The virus and the stigma: a two-pronged attack
The last thirty years of scientific advances transformed HIV diagnoses: conversations which used to be deemed a death sentence are now focussing on managing HIV as a long-term chronic condition.
This looks set to be the new status quo until the discovery of an HIV cure – which remains the end goal for the global medical and research community. In the meantime, we must do all we can to continuously innovate and improve quality of life for people living with HIV – which includes tackling the prevalence of the stigma and discrimination.
Speaking to physicians across the region, we are still seeing a trend of late-presenting patients – namely due to delayed diagnosis driven by the fear and anticipated stigma associated with getting tested and knowing your status.
In at least half the countries in the region, one in three people had a CD4 count under 200 when tested for the first time –3 which is so low that they are considered to have AIDS.4
For communities, but also physicians, we must continue to challenge the misinformation and discrimination around HIV, which is holding us back in our response to the epidemic.