A regional newspaper, the Wagga Daily Advertiser, recently highlighted the unfortunate reality that HIV stigma and prejudice is alive and well in rural NSW. When people are devalued based on their association with any point of difference, whether sexuality or health, they can be shamed and judged. They can also be seen as less desirable and at worst shunned from ordinary social spaces and isolated.
Whether on a regional, state or worldwide level, people living with HIV are easy targets. Like all prejudice, HIV prejudice is never based on reason or reality and there is no valid reason for this misplaced and outdated discrimination.
Unlike the common cold, HIV is relatively difficult to catch and can affect anyone from a young man exploring his sexuality to a nurse providing care in a clinical setting. People living with HIV are everywhere and can be from any walk of life. We are middle aged mothers, small business owners, lawyers and students. We work, love and live alongside anyone else in society.
Positive Life NSW combats stigma through the promotion of positive images of people living with and affected by HIV. One of these ways is by social opportunities for all people living with HIV to get together, including their families and supporters, to build and develop friendship networks which lessen the effects of stigma. In this safe and inclusive space, social connections offer a way to be part of a stronger network of friends who understand and share their experiences, no longer separate and alone but finding answers and encouraging each other.
The Positive Life social space where people with HIV can find friends and supporters has gone by a number of names over the years – Planet Positive, and currently The Quarterly. Over the next month, the Quarterly will be relaunched with a new name put forward by members. This name will reflect the change from a quarterly schedule (every three months) to being held every second month. It also reflects the inclusive nature of the event, welcoming to the broader community of people living with HIV including heterosexual and bisexual men and women living with HIV.
Whether you are living with HIV or not, challenge negative attitudes and HIV stigma wherever you see it. We all need to talk about HIV, regardless of sexual orientation or HIV status. Shaming or rejecting someone based on HIV has no place in our society. Everyone can turn the tide on HIV stigma and discrimination.
If you live with HIV and feel isolated or need support, you can call Positive Life on 1800 245 677 or (02) 8357 8386 or email email@example.com