The Social Hurdles of HIV Awareness and Prevention


How a sexually-transmitted virus is hindered by limited marketing, and how its stigmas compare to those developing around COVID-19.

As is currently being learned through the national talking points of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) prevention and care, virus outbreaks are susceptible to stigma. Simple measures of caution like social distancing and wearing a mask have become politicized tools—items on agendas beyond that of public health strategy.

This is no surprise to epidemiologists, who face rising and falling discussions around their work with the general public on a regular basis.

Few of such discussions have reached the level of taboo that surrounds HIV—particularly when sexually-transmitted disease first began to be interpreted in the US decades ago.

In an interview with Contagion during the International AIDS Society (IAS) AIDS 2020 Virtual Sessions last week, Hugh Klein, PhD, of the Kensington Research Institute, discussed how HIV, its sexual transmission, its at-risk populations, and the marketing of its treatment and prevention has been victim to it all being “an American stigma.”

“What they need is to convince the PSA market that it’s OK to do a public service announcement where you talk about sex, sexuality, frankly,” Klein said. “We don’t discuss birth control that frankly, and that’s been around for a whole lot longer than PrEP has been.”

Klein also discussed the similarities of stigma and education around HIV and COVID-19 prevention—from each having pockets of particularly at-risk patients, and each being burdened by a currently imperfect field of therapeutic care.

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