Universal Themes of Stigma


Universal Themes of Stigma from the Stamp Out Stigma website:


– People are largely unaware that their attitudes and actions are stigmatising
– Language is central to how stigma is expressed
– Knowledge and fear interact in unexpected ways that allow stigma and discrimination to persist
– Sex, morality, shame, and blame are closely related to HIV-related stigma
– Widespread care and support for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) co-exists with stigma and discrimination


A general recognition now exists that when human rights are promoted and protected and when stigma and discrimination are reduced, fewer people become infected and those living with HIV and their families are better able to cope with the disease. UNAIDS (2000) maintains that stigma and discrimination are interrelated, reinforcing and legitimising each other and that ‘stigma lies at the root of discriminatory actions, leading people to engage in actions or omissions that harm or deny services or entitlements to others’.


Discrimination is a violation of human rights. According to UNAIDS (2000), the principle of non-discrimination, based on recognition of the equality of all people, is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments and should always be interpreted to include discrimination on the basis of actual or presumed HIV-positive status which is prohibited by existing human rights standards.