HIV stigma: not retro, just wrong

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Charlie Alderwick, senior communications officer at the National AIDS Trust (NAT) highlights its 2016 World AIDS Day campaign. 

Join us in the fight against ignorance.

Treatment and prevention for HIV is continuing to advance but public attitudes have not progressed as far, or as fast. This World AIDS Day, the team at NAT want people to know that stigma remains an unacceptable blight on the lives of people living with HIV. It negatively affects their lives, and it prevents people at risk from testing and accessing treatment. 

Ignorance is not a retro style statement. Unlike some of the fashion, food and music we love to bring back from the 80s and 90s, stigma is something that should be left firmly in the past.

  • One in seven HIV positive people reported hearing negative comments from a healthcare worker about themselves or other people living with HIV. 
  • Only three in five people felt well supported disclosing their status to friends and family. 
  • Two in five people think their boss should tell them if a colleague is living with HIV. 
  • Nearly two in five people don’t realise HIV can be passed on through heterosexual sex. 

With HIV stigma rearing its head in work and even healthcare settings, it’s clear that these attitudes are a continuing problem - even in environments where people should expect to feel respected, valued and safe. 

The stigma survey also showed that romantic rejection, verbal harassment and even physical assault were demoralisingly common. It is unacceptable that in the UK we have people living with HIV who are enjoying excellent physical health but who are still facing serious adversity because of the attitudes around them. 

But you can help! World AIDS Day is held on the 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. When you start conversations online or face-to-face with friends, family and colleagues, you never know what old fashioned myths you might dispel. And if as many people get involved as possible, we’ll be a step closer to stamping out HIV stigma for good. 

We’re inviting people to get involved and raise money and awareness by celebrating and poking fun at all things retro. Whether it’s preparing retro foods for a vintage themed party, auctioning retro products, getting together for an 80s film night, or sharing pictures of our embarrassing fashion choices from back in the day, there are lots of ways to get involved.

From prawn cocktails to neon legwarmers, everyone has a soft spot for a bit of retro kitsch. Some things from the past deserve to be celebrated or revisited, but HIV stigma is something we should leave behind for good.

Find out more about NAT's campaign.

Remember to hashtag all your posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram #HIVnotretro.

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