Negative perceptions of people with HIV (PLHIV) actually have the risk of making the spread of this virus even wider. HIV infection is a global health problem. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were around 1 million people with HIV dying worldwide.
Based on data obtained from the UNAIDS (United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS) in 2016, there were around 620,000 people with HIV infection (ODHIV) in Indonesia. 3200 cases occur in children, and the death rate from this disease reaches 40,000 cases. Anyone can be at risk of getting HIV, therefore handling and preventing the spread of this disease must start with the support and understanding of PLHIV.
Discrimination and Stigma against PLHIV
Not only trying to stay healthy, PLHIV faces another challenge that is no less severe: stigma and discrimination. Not a few PLHIV lost their jobs, were rejected by their family and friends, or even became victims of violence. Data from UNAIDS states that 62.8% of people in Indonesia are reluctant to interact with PLHIV.
There are several things that lay behind the stigma and discrimination against PLHIV, namely:
- HIV is a feared disease, but it is not fully understood by many people.
- Some people still believe the wrong thing, that HIV can spread through physical contact such as touching or merely sharing a glass. This makes ODHIV tend to be shunned.
- HIV and AIDS are often identified with certain behavioral actors such as drug users and sex offenders. This stigma makes people think that the virus is infected because of the weakness of the moral of PLHIV.
With social stigma, discrimination arises against people living with HIV, such as being expelled from offices or schools for revealing themselves as people living with HIV or not being allowed to use public facilities such as places of worship.
The government and medical professionals certainly play an important role in reducing the stigma of the general public towards PLHIV. Education about PLHIV can improve people’s understanding of this disease.
The stigma and discrimination above often make PLHIV reluctant to reveal their condition to others. But informing certain people that you have HIV actually brings many benefits, such as:
- You are no longer alone living life with HIV. There is support and affection from those closest to you that make you confident.
- You are more likely to get health services as needed.
- You contribute to prevent the possibility of spreading the virus to others, especially couples.
However, once diagnosed, you don’t have to tell everyone about your condition immediately. Take time and be selective in determining who needs to know your situation. Ensure the following:
- Start with the people closest and those you trust the most first like a couple.
- Know the strong reasons why you need to tell your condition to that person.
- Be prepared for a surprised reaction or even a bad reaction that you might receive.
- Complete yourself with deeper information about HIV. The person you are telling might ask you a few questions about your illness.
- Not just telling, you might want to convey a treatment plan and some changes that need to be made to deal with HIV.
- If you decide to talk to your boss, include a statement from your doctor and tell whether your condition will affect your work.
In some cases, informing your condition is not a choice, but a necessity. For example in the manager of health and life insurance.
Be aware of the consequences and reduce risk
Having HIV makes you no longer able to do things like donate blood. In addition to maintaining your personal health, you have an obligation not to transmit HIV to others.
HIV is spread through bodily fluids such as semen, blood, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Transmission of the virus is most common in unprotected sexual relations, so using a condom is one solution to reduce the risk of transmission to your partner. In addition, a mother is at risk of passing on the virus through the womb, during labor, or through breastfeeding. But with existing treatment steps, a woman can get pregnant and give birth without transmitting HIV to her child.
Sharing injecting equipment can increase the risk of transmission because of HIV’s blood flow. Also avoid sharing syringes for drug consumption.
You can read more complete information about preventing the spread of HIV here.
You are not alone. According to 2015 UNAIDS data, there are around 690,000 PLHIV in Indonesia. In addition to paramedics and close relatives, you can share information with fellow PLHIV to get support and appropriate treatment.
You can join the Indonesian AIDS Community and find institutions that provide testing and services for PLHIV in your city. Forums about various information about HIV can also be accessed at the Spiritia Foundation.