World AIDS Day: Fighting the Stigma Is Half the Battle

RibbonThey say words can never hurt you, but in certain parts of the world, there are three letters that can take away everything dear to you: HIV.

Can you imagine having your family disown you? What if doctors refused to treat you, even with basic care? What would it feel like if you were not allowed to pursue any form of education? How about if you had no possibility of a future with a romantic partner?


We will never make strides in preventing HIV transmission until we confront the taboos that surround it.


This is reality for millions of men, women, and children in sub-Saharan Africa who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. As of 2013, that number was 24.7 million, which accounts for the vast majority of the world’s total reported cases, which by 2014 approached 37 million people, 2.6 million of whom were children. In 2013 alone, 1.5 million sub-Saharan Africans were newly infected. Since the first case was reported in 1981, a certain stigma has always lingered around the disease. Many in the United States refer to it as the “gay disease” or accuse those infected of bestiality. They may say that someone who has been diagnosed should avoid intimacy, believing that a person with HIV is incapable of functional relationships without infecting their partner. In Africa, the implications are even more harsh. Often believed to be a “curse from God,” many regions exile an infected person from their community.

Worse, the stigma does not stop with individuals. It bleeds into the legal, political, and economic arenas as well. This is true worldwide. Some places have prosecuted women for transmitting the virus to their child, or have prosecuted individuals for not disclosing their positive status even if they have reached an undetectable viral load through antiretroviral therapy (ART). The discrimination surrounding a positive diagnosis is cited as the primary hurdle in addressing prevention and care. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

Human papillomavirus. Image: University of Arizona

Human papillomavirus. Image: University of Arizona

  • Even though AZ state law requires an emphasis on abstinence, students in Tempe are getting a new, more comprehensive sex-ed curriculum. (AZ Central)
  • So, no reason for alarm or anything, but everyone has HPV. Pretty much. Almost. (NBC News)
  • Americans are just as polarized as ever on the issue of abortion. And, as you’d imagine, men are more likely to rate themselves as “pro-life.” (Gallup)
  • But perhaps pollsters are asking the wrong questions on this issue. (Think Progress)
  • When it comes to the issue of choice, President Obama’s federal judicial nominee, Michael Boggs, is not fit to sit on the bench. (RH Reality Check)
  • The NYPD is finally going to stop seizing condoms from sex workers. (Slate)
  • Apparently switching birth control pills can affect your satisfaction between the sheets! (Time)
  • Wendy Davis has been dubbed Abortion Barbie by the anti-choice crowd. They even made offensive little posters with her depicted as a pregnant, nude doll. Stay classy, y’all! (HuffPo)
  • Thing I know from personal experience: Getting permanent birth control is not easy when you’re a young woman. (Chicago Tribune)