Discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS

Discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS or serophobia is the prejudice, fear, rejection and discrimination against people afflicted with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV; people living with HIV/AIDS). Discrimination is one manifestation of stigma, and stigmatizing attitudes and behaviors may fall under the rubric of discrimination depending on the legislation of a particular country. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).[1] HIV/AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease and cannot be cured, but with proper treatment, the individual can live just as long as without the disease.

HIV/AIDS discrimination exists around the world, including ostracism, rejection, discrimination, and avoidance. Consequences of stigma and discrimination against PLHIV may result in low turn-out for HIV counselling and testing, identity crises, isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem and lack of interest in containing the disease.[2]

Much HIV/AIDS stigma or discrimination involves homosexuality, bisexuality, promiscuity, sex workers, and intravenous drug use.

In many developed countries, a strong correlation exists between HIV/AIDS and male homosexuality or bisexuality (the CDC states, "Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent approximately 2% of the United States population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV"[3]), and association is correlated with higher levels of sexual prejudice such as homophobic attitudes.[4][5] An early name for AIDS was gay-related immune deficiency or GRID. During the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS was "a disorder that appears to affect primarily male homosexuals".[6]

Some forms of serious discrimination can include: being excluded from consideration for a job, being prohibited from buying a house, needing to pay extra money when renting housing, compulsory HIV testing without prior consent or protection of confidentiality; the quarantine of HIV infected individuals and, in some cases, the loss of property rights when a spouse dies.[7] HIV testing without permission or security may also be considered as wrongdoings against those with HIV. The United States' disability laws prohibit HIV/AIDS discrimination in housing, employment, education, and access to health and social services.[8] The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity enforces laws prohibiting housing discrimination based on actual or perceived HIV/AIDS status.

Structural violence

Structural violence is an important factor in the treatment of people afflicted with AIDS. Paul Farmer argues that social determinants affecting the lives of certain cultural groups alter their risk of infections and their ability to access treatment.[9] For example, access to prophylaxis, access to antiretroviral therapy, and susceptibility to illness and malnutrition are all factors which change people's overall risk of illness due to HIV/AIDS. This causes large difference in the rate of illness due to HIV/AIDS in various social/cultural groups.[10] Farmer also argues that social intervention may be key in altering the gap in treatment between these groups of people. Educating doctors on the interactions between social life and healthcare would help level out the injustices in healthcare.