Self-stigma an issue for many with HIV/Aids

Self-stigma an issue for many with HIV/Aids

Many people living with a HIV/Aids status still have a sense of self-stigma due to having the disease, which is seen as a significant obstacle to their accessing medical treatment, according to a survey.

The Thailand Stigma Index Survey 2.0 was carried out by Aids-related groups to commemorate World Aids Day on Dec 1.

Pongthorn Chanlearn, chairperson of the National Task Force on the HIV Stigma Index Survey, said that key partners based on community networks worked together to survey those people living with HIV/Aids.

Mr Pongthorn said the survey's result shows that feelings around self-stigma -- negative attitudes, including internalised shame that people have about their condition -- have improved when compared to earlier surveys but still remain high.

He said many of those with HIV/Aids remain worried about discrimination in hospitals and their communities.

The survey found that 55% of men who have sex with other men feel guilty and anxious about being infected with HIV, and 50% among people aged over 18-24 years and drug-addicted people also felt guilty about having HIV.

The percentage is reduced to 45% in the transgender group and 44% in the sex worker group.

The survey involved 2,500 people living with HIV/Aids in 25 provinces between 2022 and 2023.

The overall numbers are better compared with the last survey done in 2018, but it is still far from a target of less than 10% for having the stigma by 2025, Mr Pongthorn said.

"The problem of self-stigma and broader discrimination remains a big challenge, and we need closer cooperation from all stakeholders to end such problems. We found that the community plays a key role in making it happen," he said.

"Stigma is the main reason that makes those with HIV/Aids stay away from medical treatment."

Surang Janyam, chairperson of the Thai Non-Governmental Organisation Coalition on Aids and director of the SWING Foundation, said that there are currently 39 organisations that have registered and become service units with the National Health Security Office (NHSO) able to respond to HIV/Aids.

Ms Surang said Thailand is on track to meet the 95-95-95 Global AIDS Strategy of the United Nations, aiming to diagnose 95% of all HIV-positive individuals, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 95% of those diagnosed and achieve viral suppression for 95% of those treated by 2025.

By the end of 2022, an estimated 90% of people living with HIV/Aids were aware of their status, she said, adding that about 90% of diagnosed people were on treatment, and 97% of those on treatment achieved a suppressed viral infection, preventing a chance of infecting others.

Dr Niti Hetanurak, deputy chief of the Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, said the ministry aims to end the disease by 2030 under close cooperation with all stakeholders, especially social-based communities.

According to the plan, the number of new cases should be less than 1,000 per year, and the number of deaths should be less than 4,000 cases yearly. Currently, the number of people living with HIV/Aids is 561,578, with 9,230 new cases per year and 10,972 deaths per year.

Dr Niti hailed the importance of community leadership towards addressing HIV/Aids.

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