HIV Stigma: Do you really understand about it?

Recently, there has been a great length of debate regarding increasing HIV cases in Malaysia. Statistic has proven that the number of new HIV cases are highest among male group who had sex with male @ homosexual male. All this number is important and need to be crunched and analysed properly to make sure our HIV prevention program can be implemented properly. A few question arise in term of HIV control - How do we control the spread of HIV among this high risk group.

Before anyone can came up with an ultimate solution, a few Malaysian jumped into that band wagon with religious flag and start campaigning against homosexual group including transgender. This issue has been politicised, religion were use as a fuel to increase the heat, and this is exactly how HIV was spread in the 80s until it became a pandemic.

Stigma. Stigma. Stigma. People do not understand about Stigma.

Source from CDC

When someone enter medical school, HIV is a must know virus among all virus. We have studied this virus so extensively and perhaps we know so much about this disease now yet still can't find a cure for it. In medical school teaching regarding HIV, the topic stigma is the first and the most important knowledge need to be understood by medical student, more important than the disease itself. Every doctor need to understand what is stigma and how is it different from preference.

I am so lucky to be posted into paediatric infectious disease posting just a few weeks ago. During this posting, I have seen enough innocent children who acquired HIV from their parents. Vertical transmission. I've learned that all these children were not told what they have. The three letter word (H-I-V) were never mentioned to them until a certain age when they enter adolescent. They were told that they have a virus and we need to suppress the virus, make the virus go to sleep. If they did not take their medication, the virus will woke up and start attacking their white cell. This is partial disclosure. A full disclosure will include the word HIV in it.

When HIV were disclosed to them / when they were told they have HIV, we will told them to keep that to themselves only. Do not tell their teacher, do not tell their friends, do not tell their employer if they are working part time or whoever they do not want to tell about it. Perhaps only their parent will know about it. Even their siblings do not required to be informed regarding their HIV status. Until when? Until forever. They have the right to keep this secret forever.

Why they need to keep it secret? Because of the stigma from the society. HIV is always portrayed as a bad behaviour disease, homosexuality, prostitution, drug named it. Every bad deeds you could ever think of perhaps will lead to HIV.

People do not understand that this disease is caused by a virus, which need a host to live on and continue their life, and this virus will find a way to keep surviving. It's a battle between human and virus. Between our immune system and the virus. And there were thousands of HIV people out there who are not doing anything bad and still get this virus. Those innocent children, for example, who got the virus from their innocent mother, who get that from her husband, who are not homosexual after all.

This virus does not only infect homosexual. And if the number is increasing in homosexual community, then the problem is unprotected sex which is preventable - not just by preaching religion, but other method as well (condom, sexual education).

If you read enough in HIV control and prevention, there were a lot of evidence showing how effective condom in preventing HIV and almost none evidence showing preaching religion and sexual education alone can reduce HIV.

I believe, pinning HIV to homosexual and stigmatising them as the sole cause of increasing HIV numbers is just plain - stupid. We want to treat them, we want to help them. The last thing a doctor should say is to try and banish them and pray for their destruction and demolition from the surface of the earth. Because if I knew a doctor who want to demolish me from the earth surface, what is the point for me to go and seek a doctor anymore.

Stupidity among doctors is real. Shameful.

As for now, this high risk group should be highlighted and given attention so that we can put any measure to prevent HIV from spreading. What happen in the afterlife whether they were thrown to hell or wherever God what they want to be is not our concern or our problem. Doctor should maintain neutrality. Jump out from that band wagon carrying religious flag, let other be in your seat, and just do you work as a doctor, because whatever a real doctor do, helping humanity, if you think about it,  is already a guaranteed spot in heaven *.

* I can't guaranteed that because I am only a human. Maybe your act of helping people without prejudice will lead you to hell who knows? Only God knows.


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