You’d think that it would get easier to deal with, but it doesn’t. Finding out that a loved one, a colleague, anyone you are relatively close to, is infected with HIV always hits you like the first time. It’s painful and heart-wrenching. I suppose it’s the same with any terminal illness.

But the bigger worry is the stigma that is still attached to being HIV+ in many countries. This means that those that you care about are less likely to seek support or treatment that they may need to prolong their lives.
I still think that prevention needs to be our primary focus, but we’ve got to address stigma in tandem. There is still need to educate people on what it means to be HIV+; the fact that PLWA are just like you and I, but that their reality is also plagued with a disease that challenges them daily.
However, in my opinion, I think the ‘AIDS’ world hasn’t helped the stigma either (i know that will cause some outrage, but it’s just an opinion), by having requirements of having PLWA on your staff – positive discrimination (no pun intended) etc. It makes it this whole thing of them and us again. I understand the need to engage with people living with HIV, especially when designing programmes for them, but there’s got to be a way to do it that is more organic and not in a way that looks like we’re ticking a box.
Treating people living with HIV like they are different, is what makes them different. Which brings me back to my point. We need to start looking at the multi-dimensional lives of people who are positive. Their virus doesn’t define them, even if it’s a big part of who they are. I want to hear the real stories, and not just the politically correct ‘having HIV isn’t a death sentence’ story. Once we can get those stories out to the general public, maybe then we’ll have a fighting chance to address stigma and discrimination once and for all.
And maybe then it will make it a little bit easier to deal with a loved ones status.