Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 21 July 2011

Stigma

The other day my boyfriend and I had a very interesting conversation on Skype with a friend of mine whom I met on Twitter. He’s a radio broadcaster in the UK and just a very lovely person. I found out during this conversation that this friend is HIV+, too, and he and my boyfriend exchanged their stories. What I found most alarming was that it was essentially the same story! Different time, different place but yet, both faced the same ignorance (??) from the medical professionals responsible for their care.

Yes, HIV is still a very stigma-laden disease, even though 30 years have passed since its discovery. But it is not only the stigma that says you have to be male and gay or at least be male and have sex with men to get infected, what’s even worse is that medical professionals don’t seem particularly interested in treating HIV+ people and prevent the outbreak of AIDS, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. How else can it be explained that it takes years for the proper diagnosis and even the outbreak of AIDS before someone starts to act? It is not that tests weren’t taken, but it remains questionable if they were actually performed. To me, this is almost unbelievable. But the troubles only start there: After the diagnosis, many steps have to be taken, social workers, case workers have to be appointed and even the simplest request can turn into a bureaucratic nightmare. Keep in mind, people with HIV usually have many other things on their mind right after the diagnosis and may have to rely on their case worker or social worker to get the care and benefits they need to survive.

The faster they get adequate care, the faster HIV+ patients can return to their normal lives and work. But for some reason, this doesn’t seem to be important for many medical professionals. I got the impression that they would rather further punish HIV+ patients or ignore that HIV exists in the first place. I simply don’t have another explanation for tests being administered but then never performed and people being sent home with a flu or stomach virus instead of listening closely to the patient’s complaints. HIV still seems to be very much a disease that needs to be covered up, something that cannot possibly be discussed openly.

This again makes me question why. Why is there so much emphasis on prevention of infection but no prevention of disease progression? Today, there are many medicines available that make the disease manageable, even though the side effects may prevent further full-time employment at the previously held job.  All this makes absolutely no sense to me!

I guess a lot more has to be done in terms of informing people about the disease. Ignorance still seems to prevail and just a couple days ago, I talked to a different friend who decided to get tested and upon hearing about it, her sister insisted her laundry be separated and washed in a different load. I’m just shaking my head because I have educated myself early on in my life but everyone should be educated. HIV/AIDS does not only exist in Africa or Asia, it’s everywhere and people are still dying from it. Medications may make the disease manageable but only if progression prevention is done, HIV+ patients can live almost normal lives.

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