There is no shame in being HIV-positive
Despite improvements in education and medical care, HIV-related stigma persists. Stigma refers to negative feelings or beliefs towards people living with HIV, their families, and those who work with them. Stigma can take many forms: ignorance about the disease; blaming those living with HIV for past choices or lifestyles; and internalized stigma, where those living with HIV feel shame and negative feelings toward themselves. Stigma can cause some people with HIV to not take their medication, or avoid getting into care.
Remember: you are not alone. Talking to others who have HIV may be helpful. Join one of TPAN’s HIV support groups to help in dealing with stigma.
Those who experience stigma may also experience discrimination, but they are not the same thing. Stigma is being perceived as different from others; discrimination is being treated differently. It is illegal to discriminate against someone for being HIV-positive—including denying employment, housing, or requiring you to disclose your HIV status. If you have experienced discrimination, contact TPAN for a referral to legal assistance.
Maintaining a positive attitude is important for anyone, including those with HIV. There are things you can do to stay positive and healthy. Make sure your health care provider addresses all of your health issues, not just HIV:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise. You don’t have to run marathons, but physical activity is empowering
- Stay active with your community: volunteer or take part in an anti-stigma campaign
- Take care of your mental health, minimizing stress and dealing with anxiety or depression
- Don't isolate yourself! Find a support system of like-minded friends