Editorial: End the stigma of HIV

Editorial Board

Thinking positively about a positive HIV diagnosis is something of a foreign idea. Being diagnosed as HIV positive — or with any sexually transmitted infection (STI) for that matter — has a strong negative stigma attached. Having HIV or an STI is so stigmatized that the truth gets buried by the myths and falsities surrounding it.

That served as inspiration for 2015 World AIDS Day; to throw out old ideas about what it means to be HIV positive. While this one day does stand for a lot, it’s the other 364 days of the year that need the same courtesy. They are what will make it clear that anyone from anywhere living any lifestyle could contract HIV or an STI, not the stigmatized idea of who has or what it means to be a person living with a positive diagnosis.

There is also a huge paradigm when it comes to HIV that seeking help for treatment will make a person look bad, but as the slogan for this year’s AIDS Day campaign sums up perfectly, “kissing and hugging doesn’t spread HIV. Ignorance does.” It’s in the fear of being judged for getting tested or seeking treatment that the virus continues to spread. In essence, it’s the long-standing negative idea of what it means to be HIV positive that perpetuates the virus, not the virus itself.

On a global scale, World AIDS Day is doing it’s part to lower stigmas when it comes to a positive diagnosis, but on our own campus the services offered for those diagnosed with HIV or an STI are playing a role as well.

Thielen Student Health Center provides HIV testing for both men and women as well as a space in which students can ask questions when it comes to maintaining their sexual health. Checkups, screenings and treatments are available for any sexually transmitted infection.

The World AIDS Day website says that there are only three ways that a person could contract or transmit HIV: through sharing dirty needles, a mother-to-child transmission or unprotected sex.

Free condom distribution takes place Wednesdays and Thursdays on campus in order to promote safe sex. Condoms can also be found in residence halls, greek chapters and other offices around campus, including the Thielen Student Health Center.

Taking advantage of the services on campus and becoming educated about how HIV and STIs are actually transmitted, whom they could impact and the treatments available are all included in ending the stigma when it comes to a positive diagnosis.