Stigma is defined as “the shame or disgrace attached to something regarded as socially unacceptable”. We really need to look at this.
The word “stigma” has really been on my mind lately and I felt the need to talk about it. I have to admit that I have done some stigmatizing of my own. I have not meant to but I have all the same. We all do it. This has forced me to look at things differently. I think it’s in the choice of words we use to describe people, the tone in which we talk about people or their situation, even how we hear with our ears.
Stigma keeps people from developing to their full potential. Why do we, as a society, have to label EVERYTHING. Think about some of the labels we use, “bad, troublesome, sick, ADHD, and for the sake of this blog spot HIV/AIDS”. While some of these lables are need to diagnose, how we need to help and define what it is that needs to be treated, why not look at the person not just the words or letters that define how we see them.
Stigma, as it pertains to HIV/AIDS, prevents people from a sense of belonging. Stigma robs people affected by the disease of jobs, education, and some times homes. Stigma associated with HIV/AIDS robs people of human contact, friends, and sadly family too. Stigma is the reason that some children don’t have families to love them. Stigma creates fear, and instead of bringing about change – it stiffles it. Children are left to die. We could look at the tragedy of starving from lack of food, water, or accessible medications but what about the complete tragedy of children starving from a lack of compassion, hugs, kisses, a snuggle. Children affected by HIV/AIDS could be sharing popcorn while watching a movie, swimming with friends in pools, a parent or loved one that could be bandaging up a boo-boo but sadly so many aren’t because of STIGMA.
What if instead of describing children as HIV + we described them as who they are? Now there’s a thought. What if instead we saw a little boy or girl, 4 years old that liked to colour, play with their friends, play with trucks or pretend house. Looking for a forever home where they would get lots of hugs and kisses from a Mom and/or Dad, maybe a new brother or sister to love and play with them too.
Stigma is why so many good people do nothing. They are afraid of how people might look at them for going outside the box and actually responding to a need. To bring about change for even one person- young or old, a chance for life. LIFE! There are too many children in this world that have been robbed of that chance and I for one can’t sit back and just let this be the norm. I don’t care what’s popular, the looks I might get from people that don’t know the truth becasue they haven’t been told, have their own “opinions”about things or just don’t want to learn.
We are called to be motivated by love and seek out the right ways to put an end to stigma. Speak truth where there are lies or shine light where there is darkness on topics and rally together with like minded people to help others. Lives depend on it!
In the words of Project HOPEFUL’s founder Carolyn Twietmeyer ” The problem isn’t with the ones that hide in shame, it’s with the ones that shame them into hiding.” Let’s move–people are counting on you and me.