Stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS are the greatest barriers to preventing further infections, providing adequate care, support and treatment and alleviating impact. HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination are universal, occurring in every country and region of the world. They are triggered by many forces, including lack of understanding of the disease, myths about how HIV is transmitted, prejudice, lack of treatment, irresponsible media reporting on the epidemic, the fact that AIDS is incurable, social fears about sexuality, fears relating to illness and death, and fears about illicit drugs and injecting drug use.
In many parts of South Asia, stigma and discrimination is routinely faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Many others are discriminated because of their sexual orientation and choice of professional occupation. This paper examines the role stigma and discrimination play in the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the context of South Asia. The most affected are people living with HIV/AIDS, especially women and young girls. Also greatly affected are women and girls in households with HIV, irrespective of their personal HIV status, despite them being the principal caregivers and sustaining the family. HIV/AIDS further reinforces stereotypes and fuels the already existing gender-based discrimination against girls and women in the South Asian region. Young people are often denied information on HIV/AIDS and have limited access to prevention and care services, even though half of new infections in the region occur among them. Orphans whose parents have died of AIDS often drop out of school due to stigma and discrimination faced by them at school. Many of them end up in streets and often are sexually exploited. In addition they face violence, and are vulnerable to trafficking, substance abuse and child labour.1
The Declaration of Commitment, adopted by the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in June 2001,...
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