Despite advances in AIDS treatment, stigma lingers

Stigma has stuck to AIDS from the very start. When the virus first began to emerge in the 1980s, it cut a wide swath through two groups that have historically faced their own stigma: gay men and intravenous drug users.

More than 30 years later, however, the face of AIDS has changed. Today’s new HIV patient is statistically likely to be a heterosexual African woman.

As the reach of AIDS has expanded, stigma remains from Cambodia to Nigeria to Uganda. It even persists, in 2014, in developed nations like the United States and Canada, according to immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And AIDS stigma affects not just patients, but their providers as well. Dr. Julio Montaner has worked in the field for decades, and says that stigma could be holding back important advances. He described, for example, his struggles in getting government approval to set up a safe needle exchange site for drug users in Vancouver, Canada.

Anita Powell reports

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