changing epidemic and say abstinence, but abstain for how long and who is monitoring who is faithful? If you are faithful is the other person going to be faithful? This concludes streaming people living with HIV as unfaithful people.”

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