March 1st marks the UN’s Observance of Zero Discrimination. Zero Discrimination Day is the observance of the battle against HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) and the discrimination that ensues from it.
In June of 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report in which a rare kind of lung infection was documented in four gay males. All of the cases showed that their immune systems were not working properly. Within days, reports of similar cases were being brought up all over the United States. By the end of 1981, there were a total of 270 cases of these immune deficiency syndromes. With severe discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS, it took almost 10 years before the United States government would enact the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination against disabled people, including HIV/AIDS. A whopping 20 years later, the United Nations passed the UNGASS Declaration Commitment and the International Labor Organization Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS in the Workplace.
For more on the History of HIV/AIDS click here.
Cases of Discrimination
In the Award-Winning Hollywood movie, Philadelphia, actor Tom Hanks plays a Philadelphia resident fired for being gay and having HIV/AIDS. This was the first movie to tackle the mega-giant stigma that the world had been going through with HIV/AIDS and had quite the lasting effect in many people’s view of gays and lesbians.
Realistic cases are not far from the dramatic interpretation seen in Philadelphia and discrimination still occurs. Take for example the less dramatic yet just as serious American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) case in 2011 of Michael Lamarre. Mr. Lamarre was refused a job at the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a baggage handler for having HIV (For the full story click here).
To find out more about the Zero Discrimination Day campaign please click here.
Why the HIV/AIDS Stigma?
HIV/AIDS is a difficult and life-threatening disease that is often associated with homosexuality, promiscuity, prostitution and drugs addictions. But how the disease is transmitted if often misunderstood.
Before much was known about HIV/AIDS, no one knew exactly how it was transmitted. To this day much of the world communities still do not know. This has caused a widespread stigma about the disease.
Now, scientists are well aware that HIV/AIDS can only be transmitted through sexual intercourse and blood. However, many still have a fear of having the disease be transmitted by a simple touch, a cough or a sneeze; but rest assured that these interactions would not cause transmission of the disease.
What can you do to help remove the stigma?
The most important thing you can do is to be informed. Know how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, stand up for those with HIV/AIDS when a conversation is geared towards the stigma of HIV/AIDS, and stay up-to-date on the latest HIV/AIDS treatments and accomplishments of the scientific community in battle this atrocious disease.
(For more information on current treatments and accomplishments click here)
How to stay safe
Currently, there is no vaccine against HIV/AIDS, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your part to prevent to spread of the disease and keep you and your loved ones safe.
- Always use a condom when engaging in sexual intercourse
- There are both Male and Female Condoms
- If you have a medication or drug that needs to be injected, always use a new, clean needle
- If you are at high-risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, consider the medication Truvada
- Always inform your sexual partner if you have HIV/AIDS
Questions for the reader
- How else do you think you can help remove the stigma of HIV/AIDS and help our fellow citizens of the world with HIV/AIDS find a more comfortable way of living?
- How would you feel if someone close to you had HIV/AIDS? What if it was you? How would you feel about people having a strong stigma against you?