HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination in Pakistan
According to the research “Urdu translation and adaptation of the HIV stigma scale in Pakistani inject able drug users with HIV” which was published in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association (March 2020, Volume 70, Issue 3), the first case of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Pakistan was diagnosed in 1987. Since then, the number of HIV and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) diagnoses have been increasing rapidly and the National AIDS Control Programme estimates that approximately 0.133 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Pakistan.
HIV/AIDS is one of those diseases that has stigma linked with it thus making it more threatening and challenging for the victims and posing difficulties in its treatment. The stigma related to HIV/AIDS is known to have negative psychological impact on people living with HIV/AIDS.
Research findings suggest that due to the fear of the rejecting attitude of the others, people often cope with it by self-isolation which leads to other psychological problems, such as depression.
HIV/AIDS is a stigmatized disease in Pakistan because of two major reasons; first, there is no cure for the disease yet and there is a threat that the virus can transmit from one person to another, and, second, the disease is believed to develop in people who are involved in morally wrong behaviors, such as extramarital sexual relationship, men having sex with men or intravenous (IV) drug use. All these behaviors are deemed morally and religiously wrong by the majority of people in Pakistan, and, therefore, people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are subjected to stigma.
The stigma has gained worldwide attention due to its negative effects on care and treatment, and, therefore, several valid and reliable instruments have been developed to measure stigma faced by the affected people. These instruments help in assessing the effect of the stigma on prevention and treatment programmes, and they facilitate the development of interventions to reduce the stigma.
There is an increasing amount of work being done to understand and reduce the psychosocial issues of HIV/AIDS-related stigma around the world, but in Pakistan, due to its ‘low prevalence-high risk’ status, research related to HIV/AIDS is in its initial stages. There are very few findings available that can extend the existing knowledge about the stigma of HIV/AIDS in Pakistan. Loss of income, marriage, loss of hope, feeling of worthlessness, loss of reputation and poor adherence with treatment are few of the many under-researched consequences that people with HIV/AIDS face in Pakistan due to the stigma.
Complied and edited by: Faisal Naveed TOOR, Group Executive Editor, Daily “QADAMAT” Lahore-Pakistan