HIV :: HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination

Individuals should not have to suffer all losses due to illness! Men, women and children are suffering with HIV/AIDS. We need to assure that these people are cared for, not discriminated against! We must provide funds for proper nutrition, housing and health care for these individuals to aid and contribute to their well-being. We need to get rid of the false perceptions and judgments. Like Doreen Millman said in Vancouver at the 1996 AIDS Conference in reference to how a 63 year old grandmother got AIDS. She said, “It just doesn’t matter!” Neither does an individual’s race, religion or sexual orientation matter! Don’t look for differences; look at how we can help one another.

I do not believe it is naive to think we can make the necessary changes, but rather it is naive to think that we can continue on our current course neglecting those who suffer from poverty, illness and disease. People are judging those who are sick, disabled and poor.

At the X1V International AIDS Conference 2002, Nelson Mandela said, “Stigma, discrimination and ostracism are the real killers.”

People living with illness are no different from anyone else, except for their disease. Prior to this, they were hard working people, contributing to society. Once sick, they are expected to do without and not have those things they had in their life before sickness! Why do we allow this?

Many people have nothing due to the lack of funding and the effort it has taken for them to survive through their illness. People should be entitled to the right to a quality and standard of living, which promotes wellness and healing, not death and dying. There are people dying due to the stress on an already stressed and suppressed immune system. There is added stress due to a lack of funds available to support nutritional diet and good health. Proper nutrition is necessary for HIV infected individuals, as those who eat well feel better compared to those who consume a less than adequate diet. Malnutrition can compromise their ability to fight off infection. The stress that people are enduring while trying to maintain a home, food, and health is putting them at risk of continued health problems. This in turn means they are in greater need of medical attention! We should be making good nutrition a high priority in AIDS treatment!

My concern and disappointment is directed at the lack of consideration given to the present situation of poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate sanitation and housing for people living with HIV. These issues are of the utmost importance to individuals who are trying to maintain their health and living. The present situation is driving people below poverty, affecting their health and forcing them to live in standards no one would want to experience! People, who have worked and contributed to society, should not be subjected to living in inadequate conditions due to health and inability to work when diagnosed with a life
threatening disease!

A call for action is necessary. The present situation dictates that these are vital necessities for people living with HIV/AIDS throughout the world! Since many people infected with HIV have neither the health nor energy to work towards creating awareness and change, it is my intention to speak through my experience for those whom I hope will benefit. Ignoring the importance of meeting these needs will bring an ever-increasing cost to our health care systems and us worldwide. A simple exercise in these directions and implementation would have an enormous impact on the fight against AIDS!

We are all here together, connected. Nothing is happening to just one of us, but affecting ALL of us! Illness and poverty can strike any one of us, at any time! What is happening affects us all. We can no longer look at others or view other places in the world where people are sick and dying and continue to neglect caring for them, without recognizing how it affects society. We have the means to provide all that is necessary, but we will have to work together to correct the global imbalance. The richer countries have a moral responsibility to help out poorer countries.

We have been warned by science that we are faced with an ever-increasing battle — the battle against the bug! Every country is at risk of every disease. Here in North America, many people take for granted our quality of life, while others here and elsewhere in the world are faced with poverty, poor sewage and sanitation, famine, drought, environmental devastation and disease, along with millions of people dying. These are problems facing us all. These very same circumstances affect people in every part of the world. We cannot continue to allow millions to suffer and millions to die and expect we will not be affected.

We have to make the necessary changes and care for one another. If HIV and AIDS have not brought this realization, then surely West Nile, SARS, Mad Cow, Monkey Pox and Ebola are convincing enough! It is time to realize that it is only a matter of time before this major global epidemic will affect each and every one of us and that possibly, we will have to deal with some other new bug as well! This is happening already. Look at the impact of SARS and its effects on health care, travel, tourism, jobs, our economy and relationships with other countries. We would do well to pay attention and learn from the enormous poverty, illness and deaths worldwide caused by HIV/AIDS.

At the XIV International AIDS Conference in 2002, Nelson Mandela in his closing speech said, “AIDS is a war against humanity.”

There is no doubt this situation is going to have an enormous effect on all our lives. When will our eyes be opened to what is going on all around us?

Bradford McIntyre, HIV+ 20 years,
Vancouver, Canada.

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