Alex Blaze

42% of Americans living with HIV/AIDS feel "alone and isolated"

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 04, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: HIV/AIDS, law, LGBT, prosecution, punishment, study

I post often here about prosecutions of people with HIV well.jpgfor not disclosing their status before having sex. Using the law to force people to disclose just doesn't work, and real solutions will have to start with an actual understanding of why people don't disclose. (And an understanding of the fact that while people should disclose their status, it takes two people to transmit a disease.)

This recent study discusses just that:

We identified quite a significant amount of stigma, considering the fact that we're now well into the 29th year of the HIV epidemic. What was surprising to us was that that stigma is persistent in developed-world settings as well. If we look at the data related to [the admission of] "I feel alone and isolated because I have HIV/AIDS," the North American data -- the only country we surveyed in North America is the United States -- was at 42%, which was well above what we expected in Africa, where we had 24%. In addition, there was data indicating that 22% of Americans living with HIV indicated there was no one they could count on to help take care of them, which was quite significant. The other piece we were quite surprised about was that 16% of U.S. respondents cited discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

More after.

There was great fear of disclosure -- not just with spouses and partners, but with family members too. That number [of people not disclosing their HIV status to their partners] is at 17% globally, which doesn't seem that high, but if that continues to increase, we could see significant community and public health implications.

42% feel "alone and isolated," and that's just the people who ascribe those feelings to their serostatus. And I hope the stereotype that people with HIV who don't disclose are "sexual predators" can be lain to rest considering how anxiety is also high when it comes to disclosing to family members. It's about keeping people around in a time where that disease is still considered modern-day leprosy.

The second worst legal punishment in the US is solitary confinement because humans are social organisms who need to interact with others in order to remain sane. The body doesn't just allow a person to go without needs for long. If you don't eat, you get painful hunger that drives most people to eat. If you try to hold your breath too long, your body forces you to. If you go too long without sleep, you fall asleep standing.

And while America's become a lonelier society, many people are compelled to seek out social interaction. That might mean a shy, closeted gay man who lives alone forcing himself to go to a gay bar, or someone who's too afraid to do that getting online, or someone who's been rejected too many times for having HIV omitting that detail while looking for sex.

I'm not arguing that anyone's justified in putting others at risk, but that the problem is deeper than what the crime and punishment model can address and that there are solutions if we're willing to look for them.

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honestly, i'm amazed that number is that low.

That was the same thing I thought, Don. I'm shocked.

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