Eliminating Stigma – Health Disparities

Eliminating Stigma

HIV-Related Disparities and Health Inequities

WNCAP supports efforts to reduce HIV-Related Disparities and Health Inequities by addressing the social drivers of the epidemic including HIV stigma, homophobia, racism, poverty and criminalization.

The continued growth of the HIV epidemic is associated with a complex set of socio-economic factors. HIV stigma, homophobia and racism can influence public policy decision makers. Discriminatory attitudes can affect the allocation of government funding for treatment and prevention and the implementation of laws. Public policy affects the ability of people living with or at risk of HIV to access quality health care and prevention education.

HIV stigma discourages people from taking an HIV test and knowing ones status. Furthermore, people living with HIV and AIDS may not seek proper medical treatment fearing isolation and discrimination from family, employers and community. This results in poorer long-term health outcomes and an increase in medical costs for the entire community.

The Stigma Project: Introduction to Stigma

People with HIV can be arrested and/or prosecuted for consensual sex, biting, and spitting. These laws are based on outdated science and further stigmatize people living with HIV. Criminalization of HIV transmission in the United States and around the globe, has been proven to have no effect on reducing risky behaviors. It does discourage HIV testing and promote ignorance and misinformation about how HIV is actually transmitted.
The Positive Justice Project’s HIV Criminalization Fact Sheet

State Criminal Statutes on HIV Transmission, Lambda Legal

Homelessness has long been identified as a risk factor for contracting HIV and a barrier to treatment. Persons experiencing homelessness are disproportionately infected with HIV/AIDS at a rate 3-9 times higher than the stably housed population. Securing housing is an essential part of ensuring a newly diagnosed person has the best chance of attaining health.
HIV/AIDS among Persons Experiencing Homelessness: Risk Factors, Predictors of Testing, and Promising Testing Strategies

Finally, HIV prevalence among prison inmates is much higher than the general population. The number of incarcerated adults in the U.S. rose from 1.8 million in 1980 to 7.1 million at the end of 2010. Incarceration leads to housing instability and homelessness and is associated with unprotected sex and syringe sharing. The culture of mass incarceration in the United States disproportionally affects people of color. Black men are incarcerated at a rate of more than six times that of white males. According to the 2012 report from the Global Commission on the War on Drugs, “Research conducted in the United States, where ethnic minorities are many times more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses, has found that disproportionate incarceration rates are one of the key reasons for the markedly elevated rates of HIV infection among African Americans.” African Americans make up only 12 percent of America’s population, but account for 44 percent of new HIV infections and almost half of all AIDS diagnoses in the United States, with black gay men facing the heaviest disease burden of any group.

Mass Incarceration, Housing Instability and HIV/AIDS
Global Commission on the War on Drugs