No time to waste as AIDS stigma continues to kill 20 years on …


Da: – 8 May 2003

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
– Switzerland Website:

Millions of people around the world are being needlessly infected and killed by HIV/AIDS more than 20 years into the pandemic because of the continued stigmatisation, discrimination and marginalization of people living with the disease, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned today.

“We don’t have time to waste. The world is losing the battle against HIV/AIDS. Each year, more and more people die from the disease and it is the stigma and misinformation around HIV that is killing people,” said International Federation president, Juan Manuel Suàrez del Toro, on World Red Cross Red Crescent Day (May 8).

“People place themselves at high risk from infection or refuse to access treatment rather than face the consequences of social stigma, such as losing their homes, businesses and even their families. In Africa, women with HIV continue to breast-feed because if they stop, everyone will know why. And then babies are put at risk.

The world has had more than two decades to learn about the disease and how it is passed on, so there is no excuse for this continued abuse of human dignity,” Suàrez del Toro added. In a global effort to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding the disease, the International Federation, launched a campaign last year against HIV-related discrimination called The Truth About AIDS: Pass It On. For the second year of the campaign, which has at its theme, You CANNOT get AIDS by…, the focus is on the continued misconceptions about the disease which end up killing people. “Some people think that they can become infected by mosquito bites, or by sharing the same toilet or even by working in the same office as people with HIV/AIDS and that the only way to avoid this is to physically shun them.

Even medical personnel practice this kind of discrimination,” Suàrez del Toro says. Other examples of misinformation and stigma include the position taken by faith-based and other prominent organizations condemning the use of condoms and other proven measures to limit the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, while singling out high-risk populations for blame and discrimination.
“These organizations are acting irresponsibly by providing misleading information about HIV/AIDS. The realities around AIDS are somewhat different. We already know safe sex works. People think that needle exchange programmes such as those run by the Red Cross to contain the spread of HIV among injecting drug users, promote drug use. Wrong.

We know that this approach not only helps to significantly reduce HIV infection among injecting drug users, but also opens a way to reduce drug addiction itself,” said Dr. Massimo Barra, creator of an Italian Red Cross foundation that assists injecting drug users and board member of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world will be marking World Red Cross Red Crescent Day with events promoting HIV-related anti-stigma and discrimination messages.

In Geneva, the youth branch of the Red Cross, together with youth delegates from 13 Eastern European sister societies and Young Positive, a global network of HIV positive youth, are performing a series of activities dispelling HIV/AIDS myths through graffiti art and enactments and relaying messages that would help people find ways to overcome stigma and discrimination.