Think Positive: Tackling HIV stigma

Nia The Light poses in Cape Town with a mother and a child

With World AIDS Day just around the corner, on 1st December, today we are launching a Think Positive series with our partner, M·A·C AIDS Fund, to shed light on the realities of HIV stigma for those living with the virus and address common myths that continue to fuel stigma and discrimination.

While research tells us that the number of new HIV cases is declining each year and more people than ever are getting tested and treated, this is amazing progress to celebrate but we must remember that the global fight isn’t just about saving lives – it’s about ending the stigma that can stop people living the life they choose.

Roughly one in eight people living with HIV is being denied health services because of stigma and discrimination.  Not really knowing what the virus is, hearing rumours, and fear of ‘catching it’, all contribute to this stigma. It can stop people from getting tested, stop people from taking their treatment, stop people going to clinics and stop people from sharing their lives with others.

So that’s why over the past few weeks, we’ve spent time with young people living with HIV in London, which has the highest HIV prevalence in England, and Cape Town, South Africa- home to the biggest HIV epidemic in the world. We’re proud to have teamed up with vlogger Nia The Light who has joined us on our journey to learn more about what stigma really means for young people living worlds apart.

The first instalment of our Think Positive series is a story from 27-year-old Aviwe. Aviwe, from Khayelitsha Township in Cape Town, South Africa, was diagnosed with HIV when she was just 17, at the same time she found out she was pregnant with her first child. She is now 27 and has five children, who are all HIV negative. Aviwe is completely open about her status and feels she has overcome stigma – and says she will not let it define her. Read her powerful story here.

In 2017, Comic Relief and M∙A∙C AIDS Fund, the charitable arm of M∙A∙C Cosmetics, came together to tackle HIV and AIDS. In partnership, they have provided £2 million in grants to organisations working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities across sub-Saharan Africa and the UK. Grants are focused on improving the quality of life of people living with HIV and AIDS, and funding innovative approaches to increase prevention, care and support, and access to treatment.