#16Days: Addressing Stigma and Discrimination in Combating HIV/AIDS

By Christine Izere, student at the university of Ottawa, currently interning with the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada.

Dec 1st photoWorld Aids day will be a day to increase the impact of awareness through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships with the government. We hope this day will emphasize the need to bring forth the issue of Aboriginal women and HIV in Canada. Hence, help in reducing the number of HIV infections in the coming years.

HIV / AIDS continues to be a significant global public health issue worldwide due to the lack of a definite cure to the epidemic. Since the time it was discovered science success in countering HIV have been limited to treatment rather than cure.1 In most parts of the world the presence of treatment drugs, like the ARV’s did not have a huge impact. Most of the people lack access to ARVs, due to the inflation of cost and in most cases the nutrition that enhances the effectiveness of the drug is inaccessible. Therefore, it is not just a problem of providing treatment but also a problem of providing nutrition that facilitates treatment.

Moreover, beyond finding the cure the discrimination and stigma of the ones infected with HIV is another issue that should be focused on. Hence, human rights based approach in combating HIV/ AIDS is necessary due to the cyclical relationship between stigma and HIV.2 People who experience stigma and discrimination are marginalized and made more vulnerable to HIV. To compound the issue, it is important to note that those living with HIV are more vulnerable to experiencing stigma and discrimination.

Aboriginal women were three times more likely to be HIV positive than men to due to gendered experiences of trauma and sexual abuse.3 This has led to the disproportionate spread of HIV among women. The ongoing and collective experiences of colonization, historical trauma and intergenerational trauma have left aboriginal women particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. To take seriously the notion that stigmatization and discrimination must be understood as social processes linked to the reproduction of inequality and exclusion pushes us to move well beyond the kind of behavioral and psychological models that have tended to dominate work thus far.4

Hence, putting more focus on issues that involves intergenerational trauma and sexual abuse might reduce the disproportionate spread of HIV among women and decrease it’s spread overall.

World Aids Day, should be a day that speaks to the problem of HIV across all gender, however, emphasis should be put on issues of aboriginal women by addressing both reproduction of inequality and the stigmatization associated with HIV/AIDS. As we reflect on the different milestones achieved over the years in combating the epidemic, it is equally important to challenge the notions that we subconsciously associate with HIV/ AIDS patients. To recognize that at the root of stigma and discrimination are historical structural inequalities that still persist today.

Christine Izere, is a student at the University of Ottawa, currently in her final year of International development and Globalization. She has an interest in Women Peace and Security issues around the world.

1. Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (2006). The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. Canadian Journal of Aboriginal Community-Based HIV/AIDS Research, Inaugural Edition (1), i-ii. Retrieved from http://www.caan.ca/pdf/CJACBR.pdf

2. Stangl, A.L. et al (2013)‘A systematic review of interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination from 2002 to 2013: how far have we come?’ JIAS 16(Supplement 2):18734

3. Canadian&Aboriginal&AIDS&Network&FACT&Sheet:&Aboriginal&Women⊥&Girls&2011 Page3

4. Parker, R. G., Easton, D., & Klein, C. (2000). Structural barriers and facilitators in HIV prevention: A review of international research. AIDS, 14(Suppl. 1),S22–S32.

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