Aids Related Stigma

Topics: HIV, Sociology, AIDS, Condom, Social work, Blood transfusion / Pages: 12 (2987 words) / Published: Oct 9th, 1999
By: Richard Humphrey
E-mail: rhumph@po-box.mcgill.ca

Introduction Since the appearance of AIDS in the late seventies and early eighties, the disease has had attached to it a significant social stigma. This stigma has manifested itself in the form of discrimination, avoidance and fear of people living with AIDS (PLWAs). As a result, the social implications of the disease has been extended from those of other life threatening conditions to the point at which PLWAs are not only faced with a terminal illness but also social isolation and constant discrimination throughout society. Various explanations have been suggested as to the underlying causes of this stigmatization. Many studies point to the relationship the disease has with deviant behaviour. Others suggest that fear of contagion is the actual culprit. Examining the existing literature and putting it into societal context leads one to believe that there is no one cause. Instead, there would appear to be a collection of associated factors that influence society 's attitudes towards AIDS and PLWAs. As the number of people infected with HIV increases, social workers are and will be increasingly called upon to deal with and serve PWAs. Although not all social workers chose to work with PLWAs, the escalating incidence of HIV infection is creating a situation in which seropositive people are and will be showing up more often in almost all areas of social work practice. This paper aims to examine AIDS related stigma and the stigmatization process, hopefully providing insights into countering the effects of stigma and perhaps the possibility of destigmatization. This is of particular pertinence to the field of social work due to our growing involvement with the HIV positive population. Association to Deviant/Marginal Behavior One of the most clearly and often identified causes of AIDS related stigma is its association to deviant behaviour. The disease has had and still does have a strong association for



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