Stigma and Discrimination

By Krist Angela Zicishti, YWCA of Albania. Krist recently attended the 20th International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne, Australia.

Krist Angela Zicishti and Kgothatso Mokoena

We are young and we are protecting our rights.

I had the opportunity to participate in the International AIDS Youth Pre-Conference and attended a session on stigma and discrimination.

What are the causes of stigma and discrimination? Why do so many people have to suffer?
One answer is Silence…If we are silent we will never achieve things. It’s from silence that every other bad thing comes. Another factor is lack of information and it is a slow killer. When we don’t learn about vital information we become uninformed and ignorant. This follows fear. Fear not only of stigma but self-discrimination too and low self-esteem.

Through the group discussion we identified 4 problems related to HIV/AIDS
1. Lack of knowledge,
2. Behaviour,
3. Poor healthcare and knowledge of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR),
4. Social cultural norms.

Our smaller group choose to discuss social and cultural norms.
We were trying to find the reasons in our country that lead to stigma and discrimination.

In Pakistan one person said that it is a lot to do with generational gap for example you can’t even talk with your parents about SRHR. Another person shared that they felt that stigma and discrimination in Azerbaijan is related to religion as it is a Muslim country. It’s the tradition that comes to be dominating in a negative way. I shared that in Albania, stigma comes from people. People are prejudice towards others; it is the fault of the society. Gregory Gabbert, AIDS Alabama (USA) a fellow youth participant summed it up best when he said “Our human nature puts people in boxes and we label those boxes.” This I think is a sad truth!

Following this discussion we were asked to think about how we can change it! The discussion that followed was very positive and focused very much on changing minds and engaging in advocacy. Here are some of the things recommended as vehicles for change: social media, awareness campaigns, lobbying governments, empowering those who are stigmatised and at risk as marginalised groups.

We have to do as much as we can! Sonia Odek from the YWCA of Kenya represented our group and SHE DID GREAT! “There’s nothing for us without us” she said.