State Health Department Launches Media Campaign on AIDS Stigma

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 4, 2010) - A $1.5 million public health education campaign has been launched to encourage people with HIV/AIDS to seek treatment and to combat the stigma associated with AIDS. Funded by a federal grant, the "You Are Not Alone" campaign includes billboards, ads on buses and in bus shelters, community newspapers and on radio stations in upstate New York. A related TV campaign will begin later this month.

The campaign, which will run through July, reaches out to people newly diagnosed with HIV to help them seek health care and treatment, and encourages people who have stopped treatment to come back. Negative attitudes about people living with HIV/AIDS can result in being shunned by family, peers and the wider community; poor treatment in health care and education settings; and psychological damage that can negatively affect testing and treatment.

Governor David A. Paterson said, "It's critical for people to learn their HIV status and to stay in treatment. That gives them the best chance at maintaining their health and living a productive, full life."

State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., encourages people to get tested for HIV. "Once you know your HIV status, you can take the appropriate next steps," he said. "If you test positive, you deserve respect and the best health care available."

Advances in treatment have transformed HIV infection from a fatal diagnosis into a more manageable chronic illness. Despite these dramatic advances, the social aspects of the disease, including the stigma of HIV, continue to threaten the emotional, mental and physical well-being of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. People living with HIV/AIDS who experience greater stigmatization might perceive more difficulty accessing health care because a fear of rejection may lead them to perceive the health care environment as intolerant and/or inaccessible.

In New York, the State Department of Health's (DOH) AIDS Institute has employed multiple strategies and interventions to combat the negative effects of HIV-related stigma, including:

  • Comprehensive health care and prevention services;
  • Confidentiality protections and sanctions;
  • Education, training and leadership skills development for people living with HIV/AIDS;
  • Training for clinical and non-clinical providers; and
  • Outreach to and engagement with faith communities

Information on HIV/AIDS can be obtained by calling 1-800-541-AIDS. For Spanish speakers, call 1-800-233-SIDA. Or, log onto www.nyhealth.gov/aids.