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AIDS Related Stigma

Since the appearance of AIDS in the late seventies and early eighties, the disease has had
attached to it a significant social stigma.This stigma has manifested itself in the form of
discrimination, avoidance and fear of people livingwith AIDS (PLWAs).As a result, the social
implications of the disease has been extended from those of other life threatening conditions to the
point at which PLWAs are not only faced with a terminal illness but also social isolation and
constant discrimination throughout society.Various explanations have been suggested as to the
underlying causes of this stigmatization.Many studies point to the relationship the disease has
with deviant behaviour.Others suggest that fear of contagion is the actual culprit.Examining the
existing literature and putting it into societal context leads one to believe that there is no one
cause.Instead, there would appear to be a collection of associated factors that influence society's
As the number of people infected with HIV increases, social workers are and will be
increasingly called upon to deal with and serve PWAs.Although not all social workers chose to
work with PLWAs, the escalating incidence of HIV infection is creating a situation in which
seropositive people are and will be showing up more often in almost all areas of social work
practice.This paper aims to examine AIDS related stigma and the stigmatization process,
hopefully providing insights into countering the effects of stigma and perhaps the possibility of
destigmatization.This is of particular pertinence to the field of social work due to our growing
involvement with the HIV positive population.
Association to Deviant/Marginal Behavior
One of the most clearly and often identified causes of AIDS related stigma is its association to
deviant behaviour.The disease has had and still does have a strong association for many to

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