Strong scientific findings were presented at this year’s AIDS conference. Yet tackling the social stigma seems to have taken a back seat. Will sufferers of the ‘spectre of the 80s’ ever escape the taboo?
“If you have cancer, people feel pity. If you have HIV then you’re judged negatively”, explains care worker Stella Maris. The treatment of HIV may have moved on, but it is still widely associated with such taboos as prostitution and drug use. HIV sufferer Wiltrut Stefanek is open about her condition, founding the group ‘PulsHIV’ in order to give talks to the public about the disease. She is quick to dispel prejudices: “The doctor said, ‘so, you’ve had quite a few partners?’ I said, ‘no, I just married the wrong man'”. The audience seem receptive to Wiltrut’s candour. Yet tackling the isolation of those infected is still a battle against a social epidemic.