Being Positive: The Fight Against HIV Stigma

By Thomas Phillips

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HIV-positive New Zealanders share their stories of overcoming stigma to become community leaders in the fight against discrimination.

A 2018 Consumer Link Survey commissioned by NZAF and Positive Women Inc., showed that 46 percent of New Zealanders would not want their child to play with an HIV-positive friend, 42 percent would not want to eat food prepared by someone with HIV, and 38 percent would not want to live with an HIV-positive flatmate.

This lingering stigma means many New Zealanders living with HIV today are often discriminated against in medical settings or rejected by their peers. Stigma can make it difficult or unsafe for people living with HIV to openly discuss their condition, especially if they live in rural communities without access to support networks. More damaging is the internalised stigma they inflict upon themselves. Mark Henrickson, an associate professor in social work at Massey University, describes this as “an echo chamber of self-reinforcing shame.”