Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity today released a snapshot poll of gay men living with HIV in Britain. It coincides with the #StopStigma effort that the charity is engaging in today, for World AIDS Day.

Of 412 men polled –  average age range 25 – 64, and diagnosed in the last 20 years – 77 per cent had experienced stigma. This was most prevalent :

  • in the gay community itself, where nearly two thirds (63 per cent) had experienced stigma;
  • in online dating environments – 60 per cent; and
  • when dating – 58 per cent.

74 per cent of men polled felt a level of self-stigma – stigma they impose on themselves – nearly two thirds (63 per cent) felt shame, 56 per cent blamed themselves, while half said they felt guilty.

When asked, unprompted, what words they had heard people use when speaking about HIV, that they found particularly hurtful, the top four were:

  • AIDS (19 per cent)
  • Diseased (19 per cent)
  • Unclean (16 per cent)
  • Riddled (12 per cent)

91 per cent do not think the public knows the difference between HIV and AIDS. An up-to-date 21st century information campaign and universal testing – making HIV testing the norm in NHS settings – were among the top two efforts these men feel would be most effective to stop stigma.

Shaun Griffin, Executive Director for External Affairs, Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“We know there is a high prevalence if HIV in our community. Recent media coverage of the condition has reminded us that HIV stigma continues, and myths perpetuate.

“The fact that two thirds of the men we polled said that stigma was strongest in the gay community really saddens me.

“Start the fightback today – join in with our message of solidarity on social media by taking a selfie with your red ribbon using the hashtag #StopStigma.

“The Stigma Index 2015 survey –  the global study of the impact of stigma in people living with HIV – was launched today. The charity will use this to inform and results will strengthen our efforts to tackle the issue.”

Andrew Keates, London Theatre Director who is living with HIV said:

“”HIV positive men on effective medication, taken correctly pose no threat to anyone.

“HIV used to be a death sentence. It shouldn’t be a life sentence of stigma and tolerating ignorance.”

Terrence Higgins Trust volunteers will be at Kings Cross station in London for 12 hours today with a 7ft x 7ft banner, pop up banners, red ribbons, and props urging the station’s 47,000 daily commuters to take a selfie wearing a red ribbon for stigma.

The charity hopes that people right across the country will take pictures with their red ribbon and tweet @THTorguk with #StopStigma to join the effort.

Regional events can be found here.

Add our #StopStigma Twibbon to your Facebook or Twitter profile. Take a selfie for stigma with your red ribbon Tuesday and tweet @THTorguk, #StopStigma

Download our #StopStigma poster to display at your World AIDS Day event, or just show your support by displaying it in your office.