Many of you confront the devastating reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic each day. You routinely care for victims and struggle to maintain your strength in the face of great difficulty. We salute your courage, your expertise and your compassion.
The HIV epidemic has created a terrible burden for millions of individuals, families and communities worldwide. Relieving the suffering requires improved healthcare, better access to treatments, more vigorous prevention efforts, more effective social outreach, and support for those most vulnerable, particularly orphans.
But stigma and discrimination block the march forward against HIV/AIDS. They fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic by creating a culture of secrecy, silence, ignorance, blame, shame and victimisation. Stigma prevents communities from addressing HIV/AIDS with the appropriate health care services or legal and educational strategies. What stops them is HIV prejudice. And all that will stop HIV prejudice is speaking openly about the facts.
Some people with AIDS are being denied basic rights such as food or shelter, and dismissed from jobs they are perfectly fit to perform. They may be shunned by their community, or most tragic of all, by their own family.
The fear of stigma leads to silence, and when it comes to fighting AIDS, silence is death. It suppresses public discussion about AIDS, and deters people from finding out whether they are infected. It can cause people -- whether a mother breastfeeding her child or a sexual partner reluctant to disclose their HIV status -- to risk transmitting HIV rather than attract suspicion that they might be infected.
But whatever laws and regulations are adopted, the most powerful weapons against stigma and silence are the voices of the world's people speaking up about AIDS. By continuing to fight aids stigma and care for all, nurses will leading the way in breaking down the walls of stigma and silence. We hope the information, strategies and tools in this year’s IND kit will assist you in your fight against the cruelty of HIV/AIDS and the stigma imposed on its victims.