December 1 each year is World Aids Day. It's a day to remember all those who lost their lives to AIDS but also to focus on and counteract the stigma that keeps causing mental ill-health for people who live with HIV.
We have made a film about the stigma surrounding HIV and PrEP — preventative HIV medication for people who don’t live with HIV. HIV stigma and PrEP stigma is sex stigma. And sex should never be shameful, whether you have sex with one person or a hundred.
Stigma can be described as an attribute or trait in a person that is perceived as negative. Stigma often means that a person is reduced to being only what the stigma symbolises. HIV stigma stems from the view that people who live with HIV have gotten HIV because of socially unacceptable behaviour — promiscuity. Since PrEP, HIV medication taken proactively, has become a more common tool in HIV prevention, a PrEP stigma has evolved, where the one who uses PrEP is viewed as slutty and promiscuous, looking for a reason to screw around, and — ironically enough — not taking responsibility for their, own or others’, health.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden’s report “Att leva med hiv i Sverige” shows that the health of people who live with HIV is generally good. Two forms of HIV stigma — self-stigma and worry about what others will think about your HIV infection — are, however, connected to mental ill-health and a poorer quality of life. The greater the stigma, the poorer the quality of life. People who live with HIV feel that the virus in itself is seldom the problem, but that the stigma connected to HIV causes mental ill-health and prevents them from being as open about their status as they would like to be. By acknowledging and actively trying to counteract HIV stigma, RFSL strives to contribute to an increased quality of life for those who live with HIV.
HIV stigma is also a known threshold for testing. In the same way, PrEP stigma may lead to people who would benefit from it not requesting PrEP, since it’s seen as shameful. The result is that stigma — surrounding both PrEP and HIV — becomes a stumbling block in HIV prevention.
With the film, we want to show that nothing good has ever come from shaming others’ sexuality and its expressions. All mutual expressions of sexuality are good, and we shouldn’t moralise about how, where, when, with whom others have sex. PrEP stigma and HIV stigma is nothing other than sex stigma.
What is PrEP?
PrEP is HIV medication used to prevent a person who doesn’t live with HIV from contracting HIV. PrEP is an efficient tool in HIV prevention and is accessible to certain target groups in Sweden. Read more about PrEP.
What is U=U?
U=U stands for undetectable HIV = untransmittable HIV. The term highlights that a person on a successful treatment cannot transmit their HIV to others through sex. Read more about U=U.