Living with HIV: Stigma

Living With HIVHIV affects thousands of teens and young adults. Between 2006 and 2009, 29,740 teens and young adults between the ages of 13-24 were diagnosed with HIV. In 2009, the young adults between the ages of 20-24 accounted for the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses. Even though HIV has been around in the United States for approximately 30 years and HIV/AIDS education is included in school based health curricula, there are still misconceptions and stigma associated with the disease.

In the third entry in our “Living with HIV” blog series, teens and young adults address the stigma surrounding HIV. All of the material was written by teens and young adults living with HIV.

-The Young Men’s Health Initiative staff

“Stigma is an internal battle, literally and figuratively.”

“In my culture, we don’t talk about things like HIV. We’re private. If it’s in my family, it should stay in the family, you know? And with the stigma with HIV, it makes the culture of privacy even more intense. In my native language we even have a different work for HIV; it’s hard for people to even say it. We call it ‘the sickness’ and everyone knows what you’re talking about, but it’s hard to even say out loud.”

“I was taught not to trust people. My dad taught me that I couldn’t trust people because they would let me down, they would not keep my trust. I didn’t believe him at first, I had to learn the hard way.”

“People are stereotypical. Like what if I went up to someone who wore leopard and said that they were a slut because of what they were wearing? That’s just being stereotypical, and they would get upset if someone said that to them. So why is it OK for people to be ignorant and stereotypical about HIV and AIDS?”

“With my sister, she gets me but my family, that’s a different story. It depends on who were talking about in my family. My mom made a point when she died to tell people in the family so they would get tested for HIV. I assume because of that most people know I have HIV, but I don’t know, they don’t really talk about it.”

“I wish people knew that people with HIV are regular people, we have the same emotions and feelings and stuff. It’s not like we’re aliens, but we’re treated that way sometimes. People just don’t understand and I wish they did.”