HIV-Related Stigma Can Have Deadly Consequences


My daughter refused to go to the hospital to receive medicines. My daughter died because of the fear of stigmatization and discrimination.*

– A woman in Ghana who lost her daughter to AIDS-related complications. (Quote retrieved from on 8/15/18.)

It is tragic that HIV-related stigma remains a key barrier to testing and treatment.

Fear that friends and family may shun a family member who tests HIV positive inhibits many people from testing, accessing treatment, and being connected with much-needed support.

In October 2017, UNAIDS released a report stating that people living with HIV who experience high levels of HIV-related stigma are more than twice as likely to delay enrollment into care than people who do not perceive HIV-related stigma.

Stigma plays a role in losses throughout the treatment continuum and remains a key barrier to improving HIV outcomes:

  • Often, people living with HIV do not seek services for fear of unwanted disclosure, stigma, and discrimination. Across 19 countries with available data, one in five people living with HIV avoided going to a clinic or hospital because they feared stigma or discrimination related to their HIV status.
  • Both perceived and actual stigma in communities leads to lower levels of HIV testing.
  • When people living with HIV wait until they are very ill before seeking treatment, they are less likely to respond well to antiretroviral therapy and have poorer health outcomes.
  • In communities where isolation and mistreatment are evident, many people are forced to live in the shadows out of fear and shame.

Where programs have been put in place to respond to stigma and discrimination, access to services for HIV prevention, testing, and treatment has improved.

Many countries have been tackling stigma and discrimination and, in doing so, are normalizing HIV. There are several stigma-reduction tools that may help program managers address this barrier. The latest Compass Trending Topic, Stigma Reduction for HIV, offers a variety of tools and project materials created in the effort to reduce HIV-related stigma.

Peter Mokaba, Youth Leader of the ANC, died because of AIDS, but nobody was willing to speak about it in public – there were only rumours which were vehemently denied.

(Retrieved from on 8/15/18.)