HIV is still a frightening specter for some people. Lack of education and understanding about HIV makes people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) often get discriminatory treatment. In fact, HIV transmission is not as easy as many people think.
Based on data obtained from the Ministry of Health in 2018, there were around 640,000 people with HIV infection in Indonesia. Of these cases, at least 50 thousand cases are new HIV cases.
Discrimination and Stigma against HIV and AIDS Patients
Not only must they always maintain their health condition, PLWHA also often face other challenges in the form of negative stigma and discrimination that can have an impact on their mental health.
In Indonesia and several other countries, not a few people living with HIV have lost their jobs, ostracized by their family and friends, or even become victims of violence. Data from UNAIDS states that around 63% of Indonesians are still reluctant to interact directly with PLWHA.
There are several reasons why stigma and discrimination against PLWHA are still so high in Indonesia, including:
- Lack of adequate information and education about HIV so that this disease is feared by many people.
- There is an assumption that only certain groups can get HIV.
- Misconceptions about the spread of HIV, such as believing HIV can be transmitted through physical contact or sharing eating utensils.
- HIV and AIDS are often associated with certain negative behaviors, such as the use of illegal drugs or drugs, especially drugs in the form of injections, and free sex
These various social stigmas regarding HIV have led to discriminatory treatment against PLWHA, such as being refused treatment when seeking treatment, being expelled from the workplace, and not being allowed to use public facilities.
Therefore, it is important to provide education about HIV and PLWHA to the community in order to eliminate stigma and increase public knowledge about this disease.
Disclosing HIV Status to Others
Stigma and discrimination often make PLWHA reluctant to reveal their condition to others. In fact, there are many benefits that PLWHA can get if he opens himself up to others about his condition, including:
- No longer feel alone in living with HIV
- Get support and affection from the closest people who can make them more confident
- It is easier to get access to get health services as needed
- Contribute to preventing the transmission of the HIV virus to other people, especially partners
Because there is still a lot of negative stigma and discrimination in society against people living with HIV and AIDS, PLWHA needs to be selective in telling others about their HIV condition or status. This is because not everyone can receive this information with an open mind.
So, before informing other people of their HIV status, PLWHA is advised to consider the following:
- Start with the closest and most trusted people first, such as your partner or family.
- Know the compelling reasons why you need to tell this person the situation.
- Be prepared for the worst possible reaction.
- Arm yourself with in-depth information about HIV, because the person being told may ask several questions about the disease.
- If you decide to talk to your boss, include a doctor's certificate and inform whether the condition will affect your work or not.
Recognizing Consequences and Reducing the Risk of Transmission
In addition to taking care of themselves, people with HIV and AIDS should also know well how to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
HIV is spread through bodily fluids, such as semen, blood, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. HIV transmission can occur through unprotected sex or condoms.
Therefore, the use of condoms can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to partners. In addition to unprotected sex, HIV can also be transmitted through the use of unsterilized needles and blood transfusions.
HIV infection can also be transmitted from a woman who is HIV positive to her baby, either during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, with the right treatment steps, a woman living with HIV can get pregnant and give birth without transmitting HIV to her child.
By knowing the causes of HIV transmission well, an PLWHA has contributed to preventing the spread of HIV.
Seeking Support for People with HIV and AIDS
If you are an PLWHA, know that you are not alone. You can share information with fellow PLWHA to get moral support so you don't feel lonely in living your life as a person with HIV infection.
In addition, you can also join various communities, such as the Indonesian AIDS Community and find institutions that provide tests and services for PLWHA in the city where you live. It is very important to take care of your mental health.
HIV and AIDS cannot be cured. However, HIV treatment with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can reduce the amount of HIV virus in people living with HIV. With the right therapy, people living with HIV can live normal and productive lives and have a low risk of transmitting HIV to their partners.
Therefore, PLWHA no longer need to feel hopeless even though they have to live with HIV. If you have questions about HIV treatment or tips for living in a community with people with HIV infection, you can consult a doctor.