Ever since the discovery of HIV and AIDS, social responses of fear, ignorance, stigma and discrimination have accompanied the epidemic. From the spread of all the negative reactions to HIV and AIDS it fuels prejudice, anxiety, and even hate towards the groups associated with the disease. HIV and AIDS are as much about social occurrences as they are about medical concerns. All over the world HIV/AIDS has shown itself capable of triggering responses of compassion, solidarity and support to their families and communities.
But the disease is also associated with repression as their families; loved ones and communities have rejected individuals affected by HIV. Ignorance is the biggest factor in stigma and discrimination because people living with HIV/AIDS suffer not only physically from the virus, but also mentally and socially by the thoughts and actions of others due to the population’s general fear of the illness and those inflicted with it. Mentally, patients that contract HIV/AIDS are too scared to get checked or provide medical assistance to themselves due to the fear of being discriminated against, and a lack of general knowledge of HIV and AIDS as well as a fear of the sickness from the population increases stigma and discrimination.
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In order for something to have total social control there needs to be stigma. Stigma can be used to marginalize, exclude and exercise power over individuals who show certain characteristics. Social groups such as, homosexuals, drug users, and sex workers, may have been there since before HIV/AIDS, the disease has given more of a stigma against them. By blaming certain individuals or groups, society acts like it has no responsibility to care for and look out for these populations. This is seen not only in the manner in which ‘outsider’ groups are often blamed for bringing HIV into a country, but also in how such groups are denied access to the services and treatment they need. In Susan Sontag’s, AIDS and Its Metaphors, she writes, The illness flushes out an identity that might have remained hidden from neighbors, job-mates, family, friends.
It also confirms an identity severely affected in the beginning, homosexual men, had been a creator of community as well as an experience that isolates the ill and exposes them to harassment and persecution. From this she explains how one marginalized group, homosexual men, has been the most affected by the stigma of this disease and they are victims of the ignorance of others. Sontag also perfectly shows how this illness could inadvertently reveal someone who is a homosexual who most likely did not want others to know or even lead others to believe that a man who has contracted HIV/AIDS could be homosexual when in fact he could not be.
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