Discrimination Against AIDS Victims
By Anam Ansari

July 19, 2006
Millions of people globally are being infected with one of the most vicious and possibly the worst disease known to mankind. It is a worldwide epidemic that affects thousands of lives each and every single day. The well-known name of this deadly disease is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.) The disease causes the immune system of the infected personís body to wear down and not function properly. AIDS always begins as a form of HIV (Human Immune Virus), and later leads to the life threatening disease of AIDS.
One would think that when an individual is infected with AIDS, he/she obtains a lot of sympathy from people. Unfortunately, that is not the case in many situations. People with AIDS not only have to deal with discrimination from society, but sadly some have to suffer being disowned by their very own family as well. Some families donít disown their family member, but rather treat them unfairly and discriminate against them (make them use separate dishes, blankets, pillows, etc.)
In many societies people living with AIDS are often viewed as shameful and irresponsible. These assumptions are because they are not educated well enough to know how AIDS is transmitted. The society which judges infected beings as mentioned, probably know only one way the disease is passed on, which is sexual intercourse. Sometimes, AIDS is believed to bring shame upon the familyís reputation and at times also on the community.
Shame is not the only reason why AIDS victims are discriminated against. There are many more. The main one is that AIDS is a life threatening disease and people are scared of contracting HIV. There is a lack of education and the public has no choice but to assume, until and unless they are alert of the truth. In addition, some religions order people to believe that having HIV or AIDS is the result of moral fault that deserves to be punished.
"My foster son, Michael, aged 8, was born HIV-positive and diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 8 months. I took him into our family home, in a small village of England. At first relations with the local school were wonderful. Only the head teacher and Michael's personal class assistant knew of his illness. Then someone broke the confidentiality and told a parent that Michael had AIDS. That parent, of course, told all the others. This caused such panic and hostility that we were forced to move out of the area. The risk is to Michael and us, his family. Ignorance about HIV means that people are frightened. And frightened people do not behave rationally. We could well be driven out of our home yet again." - 'Debbie' speaking to the National AIDS Trust, UK, 2002
In many employment areas, the individual has to go through mandatory screening and testing specially for AIDS before he/she is hired for the job. This requirement puts people into the illusion that AIDS is a deadly disease and can be spread very easily even at the workplace, whereas there are no tests for diseases like cancer.
"Nobody will come near me, eat with me in the canteen, nobody will want to work with me, I am an outcast here". - HIV positive man aged 27, India
Employers donít prefer to hire AIDS victims no matter how talented that person is, not only because of the safety hazard, but also because it might cost the company a lot to provide the individual with health care.
"Though we do not have a policy so far, I can say that if at the time of recruitment there is a person with HIV, I will not take him. Iíll certainly not buy a problem for the company. I see recruitment as a buying-selling relationship. If I don't find the product attractive, I'll not buy it." - A Head of Human Resource Development, India
So, what can be done to overcome this stigma and discrimination? How can peopleís attitudes be changed? A certain amount can be achieved through the legal process. There are many misconceptions about this vicious illness by the majority of mankind. People across the world are ignorant towards learning about HIV and AIDS. The importance of AIDS education is neglected in many countries which need it. However, no policies can combat AIDS related discrimination alone. The truth is that AIDS victims are normal people who enjoy life like any other human being. However the sad truth is that they canít and wonít enjoy life unless we take a step to completely stop the stigmatization against AIDS victims. Our goal should be to confront the fearful messages, stereotypes and biased social attitudes, in order to bring an end to the discrimination of people who are living with AIDS. We can make a big difference. The change starts with us, the future of the world - the youth!


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