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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”




Has stigma kept you from knowing yours?

These materials were published by Michigan Advocates Exchange as a part of the stigma-busting kit, Everybody has an HIV status! for World AIDS Day 2003. They are reproduced here (statistics updated to 2004) with the gracious permission of MAX's Board of Trustees. Make every day World AIDS Day.

There are many legal issues facing people living with HIV or AIDS that lawyers can help with: confidentiality problems; medical records privacy; access to medical care; discrimination. But all of these legal issues have a single root cause, stigma, and lawyers can't touch it.

Stigma keeps people who are HIV- infected from getting the care they need, and from feeling safe in their own communities. At the same time, stigma allows others to deny that they personally are likely to be infected or affected by HIV. This denial makes people who are infected seem abnormal, and it becomes easier to believe that they are "different," that HIV only happens someplace else. Not true, at all.


December 1st is World AIDS Day, a time to reflect on the 22+ years since the world became engaged in the war against AIDS. The theme of 2003's World AIDS Day was "Live and Let Live" and focused on preventing and eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The stigma that is at the root of HIV discrimination, that prevents people from being open about their HIV infection, can only be addressed by a community-wide conversation.

 read and share the materials, and then consider how you personally respond to people who you know, or believe, are living with HIV.

Because the bottom line is that we can't prevent the spread of HIV until, together, we make this a safe place to talk about it. Do you know your own HIV status?

HIV & Stigma: Do you know the facts?

• Do you know that... an estimated 16,600 people in Michigan are infected with HIV, and many do not know they are infected.

• Do you know that...everybody has an HIV status.

• Do you know that... stigma is not just the use of the wrong word, or action.

• Do you know that... stigma is about disrespect, and the use of negative labels to identify a person living with HIV.

• Do you know that... stigma is about fear, and reacting in fear to another person only because of their HIV status.

• Do you know that... stigma and fear prevents many Michigan residents from learning more about HIV, and about their own personal risk of infection.

• Do you know that... stigma, and concern about being perceived as being judgmental, may prevent many doctors from discussing HIV with their patients who may be at risk.

• Do you know that... stigma from others makes many HIV-infected Michigan residents feel fearful, different, and vulnerable.

• Do you know that... stigma is a barrier, and that stigma discourages people from getting tested for HIV, and from getting the help they need, because of their fear that they will be discriminated against.

• Do you know that... stigma results in families and friends turning their backs on their loved ones who are HIV-infected.

• Do you know that... HIV and AIDS have been around for at least twenty years, and yet many people still don't understand that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact.

• Do you know that... many people still wrongly believe that they can "catch" HIV by shaking hands or working with someone who is HIV-infected.

• Do you know that... many people still believe that they have never met anyone who is HIV-infected, even though it is impossible to "tell" if someone is HIV-positive just by looking at them.

• Do you know that... many people believe that they have "a right" to know if their neighbor, or co-worker, or friend is HIV-positive, even though Michigan law protects the confidentiality of HIV/AIDS information and requires that only a sex partner must be told.

• Do you know that... many people still believe that only gay men and drug addicts get HIV, even though the groups of people showing the fastest rate of infection is people over age 50, and heterosexual women of color.

• Do you know that... the estimated number of Michigan residents who are infected with HIV increases by roughly ten percent each year.

• Do you know that... there are people living with HIV in every county of Michigan, doing every kind of job and living every kind of life.

• And do you know.... your own HIV status?

Imagine what could happen if everyone in Michigan knew all of these things. Today.

In Michigan and around the world, December 1 is World AIDS Day. You can play an important role just by learning the facts.



Prevent HIV. It matters to all of us.