Stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS have started showing a decline in the past two years, according to a study conducted in four major southern States between 2005 and 2009.
The study on “Monitoring Stigma and Discrimination on Mass Media,” conducted by the Centre for Advocacy and Research in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, looked into 277 such cases reported in the media during this time. It concluded that Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the episodes of stigma and discrimination.
As many as 59 incidents were reported in 2005; 75 in 2006 and 77 in 2007. But 2008 saw a huge reversal, with only 39 cases reported and the number further came down to 27 in 2009.
Media reporting on stigma and discrimination helped in ensuring accountability and fixing responsibility in 75 incidents, senior officials and decision-makers intervened in six cases and in one case, a sarpanch addressed the issue of social boycott of a HIV-positive person. Officials provided care and support, took care of medical expenses and ensured a dignified burial to a patient. .
According to the survey, of 109 cases of stigma and discrimination reported from societal settings, at least 71 were reported from within families, particularly in rural households, women in the reproductive age group accounting for 60 per cent of such cases.
In the health care sector, government hospitals in major cities like Chennai and Hyderabad reported discrimination in 90 per cent of the cases, and 60 per cent were denied treatment when they needed invasive treatment. Private hospitals never accepted any HIV-positive patient.
Unfortunately, if media reporting helped some patients, for many others, “insensitive” coverage led to more problems, like discrimination after they were identified. Several of them were forced to commit suicide or were abandoned by family and friends.
The report has suggested that the media follow the Charter of Rights for People Living with HIV as drafted by the government and appealed to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to issue guidelines for the media while reporting these issues.