Stigma remains a major obstacle for individuals seeking to assess services for HIV-related conditions, according to one health official here.
The concern expressed by Head of the HIV Prevention Unit, Julie Frampton, comes as health care professionals are holding a workshop aimed at ending stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS on the island.
According to Frampton, fear of discrimination prevents people from acknowledging they are HIV positive.
“Fear prevents people from seeking treatment upon diagnosis. Tuberculosis among AIDS patients not receiving treatment can be spread to the public. If you know you are HIV positive and you have TB and you still not seeking cure, it will spread,” she warned.
She says she is also concerned that fear of disclosure or suspicion of HIV status, stops people with the disease from using condoms and from adopting other preventive behaviors.
“It also prevents people from getting tested, even if they suspect they are HIV positive. It forces people to pretend they are heterosexual, some of whom have heterosexual or same sex relationship at the same time,” she said.
The health official says the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS also prevents communities, families and partners from providing education, care and support for people with the disease.
“It negatively affects the quality of care provided to HIV patents. It prevents national authorities from getting a true picture of the burden of the epidemic because people are not coming forward for testing, care and support,” she said.
The week long workshop is expected cover a wide range of topics, including human rights, breaking the “sex ice” and the blame game.