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How can I address people who are close-minded and start to talk about how they think that an HIV positive person (detectable or undetectable) is dangerous?

Thanks for the question – this is a big topic, so we’ll do our best!

Before we get into it, this post explains what undetectable means, but briefly, scientific evidence has confirmed that most people with HIV who take antiretroviral treatment (ART) as prescribed can suppress the HIV virus in their body. When an HIV positive person maintains an undetectable level of HIV through medical care and medication, they cannot transmit HIV to someone else sexually, with or without the use of a condom.

Close-mindedness like you describe is a form of HIV stigma. Stigma is defined as negative attitudes, feelings or beliefs directed towards a person or group of people and can have significant impacts on the lives of people living with HIV, which can lead to unequal treatment, discrimination and marginalization. A lack of information and awareness combined with outdated beliefs and fear of HIV can lead to prejudice and stigma.

Addressing HIV stigma can be difficult. Depending on the situation, you may feel comfortable addressing it directly, but there are cases when it’s not safe and a more indirect approach would be better. Keeping that in mind here are some ideas you can consider:

If HIV stigma is affecting you, it’s important to take care of yourself. Experiencing discrimination can lead to feelings of shame, hopelessness and isolation, it can make it harder to ask for help or to get medical treatment, it may impact relationships, employment or social interaction. We recommend that you talk to your doctor or someone you trust about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. Often your medical care team can provide information, supports or resources you can access. There are local information and support groups available to people living with HIV through Nine Circles Community Health Centre and Ka Ni Kanichihk. Lastly, nurturing your emotional health may better equip you to cope with stigma.