De-stigmatizing HIV and AIDS

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Robin Smalley and Scott McPherson

The World Health Organization cites social stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS as one of the biggest obstacles to controlling the epidemic.

De-stigmatizing HIV and AIDS

Robin Smalley and Scott McPherson are opening the doors for acceptance by de-stigmatizing AIDS and HIV.

There has been no shortage of public awareness campaigns and grassroots education initiatives backed by non-government organizations, health care providers, and celebrities. Yet, the fear of social stigma and discrimination are still at the root of why people are reluctant to be tested for HIV or to disclose their HIV status and take antiviral drugs — especially in much of the developing world.

Robin Smalley is the co-founder and international director of Cape Town-based mothers2mothers, an NGO that provides education, support, and much-needed medical attention to pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV and AIDS. When HIV-positive women are kicked out of their homes and rejected by their communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, mothers2mothers empowers them become “mentor mothers” and help other women in their communities. Smalley said that one woman can change the attitude of an entire village. More than one million pregnant women are HIV positive in Africa, but with support of mother2mothers, their babies have a chance not to be.

Scott McPherson is the co-founder of The Stigma Project, a Los Angeles-based organization that works to eliminate the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS with the hope of creating an “HIV neutral” world. The Stigma Project helped a Houston student who had been targeted for his HIV status and sexual orientation to win a school election. Translated into many languages, the organization’s “cheat sheets” are teaching people how to talk about HIV in a non-stigmatizing way worldwide.