It's not easy living with HIV or AIDS, what makes it worse is the stigma that surrounds it There is nothing greater than recognising the need for compassion during times of emotional struggle that a HIV affected person goes through. It's also not surprising to note, that many of these arise from a biased thinking, ignorance of the condition of the disease, lack of empathic understanding. Here are some of the common stigmas people with HIV / AIDS have to live with:

1. He /she has HIV/AIDS? Don't touch him / her!

People with HIV or AIDS are not touched as people believe that touching leads to 'getting infected'. These kinds of perceptions tend to exist in modern society as well, which is an indication of how much people know or are willing to know about AIDS.

2. He/She deserves it!

Many believe that HIV / AIDS afflicted people are promiscuous or are addicted to drugs; while there have been numerous cases of people getting infected from their own spouses, or from botched medical procedures.

3. Oh, who would employ him/her now?

Some employers are not supportive of people afflicted with the disease – many a times, 'necessary precautions' is cited as an excuse for dismissing afflicted people from the job.

4. You cannot continue to live here, you are putting the neighbours at risk.

Afflicted people with limited means lose their homes as they are evicted by their landlords or neighbours for fear of 'contracting the disease'.

5. We don't serve food to people with HIV/AIDS, our guests will not be comfortable being seated next to you, please leave.

More often than not, people with HIV or AIDS are denied access to public places - parks, restaurants, cinema halls, hospitals.

6. You are HIV positive, we cannot afford to treat you here in this hospital.

Hospitals refuse to treat people affected with HIV, despite having full knowledge of how the disease works.

HIV DOES NOT spread by coughing, saliva or sneezing, hugging, living under same roof, sharing toilets, playing together, studying together, working together and eating from the same plate – (source: aids-india.org)

Don't stigmatise, Learn to empathise!

As a result of these baseless stigmata, people living with HIV are emotionally affected. They don't have support from their loved ones, livelihood, poor care in the health sector, loss of reputation, character assassination. Many HIV affected people have self-stigma, where they put themselves down without proper understanding of the disease. This World Aids Day, make a difference by learning to understand what HIV is all about and how you can get support from the right places, if you are or someone you know is affected with HIV.

Also, to know more about the inspiring story of a person afflicted with HIV who turned her troubles to a source of strength for millions who are suffering from this stigma, read about Jyoti Dhawale's story here

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