The Price of Stigma

Published: December 18, 2010

When it comes to discussing HIV/AIDS in Egypt, most probably you’d be faced by either one of two reactions: one that is characterized by fear, shock, and discomfort or a reaction marked by denial and disdain. I would like to discuss why.

AIDS has come to be associated with sex and death, and both topics are hard to digest in our culture. We avoid discussing sexuality-related issues in our adolescence within the family and formal education. Comprehensive sexuality education is nearly absent and only limited information are given through curriculums and has been further abridged recently. Little awareness exists of HIV, its modes of transmission, prevention, and treatment. No wonder then that most people experience feelings of discomfort and fear. However, we need to listen and understand attentively because ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds hate!

Clearly, the biggest obstacle to HIV awareness work is the stigma against people living with HIV. People living with HIV have to suffer in silence, shameful to seek help or treatment and if it was revealed that they are HIV+, they’re shunned, mistreated by their community, workplace, and even their close and loved ones. This life of isolation is the killer in the case of HIV, rather than the disease itself.

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