by Suzy Subways, Editor, Solidarity Project
DECEMBER 2006 • Issue 2
People often talk about stigma when describing challenges in fighting HIV/AIDS. Stigma can underlie a spectrum of human rights violations—from neighborhood snubbing or family rejection to denial of medical care, to outright mob violence and murder. Suggested remedies range from what can be painstakingly slow cultural work and sensitivity training to aggressive enforcement of legal protections. But what is the solution when stigma is a top-down phenomenon?
Governments can infuse HIV stigma deeply into a nation, with cold, hard cash to back it up—operating at levels of power far above the misinformed family that sets a paper plate and plastic ware at the HIV+ person’s place-setting at holiday visits. As we arm individuals to fight stigma at the family and community level, we also need to demand that governments stop spreading stigma and start addressing its consequences.
There is now ample evidence that the funding of abstinence-only policies brings systemic promotion of HIV stigma. And the data show that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don’t work for preventing HIV. If we can pull their massive funding—especially in the U.S. and Uganda, which are held up as models for other countries—we’ll also dismantle a powerful source of stigma and blame that hurts people living with HIV as well as members of marginalized groups like sex workers, LGBT people, and sexually active girls and women. Continue reading