Need Help With Stigma?

Help End HIV Stigma

HIV stigma today can often be more damaging or pervasive than the virus itself. After four decades of the advances in HIV treatment allowing people to live long, healthy lives, there hasn’t been an equal reduction in stigma in the community.

The stigma around HIV can deter people from getting tested or disclosing their status, while causing long-term psychological effects for people living with HIV. Stigma doesn’t just affect people living with HIV either, it can also be directed to and impact their partners, friends, and families.

Where does stigma come from?

Where does stigma come from?

Stigma can be experienced in a variety of ways. Some examples of HIV stigma include:
  • Ignorance or false information as to how HIV is transmitted
  • False information that HIV is highly contagious
  • Moral judgements about people and assumptions about sexual behaviour and or injecting drug use
  • Jokes at the expense of PLHIV
  • Fear of death and disease
Stigmatising behaviour can be embodied from a variety of sources including interactions between individuals, community and systemic stigma as well as internalised stigma.
Stigma affecting people living with HIV

Stigma affecting people living with HIV

HIV stigma affects people living with HIV in more ways than one. It can be perceived, anticipated, experienced or internalised.
  • Perceived sigma is formed from past and current experiences, such as interpreting words and phrases that are often connected to stigma, like the word ‘clean’.
  • Anticipated stigma is closely connected to these perceptions.  Always expecting to be treated differently, even with the lack of evidence.  This can lead to self isolation, anxiousness and depression.
  • Experienced stigma sadly still does occur.  Not everyone is accepting, educated, or willing to learn. It’s important to remember that the person who is stigmatising another is the one at fault. 
  • Internalised stigma can be the most pervasive. When HIV stigma can become internalised, whereby a person might start to believe some of these stigmatising messages about themselves.
How do I reduce the effects of stigma?

How do I reduce the effects of stigma?

  • Control your HIV disclosure. You control the who, what, when and where of your HIV disclosure. Check out our Tips for Disclosing your Status
  • Develop coping strategies in the face of stigma. These can include: seeking social support when needed (including from QPP and the HIV community) and cultivating the capacity to bounce back from, or not take to heart perceived slights.  The resilience you grow will help all aspects of your life, not just around HIV.
  • Educating others about HIV and how stigma affects you.  Be a force of change.
  • Remember, HIV does not define you, it’s a health condition you live with.
Become an HIV ally

Become an HIV ally

If you are HIV negative, there is a lot you can do to make a change. Being an HIV ally helps all people living with HIV and is a powerful act that reduces HIV stigma. If someone trusts you with their HIV status, respect their disclosure and show your support. When you hear someone make a discriminatory comment about HIV, call it out and help educate them.  Talk about HIV in the right way.  We all are responsible for ending HIV stigma and you can help.  The team at ACON and Positive Life NSW have created a A Practical Guide to Being a Better HIV Ally.  It’s time to think positively about HIV.
Words Matter

The words you use matter

The words we use matter. Learn how to talk openly about HIV and stigma in a way that can help empower those living with HIV.  The CDC in the United States has created a Guide to Talking about HIV which is a great resource to help talk about HIV in the right way.

Need help with discrimination?

Discriminating against someone because of their HIV status is unlawful in Australia. What you need to know and how to get help.

HIV Disclosure and the law

There is no specific law regarding HIV disclosure in Queensland, but there are laws you should understand.

Tips on disclosing your status

Find out more about when you need to disclose, how best to do it, and what to think about before you do. 

Mental Health

It is not uncommon for people struggle with mental health at some point, but there are a lot of other things you can do to look after your mental health and wellbeing.

Our trained team is here to help you should you have any questions or need support. You can contact QPP toll free from a Queensland land-line on 1800 636 241 or (07) 3013 5555 nationally, email us at or use our contact us form.

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