Sukhender Kumar

07 July 2023

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Combating Stigma and Discrimination Among People Living with HIV

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Stigma and discrimination remain significant challenges for individuals affected or living with HIV, negatively impacting their well-being and impeding HIV prevention and care efforts. Government, non-government organisations and civil society organisations have recognised the need to address this issue and have implemented legislation such as The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) ACT, 2017, to combat stigma and discrimination. This blog post will examine the effects of stigma and discrimination on people living with HIV and explore the provisions of the HIV/AIDS (Prevention & Control) ACT 2017, which aims to safeguard their rights and foster inclusivity.


Understanding Stigma and Discrimination:

Stigma and discrimination associated with HIV are deeply rooted in fear, misconceptions, and societal biases. Individuals living with HIV often face social isolation, judgment, and rejection due to ignorance of their surroundings, transmission modes, and the realities of living with the virus. This stigma can manifest in various forms, including verbal abuse, exclusion from social networks or workplaces, denial of healthcare services, and even violence due to their HIV status or gender identity.


The ramification of Stigma and Discrimination:

Stigma and discrimination pose significant challenges for people living with HIV, impacting their physical and mental well-being. Fear of rejection and judgment often leads to secrecy and non-disclosure of HIV status, hindering access to treatment, care and support. Internalised stigma can result in shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and depression, making it difficult to cope with the challenges of HIV. The PLHIV community faces stigma starting from the self, at the social level, stigma within healthcare facilities, and legal and policy-level barriers. Social stigma leads to social exclusion, isolation, and personal relationship breakdowns. Self-stigma involves negative beliefs and feelings internalised due to societal attitudes, leading to diminished self-worth and reduced self-care. Healthcare discrimination includes denial of services, breaches of confidentiality, and differential treatment. Legal and policy barriers restrict travel, migration, and employment opportunities. Recent Vihaan Care and Support Program reports indicate many cases of stigma and discrimination, with families and healthcare settings being the primary sources.


However, initiatives like the Vihaan program have progressed in managing and addressing these cases, raising awareness and challenging stigma and discrimination at multiple levels within communities.


To address the stigma and discrimination, some critical actions can be taken and bring all the PLHIVs into the mainstream of society:


To combat HIV-related stigma and discrimination, a comprehensive approach is decisive. This involves educating and raising awareness to dispel misconceptions and foster understanding. Creating a supportive, non-judgmental environment helps individuals feel accepted and valued. Social integration through inclusive practices in schools, workplaces, and communities fosters a sense of belonging for those living with HIV. Encouraging self-empowerment and providing psychosocial support, such as counselling and support groups, cultivates resilience and self-acceptance. Implementing anti-discrimination policies and comprehensive training for healthcare providers ensures fair and inclusive healthcare. Strengthening confidentiality protocols protects the privacy and trust of HIV patients, encouraging them to seek necessary care without fear of discrimination or privacy breaches.

Advocate for legal reforms and encourage policy changes.

With all these steps, awareness of legal reforms like the HIV/AIDS (P&C) Act 2017 is also essential to protect rights and ensure inclusivity. Recognising the urgent need to address stigma and discrimination, governments have taken progressive steps to protect the rights of people living with HIV. The HIV/AIDS (P&C) ACT 2017 is a significant step which aims to combat discrimination and promote inclusivity. Let’s explore some key provisions of the HIV/AIDS (P&C) Act 2017:

  • Protection Against Discrimination: The HIV/AIDS (P&C) Act 2017 prohibits discrimination based on HIV status in various domains, including employment, healthcare, education, housing, and access to social welfare and entitlement services. This ensures that individuals living with HIV are not denied their rights and opportunities solely based on their health status.
  • Confidentiality and Privacy: The act emphasises maintaining confidentiality and privacy concerning HIV-related information. It outlines clear guidelines for healthcare providers, ensuring that personal information remains protected and not disclosed without informed consent, except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Education and Awareness: The HIV/AIDS (P&C) Act 2017 recognises the significance of education and awareness in dispelling misconceptions and reducing stigma. It encourages the development of educational programs and campaigns to promote understanding, compassion, and respect for people living with HIV.
  • Complaint Mechanisms: The act establishes mechanisms for reporting and addressing discrimination cases. Individuals who experience discrimination based on their HIV status can file complaints, which are then investigated and remedied accordingly.
  • Support Services: The HIV/ADIS ACT 2017 recognises the need for comprehensive support services for people living with HIV. It mandates the provision of counselling, healthcare, and psychosocial support to ensure their overall well-being and quality of life.


Stigma and discrimination remain significant barriers to effective HIV prevention, care, and support service delivery and access. Recognising the gravity of this issue, implementing legislation such as the HIV/ADIS ACT 2017 is a key step toward protecting the rights of individuals living with HIV and promoting inclusivity. However, addressing stigma and discrimination requires collective efforts from governments, communities, and individuals. By fostering empathy, understanding and providing accurate information, we can work together to break down these barriers and create a society that supports and embraces people living with HIV without judgment or prejudice. To report such cases, everyone can contact the nearby ART centre, Vihaan Care and Support Centre or call 1097, a National helpline to help the people.




  • Written by Dr Sukhender Kumar, Program Officer, Vihaan Care and Support

Alliance India