Et tu, gays? HIV stigma still isolates gay men

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imageRecent studies show healthcare workers and average American consumers hold alarmingly outdated fears of HIV-positive people, but the latest one says some gay men also still reject their poz brethren.

It’s bad enough that this summer, a Kaiser study found that nearly half of Americans don’t want HIV-positive people preparing their food, and in increasing order, wouldn’t want them as roommates (56 percent), teaching their kids (59 percent) or as coworkers (68 percent).

Even scarier, just last month a Williams Institute study in the Los Angeles area found that doctors and dentists were basically ignoring institutional knowledge of the disease. Stats show “55 percent of obstetricians, 46 percent of skilled nursing facilities, and 25 percent of plastic surgeons had policies that specifically discriminated against people living with HIV or AIDS.” The same study found that — relatively fewer at just 5 percent — of dentists in L.A refuse services to HIV patients.

All this just as the CDC reports that almost three out of four Americans with HIV are not receiving enough medicine or regular health care “to stay healthy or prevent themselves from transmitting the virus to others” as part of its annual World AIDS Day bad news for gays report.

But the latest about gay male discrimination meeting those same discriminatory standards tears it. Researchers with the Euro-Canadian HIV advocacy group Men2Men Collective published a study in the journal AIDS Care detailing the existence of anti-HIV stigma shared among gay men across Europe and North America.

The results revealed that “gay men continue to stigmatize and discriminate against HIV-positive men through social exclusion, ageism, rejection, violence, and discrimination based on physical appearance,” the study notes. These reactions have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life and emotional well-being of HIV-positive gay men,” perpetuating “higher rates of depression, feelings of isolation and high-risk behavior.”

Far from the researchers’ hypothesis that “HIV stigma should have decreased with the introduction of effective therapies,” initial findings are grim. You can answer the collective’s current follow-up survey to round out its data on just how deeply the problem goes. It plans to report the final findings in 2012.


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