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Building Communities to Counter HIV Stigma

At the headline: “Taking China’s Fight Against AIDS Online” immediately, I was hooked. This year, I am serving as an AFC/AIDS United AmeriCorps Member in Cleveland, but I was curious how HIV education and prevention is carried out in other countries, especially those who have notoriously spoken out against homosexuality. Homosexuality in China was only decriminalized in 1997, and in the years since, stigma and discrimination still run rampant.

Stigma and discrimination leads to a hush-hush society when it comes to speaking about HIV/AIDS. This contributes to a lack of resources and general understanding about the current science and realities surrounding HIV. People living with HIV can end up feeling alone. If they do speak to their family, friends, and coworkers about HIV, they risk losing them due to prejudicial thoughts and attitudes.

Hope shines through article. The rise of social media and the internet have allowed people in China who are interested to learn the truth about HIV. One of these social media platforms, QQ, a Chinese instant messaging service, is allowing people in China to anonymously ask questions and have open conversations about HIV. For those who have lost their support systems, they are able to gain a new and positive support system. This support system allows people to be open, share their opinions, and help their peers. Other apps, such as Blued, help to disseminate HIV education and resources, including where to get tested. The popularity of these apps is now leading to more government involvement and support. The president’s wife has even made HIV a top priority. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Luckily, within the US there are many social media outlets and resources which aim to promote HIV/AIDS education and services. Of my AmeriCorps teammates in Cleveland, most, if not all, of our service sites have Twitter and Facebook accounts which update with events, articles, and information about HIV. Even though we have all these social media outlets, it can still be hard to get the word out about HIV and break down stigma and barriers. Through my service, I have realized that without a personal connection, it can be difficult to engage people in meaningful dialogue about HIV. Now that we have the tools, we just have to figure out a way to best use them!

Posted By: Roxanne Krausert, AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Cleveland - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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