Tackling Stigma surrounding HIV/AIDs

Umberto and Giorgos identified the need to tackle the lack of open discussion between generations and treatments given to young people, which is perpetuating the stigma.

Experiencing false myths about HIV/AIDs first hand from close family and friends and a general lack of education around the subject, drove Umberto and Giorgos to start their project. They set out to tackle HIV/AIDs stigma by raising awareness and challenging the common misconceptions which people hold.

Initially, they planned to use workshops and open discussions aimed at children and young people, to challenge the beliefs which lead to the stigma against those with HIV/AIDs. The pair received training by UK HIV/AIDs charities and researched the common beliefs by speaking with various South African NGOs, prior to the trip.

After gaining advice from NGOs raising awareness of HIV/AIDs and visiting a school to discuss prevention education, the pair delivered a workshop to twenty children aged 12-15. Using games they tested their knowledge of the key facts and asked them to identify the sources of their beliefs, to encourage them to question and verify information they had heard. They quickly found that the children were very well educated on the basic facts regarding prevention, however it became clear that their education did not contain information about available treatments.

From speaking with social workers and teachers, they learnt that limited information on treatments and parents and teachers unwilling to discuss the topic, was leading to children and young people not seeking more information or help if they believed that they had HIV, thus perpetuating the stigma and fear.

Umberto and Giorgos identified the need to tackle the lack of open discussion between generations and conversations regarding treatment. Possible future projects could focus on bringing together organisations with aligned goals to start to challenge wider society, including the older generations, to have open discussions to break beliefs and associated stigmas.