by Sean Duncan
A panel of three speakers shared research and findings about HIV stigma in foreign countries Saturday in a session at the WRIHC,
Chloë Waters, assistant to the executive director at I-TECH, shared her research results from a study done in Lima, Peru, about the importance of formal and informal treatment supporters.
“When people have access to informal and formal social support,” Waters said, “this leads to initiating recovery, coping, and acceptance.”
For example, a treatment supporter might be a caring family member, who encourages the patient to continue treatment. This is especially important in environments like Lima, where there is such a stigma about HIV, that people living with HIV feel they have to keep it a secret from their friends.
Shay Miroite, advisor for I-TECH, shared news about HIV sensitization training for health workers in Trinidad and Tobago. The training aims to reduce stigma and discrimination among health workers. As a part of the training, the facilitator will use short scenario videos to highlight how issues around HIV stigma may come up in the workplace.
One of the fictional videos showed a supervisor talking with a housekeeper in a health care facility, who was not cleaning one of the patient’s rooms. Through the conversation, the housekeeper revealed that she was avoiding the patient’s room because the patient had HIV.
“It’s devil disease, ma’am,” she said, “me no want to catch it.”
Another video clip showed a health care worker walking on the street and, happening to pass by one of her patients, initiated a short conversation with him. After the short conversation, the patient, who was with his friend, quickly tried to change the subject so as to not reveal to his friend that he is receiving treatment for HIV. The videos come with a thick facilitator’s guide and are not meant to stand on their own.
Lastly, Susan Graham, member of the Kenya Research Program, works with a clinic that provides HIV prevention, such as testing, condoms, and lubricants, to male and female sex workers. This is an example of a specific population that is likely to spread HIV but generalized HIV awareness efforts in Kenya do not speak specifically to them.
Because of intolerance of male same-sex behavior, most of the AIDS information provided by society is not about how to prevent it in men who have sex with men. As an example of the lack of information available, Graham said that some gay men in Kenya thought that they would not get HIV and that HIV is only a vaginal disease.
At one point, when a rumor about gay marriage spread, a mob formed outside of the clinic with gasoline, ready to burn down the clinic. Graham said the police calmed the crowd by arresting a couple people in the clinic and releasing them shortly after.
“There’s […] a lot of religious intolerance of male same-sex behavior,” Graham said.
Graham finished her presentation by showing a video the New York Times made about gay activist David Kato, as a way of showing how anti-gay feelings in Africa are linked to stigma around HIV and how there are very few HIV prevention resources for men who have sex with men.