As defined by HIV.gov, HIV stigma refers to “negative attitudes, behaviors, and judgments towards people living with or at risk of HIV.”
Stigma can cause many types of discrimination, and can happen virtually anywhere:
- at workplaces
- in homes and family situations
- at schools and universities
- in doctors’ offices and hospitals
- within the justice system
When people experience HIV stigma, it may drive them away from needed health services, cause them to quit their jobs, stop them from pursuing their education, or even deny them fair and equal treatment under the law.
Stigma can also become internalized, when a person with HIV starts experiencing negative thoughts about themselves due to their status. This can cause depression, isolation, and a loss of desire to continue taking their medications.