Stigma, Discrimination, and HIV/AIDS

Living with HIV/AIDS is a different experience for every person. Frannie Peabody Center acknowledges that every person is unique and that their interests, needs, and concerns differ. However, one common area of concern is stigma. People living with HIV/AIDS are sometimes stigmatized by others who don’t understand the disease.

What is stigma?

A stigma is an imagined mark of disgrace or reproach attached to a person by other people. A person who is stigmatized often faces judgement, prejudice, or discrimination.

People with HIV/AIDS are sometimes stigmatized because HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through sexual contact or shared drug equipment, leading some people to assume that being HIV positive is the result of making dangerous or careless choices.

How might stigma affect our community?

Stigma associated with HIV/AIDS can make combating HIV transmission more difficult. This is because people who are at risk for HIV can be so fearful that they don’t feel safe to take the necessary steps to access care.

Stigma can make people fearful about and unwilling to get an HIV test. This can lead HIV-positive people to infect others unknowingly.

Lastly, stigma can cause people who are living with HIV/AIDS to face isolation instead of getting the love and support that they need.

How might stigma affect you?

Feeling stigmatized because of your HIV/AIDS diagnosis can lead to depression, anger, and low self-esteem.

You might encounter prejudice or discrimination because of your status. Some people are discriminated against at work. Others have been rejected by their family, friends, or community because they are living with HIV/AIDS.

Stigma can make you feel reluctant to disclose your status to people because you fear that they will react negatively. This can make it challenging to form new relationships.

How do we combat stigma?

At Frannie Peabody Center, we believe that everyone is worthy of love and respect. We work with you to make sure you get the best services possible in order to help you lead a productive, healthy life.

Frannie Peabody Center safeguards your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal health information. We are bound to this practice by federal law (HIPAA), and protecting your privacy is a priority for us. We will not disclose your information to anyone without your permission. This helps ensure that you can decide for yourself how and whether to disclose your status to others.

When requested, we work to educate the families and friends of our HIV-positive clients. We also educate the greater community through workshops, advocacy, and discussions.

We provide people an opportunity to get tested confidentially and a safe place to talk about risks associated with certain behaviors.

For more than 30 years, Frannie Peabody Center has represented the interests of the HIV-affected community and served as a resource for the State of Maine.

It’s important to remember that HIV is a virus. It is not a moral judgement about who you are or what you’ve done. If you’ve experienced stigma or discrimination because of HIV, speak to your case manager about it and they can help connect you to supportive resources.

Privacy practices

For more information about how your clinical information may be used and disclosed for all programming at Frannie Peabody Center, and how you can access this information, please see our agency’s Notice of Privacy Practices. Your case manager or counselor will go over this information with you, and you can take a copy home if you’d like.