Stigma - 1. a distinguishing mark of social disgrace
From all people, I actually recieved HIV stigma from a Doctor!
I think Stigma is made up of 1 or 2 things. 1. Lack of knowledge and sometimes this is compounded with 2. Attitude
I was telling this Doctor of our plans to adopt from Kenya. You can tell by a person's instant reaction if they think this is a fabulous thing or if they think your nuts. You simply cannot hide your true feelings upon surprising news. In this case, he was delighted, and started to ask several questions, displaying a genuine interest in the process etc. BUT then... out it came.
"What age of a child will you adopt?"
"Around age 2."
"Oh that's good, then at least it will give any HIV antibodies time to be present and they can be properly tested - so you know for sure that they will be negative."
(*?*) "Actually, many babies test positive as they carry their Mother's antibodies even when they are negative. It can take several months for them to correctly test negatively... only once the antibodies have left them."
"Oh, yes... I guess that would be right too."
***My thoughts - 'And exactly why are your presuming that we don't want to adopt an HIV positive child?'***
Attitude - I know, many people are still stuck in 1984 with outdated knowledge of HIV. It is still viewed as a death sentence and many are not aware that HIV is not AIDS. A person with HIV can live a long, healthy, normal life... get married, have kids and outlive you or I. HIV is treatable!! See the quick fact post I did for AIDS day. Then quickly check out the HIV FAQ's here at Positively Orphaned and here at HIV to Home. It's important for us all to educate ourselves on this a little... the fear surrounding HIV is really over the top, and unfounded. (I mean, unless you plan to have unprotected sex with someone who has AIDS, or share a needle with them - otherwise, the fear can be checked at the door.)
Okay... so when you are approached with this 'Stigma'... you immediately step in and offer the little 'welcome to 2012 - HIV is treatable, etc. ramble....', right? And upon delivery, you either get the...
'Oh.... reeeaalllly? I didn't know that.'
Or, you get the *eyeball* look that tells you...
' I don't care what you say to me about this, my mind is closed. I am not listening. HIV is AIDS and the grim reaper in disguise. Don't come near me with those words because I might 'catch it. Lalalala...' (with fingers in their ears).
This is an attitude. Fortunately, I come across lack of knowledge much more commonly than the attitude. You can cure the 'lack of knowledge', but how do you cure an attitude? This is a person who is not willing to change their mind set. They are content viewing the world from their sad (and angry!), little place in the corner and will not come out for anything.
I am noticing this is a common theme in many areas, not only HIV and adoption, but life in general. I know I speak a great deal about the psychology of people. I am constantly seeking to understand, and I get frustrated when I don't. I'm learning a lot about people on this journey, and with that understanding I am finding peace. If people want to be completely irrational about things and not willing to open their minds... we can't force them. We can feel sorry for them, as we are able to see how bright the world is from the outside... and then we can walk away, and leave it at that.
We can work to educate and end stigma, but an attitude can only be changed by the person who possesses it. We need not concern ourselves with them... but push past to those who are willing to learn and love.
Let's help end the Stigma... and pass on the truth campaign. Truth is contagious - spread it!