The implications of these finds are significant as negative societal attitudes towards PLHIV makes it less attractive for those at risk to seek testing and treatment. Furthermore, they pose a barrier to achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment targets by 2020.2
HIV stigma still common in Europe
Initial results from the ‘Is HIV Sorted?’ survey, conducted by the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC) and Gilead Sciences reveal that stigma, a long-standing and debilitating feature of the HIV epidemic, persists across Europe. The initiative surveyed more than 24,000 HIV-negative people from 12 European counties on their knowledge of the virus, attitudes toward HIV-positive people, and use of HIV prevention methods.3
“Half of all respondents believe that PLHIV should not be allowed to work as healthcare professionals”
– Is HIV Sorted? Survey3
Half of all respondents believe that PLHIV should not be allowed to work as healthcare professionals and approximately one third of people questioned believe that being undetectable means that you can still pass the virus on to someone else. Public misconceptions about HIV were even more notable in Eastern Europe†: 52% of respondents have negative attitudes about working with PLHIV and only one in five (20%) believe that PLHIV should be able to do any job, regardless of their status.3
For healthcare workers in the HIV arena, the survey results emphasis that we cannot become complacent with our education and awareness-raising efforts. The dissemination of accurate and unambiguous information remains essential to ensure that the wider public is more informed and inclusive of PLHIV.
Click on the following link to download a PowerPoint file with results from the Is HIV Sorted? survey.
Stigma concerns highest in the UK, survey says
The stigma and discrimination faced by PLHIV has been associated with a range of negative health problems – from depression to poor medication adherence.4 Now, new findings from a large European survey suggest that PLHIV have lower expectations from life compared to HIV-negative people. Furthermore, concerns about stigma are highest for PLHIV in the UK.5
The ‘Expectations from Life survey,’ conducted by independent market research company, Censuswide and commissioned by Gilead Sciences Europe, was undertaken to identify common misunderstandings about HIV and to encourage PLHIV to discuss their life expectations with their doctor. Researchers surveyed 3,245 adults with and without HIV in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.5
The survey report provides sobering reading. Compared to adults without HIV:
- three times as many PLHIV expect to have a shorter life than their friends and family, and
- PLHIV are two times as likely to describe their health as poor.
Even in a progressive country like the UK, HIV-related stigma remains a significant issue:
- among all the countries in the survey, PLHIV in the UK are the most fearful of disclosing their HIV status, and
- more than 40% said that their HIV status could be a barrier to a long-term relationship.
The survey was not designed to identify a causal effect between stigma and life expectations in PLHIV. However, it is hard to deny that some PLHIV internalize the ongoing stigma and discrimination they face. From the clinician’s perspective, it is important that PLHIV are empowered with the knowledge to challenge stigma when they experience it, and where necessary, to promote inclusive practices and improvements in local knowledge.
The U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) campaign is a step towards dismantling the stigma of HIV within the community. The objective is to raise awareness of the evidence that supports the assertion that PLHIV who are on antiretroviral therapy and have been undetectable for at least six months cannot infect others through sexual transmission.6 For clinicians, who are likely to be the first professionals with whom a newly-diagnosed person will be able to safely speak, the U=U message is an opportunity to transform the lives of PLHIV, particularly if it gives people the confidence to disclose their status and enable PLHIV to be comfortable with who they are.
†Eastern Europe: Romania, Russia, Ukraine (n=6,043)
Key findings from the survey can be accessed as an ‘Infographic’ in PDF format.