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Stigmatisation: Why Squeeze life out of others?

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ACCORDING to the Free Dictionary by Farlex, Stigmatization is “the assignment of negative perceptions to an individual because of perceived difference from the population at large.

It may occur on the basis of physical appearance (including race or sex), of mental or physical illness, or various other qualities”. It also refers to the degrading and debasing of attitude by the society that discredits a person or a group of persons’ attitude (such as illness, deformity, color, race, sexuality disorientation and religion, etc).

It has been observed that the rate of stigmatization is increasing everyday especially among individuals who are different in terms of race, sex and religion, among others.

But those who encounter it often are people who suffer from physical illnesses especially people living with HIV/AIDs. Often times, they are not usually scared of having the virus but they are very much afraid that they will be isolated and treated differently.

They are aware that living with HIV/AIDs is not a death sentence but the society makes them feel so worthless that they have no reason staying alive.

For instance, a girl of 15years lost her mom to HIV/AIDs recently. When her friends and family discovered what killed her mother, they immediately started isolating the girl despite the fact that she was a minor and just lost the most important person in her life.

She tried reaching out to her family and friends severally but they continued to isolate her. Anyone she tried to share her problems with kept making jest of her late mother.

The stigma kept on growing till she was banned from school because parents didn’t want their children in the same environment with her. Her dead body was found after a week and her people were actually happy over her death.

A lot of people with different STDs experience the same thing. Due to fear of being stigmatized, many people with HIV/AIDs and other diseases prefer to die in silence to disclosing their health status.

Some of them, including their family members in Nigeria, particularly in Igbo land would rather accuse one relative, friend or foe of poisoning the victim through diabolic means, even when they are fully aware of his or her condition, including the various ways of contracting such diseases.

Speaking on the issue, a counselor and founder of Speech Master Academy, Steven Michael, condemned stigmatization in its entirety, stating that a person shouldn’t be stigmatized for any reason.

According to Michael, who is also a medical doctor, “research has shown that 90% of the population in the country are being stigmatized either based on their status (HIV), sexuality, race, religion etc. Presently, people with HIV encounter a high rate of stigmatization .Honestly speaking, in such situations; i wonder why people are so unreasonable and naïve.

The fact that someone is different from you doesn’t give you the right to judge and condemn the person because people differ based on their individuality. One thing people tend to ignore is that people living with HIV/AIDs still live very healthy lives.

Contacting the virus doesn’t just end there but becomes even more complicated for the individual because it’s usually the aftermath that is the most challenging aspect. HIV patients, sexual disoriented and sexual abuse victims suffer mostly from psychological effects.

For example, depression, loneliness, low self esteem, and disassociation. In terms of depression, it kicks in the moment you have been diagnosed. It is normal to be depressed the first few months but it doesn’t mean the end of the world for that person.

People live with the virus and still live their normal lives. I know it won’t be easy but the first step one has to take in order to come out of depression is to accept the fact that you have the virus, then work towards living healthy and normal like you used to before and also encouraging others who are in the same condition should fight it. By doing this you feel relieved.

Another one is loneliness, this one of the biggest fear for people living with HIV/AIDs because they know if they tell people or their friends about their status, there is every tendency that you will be abandoned.

If you are abandoned, fine. At least, you will know who your true friend is and also anyone that behaves like that is not worth your tears and time. What I keep telling people is that being lonely is only when you have made up your mind to be lonely.

It becomes easier as times goes by. Definitely, you will lose your friends and people you care about but it gives one the opportunity to make new friends who will accept you the way you are.

The most common and dangerous one is low self esteem. Low self esteem simply means when the society reduces ones worth, values and integrity to nothing. Low self esteem can be a terminal disease.

HIV patients usually take a long time in building up their self esteem. You will be avoided, made jest of, and made to feel unworthy and valueless like you are already feeling inside of you but it is left for you to turn their hate into something meaningful by achieving what you need to achieve even as a patient. By doing that, you are already an idol or role model to people who are in the same condition as you.

Stigmatization has effects on the individual .Like when the individual becomes violent. In most cases, the individual starts punishing people by sleeping with them without disclosing his status or by killing anyone that stigmatizes him.

Honestly speaking, I suggest the government should pay attention to those who are stigmatized not just leaving it to the NGOs to do the work and also endeavor to stop the rate of stigma in the country because people lose their lives and loved ones everyday because of this.

My advice to individuals with HIV or any disoriented individual is that they shouldn’t have any reason to be ashamed of themselves or feel less human than others.

The fact one have it should motivate the person the more to have a stronger purpose for living. Like I said earlier, having the virus and being different isn’t a life sentence.

Also, do not listen to the side comments people will make about you because they don’t have any role to play in your destiny. Just have in mind that you will be the winner in the end”.

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