Cope better with Life Problems

You can LIVE with HIV/AIDS

HIV Stigma and Discrimination
It’s hard to believe that this might still be an issue for many in 2021.  I’ve been an advocate for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS since the ’80s through pro bono community work and in my contribution to research published in the Duke Law Journal.

At that time, an HIV diagnosis was considered a death sentence and most of my work was centered around helping individuals wind up their affairs and cope with the isolation caused by prejudice, discrimination and stigma.  There was also, (and still is), a need to advocate and educate on behalf of these individuals in the health care field to improve their care and well-being during their episodes of care.  Many individuals were considered pariahs in their own homes and families. 

The 1993 movie Philadelphia was considered a “breakthrough” movie reflecting the heartbreaking experience of coping with fear losing one’s livelihood in addition to coping with what was considered at that time a lethal diagnosis. 

This was around the time Magic Johnson discovered that he had tested positive for HIV and became a living testament that an HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence.  He has lived to defy the stereotypes and has survived the disease for over 30 years. 

Get the Facts and Move Forwards
And here we are in 2021.  Many don’t have access to the standard treatment or other resources that have kept Magic Johnson healthy.  Some of these factors should not be issues today.  Early detection saved his life.  Many do not access this life saving strategy simply because of the stigma of coping with the diagnosis in their families and communities. 

The Impact of Stigma and Discrimination on Mental Health

Much of the stigma and prejudice around HIV and AIDS, including those feelings internalized by those diagnosed with HIV or AIDS stems from fear.  This creates a negative feedback loop in which individuals start believing the myths, misinformation and stereotypes and reinforce the fear that keeps them from treatment and, sadly, living healthy and fulfilling lives.  This can generate a world of toxic shame, isolation and desperation.  No one has to live like this.  There used to be only one drug AZT.  Now there are 30.  There is hope.

Counseling in this area can be a great source of support to work through these feelings in a protected and understanding space. Learn strategies and get help coping with the fallout from anxiety and depression as well as practical skills for setting boundaries, telling others and coming to terms with a new diagnosis.  Good mental health is part of fully treating this disease.

Minority Stress
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that African Americans account for 42% of new HIV diagnoses.

LGBT HIV AIDS Stigma living
LGBT HIV AIDS Stigma living
LGBT HIV AIDS Stigma living

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