One in five people with HIV harassed or threatened

Jessica Geen November 30, 2009
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A survey into stigma around HIV has found that one in five people living with the disease has been harassed or threatened in the last year.

The People Living With HIV Stigma Index, a two-year research project funded by the Department for International Development and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, also found that one in five people with HIV had been refused medical treatment.

The research, released ahead of World AIDS Day, is to be presented in parliament today.

Other findings in the report were that almost two-thirds of the 867 HIV-positive respondents were not confident their medical records were being kept confidential and 18 per cent had their status revealed without their consent.

Twelve per cent of people had been physically harassed in the last year because of their HIV status.

More than 60 per cent of respondents felt optimistic about changing attitudes through challenging discrimination, with 45 per cent saying they had confronted over people who they felt were stigmatising them. Around 80 per cent knew where to find support services, although only 23 per cent used them.

The report is to be presented to parliament by health secretary Andy Burnham.

He said: “I welcome this report. Effective treatments have transformed the lives of people with HIV and today many more people with HIV can plan for their future with more certainty. But even in the UK, individuals and families affected by HIV can experience stigma and discrimination.

“Tackling HIV stigma is everyone’s business. Working with HIV voluntary organisations, we have funded work on tackling stigma as part of the national strategy for sexual health and HIV. We will carefully consider this report’s findings.”

Lisa Power, head of policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, said “HIV is treatable nowadays, but prejudice and ignorance seem to be harder to tackle.

“Using modern treatments people with HIV can now live full lives, often into old age, working and having families and relationships. But they still face huge levels of stigma in the UK which make it difficult to lead those ordinary lives – stigma in the workplace, in the health system and in their private lives.

“That stigma is much of what makes people reluctant to test for HIV, reluctant to disclose a diagnosis and reluctant to trust even those closest to them. Unless we learn to challenge stigma and tackle ignorance, HIV will continue to spread by fear and stealth.”

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