Global Network to Tackle HIV Stigma and Discrimination

Article Date

19 July 2010

Article Author

By Sandy Won

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

HIV stigma and discrimination is a problem with proven solutions. A new global alliance, the Stigma Action Network, aims to take these solutions to scale.

One of the best kept secrets of the global AIDS response is the significant body of knowledge and tools available to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination. These strategies have been shown to successfully address some of the structural, individual and community-level drivers that cause and perpetuate stigma and discrimination.

But these successes are few and far between. Without expanding stigma-reduction strategies, current efforts related to HIV prevention, treatment and care continue to be undermined.

To address this gap, a group of organizations, including the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), on July 21 launched the Stigma Action Network while in Vienna for the XVIII International AIDS Conference. The network aims to maximize the effectiveness of the global AIDS response by developing a coordinated, scaled-up response to reducing stigma and discrimination.

Network members believe such focused attention on decreasing HIV-related stigma is long overdue.

Each day, more than 6,800 people become infected with HIV, and more than 5,700 die from HIV-related causes. Worldwide research confirms that stigma and discrimination fuel the epidemic by inhibiting people’s access to HIV testing and counseling. Stigma also affects people’s ability to disclose their status to partners and others, access timely entry into care and adhere to treatment regimens.

Many who are on the frontlines of HIV have witnessed the devastating effects of stigma. These groups and individuals attempt to tackle the issue, often working in isolation and reinventing what others already have learned. Best practices are not consolidated or widely disseminated, and few collaborate or share ideas. As a result, stigma remains a seriously neglected issue.

The Stigma Action Network strives to transform this landscape. The network will fulfill three key functions:

  • Disseminate information and facilitate knowledge sharing
  • Foster collaboration between individuals and groups for the purposes of research, programming and advocacy
  • Set or influence research, program and policy agendas through improved communication and coordination of its members

A steering committee will lead the network. It includes ICRW as secretariat, Colectivo Sol, EngenderHealth, Futures Group, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and The Communications Hub. The network is supported by the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, The Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS.

Sandy Won is ICRW’s strategic communications manager.

Individuals or organizations interested in joining the Stigma Action Network and participate in the global movement can send a blank email to [email protected].