HIV is now a manageable chronic illness but stigma and discrimination still persists.

In a sexual context, people are sometimes rejected because they choose to disclose they are HIV positive. While some men may make an informed and personal choice not to have sexual relations or relationships with HIV positive men, others may make decisions and choices that stem from misinformation, myths, fear, and ignorance, based upon an outdated reality of what it is to live with HIV today.

Men have reported being asked stigmatising questions on hook-up apps and sexual networking sites such as ‘are you clean/unclean?’ or ‘have you got anything?’. Name-calling has also been reported when a person discloses their HIV positive status such as ‘leper’ and ‘criminal’.

HIV positive and HIV negative men can play a vital role in challenging negative, stigmatising and judgmental attitudes, particularly on hook-up websites and Apps.

If you are, or have been, offended by comments or questions you have received about your HIV status (or someone else’s), and are contemplating challenging this, consider the following:

  • Make sure you feel safe and comfortable when starting or joining the conversation. If you are upset or angered by a remark, consider time-out before responding;
  • Try to establish the facts about why someone might make a derogatory or stigmatising comment. Some men may make comments because of fear or misinformation;
  • Some men may be well-informed about HIV. They may just choose not to have sex with someone who is HIV positive. That is their choice to make;
  • Remember this is your opportunity to educate and inform, not to judge someone else;
  • Know where to direct people for further information about HIV (this website or to an HIV organisation for example);
  • Consider (while no one likes to give in) that some people are not worth the effort and will not change! Know when it is time to end the conversation.

Understanding how HIV is and is not transmitted can help reduce misconceptions that lead to HIV stigma and encourage early testing and treatment for HIV. It is important to understand the medical advances in HIV treatment; that people on effective treatment can live a long and healthy life and cannot transmit HIV to partners. This is also known as ‘undetectable’ equals ‘untransmittable’ (U=U).

If you are affected by HIV-related stigma, and/or discrimination, seek support and advice.