Rebecca Tallon de Havilland
Businesswoman, TV presenter and HIV activist
The stigma associated with HIV is very real and can have a lasting impact.
When I think about stigma, I think of it as a weapon used against people living with HIV. Being stigmatised and treated differently because of my diagnosis is something I will never completely get over. I recall when I have been abused, how I have been alienated and how being someone identified as living with HIV has felt like modern-day leprosy.
Double the stigma
As a trans woman, I have experienced a double stigma. Being trans and living with HIV is something society finds hard to accept. There is a view that, perhaps, by being who I am, I am responsible for what happened to me. There is a real lack of understanding of HIV, and there is little awareness of how things have changed.
People wrongly believed they could get HIV
by simply drinking from the same cup.
Ignorance and fear
I remember the fear surrounding HIV and AIDS in the 80s and 90s. People wrongly believed they could get HIV by simply drinking from the same cup. I feel that today, thanks to advances in treatment, people are a bit more blasé about it. Unfortunately, parts of society have forgotten about HIV. There is ignorance about it. That ignorance leads to fear, exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination against people living with HIV.
I believe we will never be truly rid of stigma until people really understand HIV, what it means to live with it and what it means to be on treatment. My medication keeps my HIV suppressed so that it doesn’t affect my health. I eat well, I exercise, I get tested regularly, and I take my medication. I know that because of the treatment I am on, I cannot pass on HIV to my sexual partner. My HIV is undetectable and, as a result, it is untransmittable. In other words, I know that U=U. When I’m asked, I always say that HIV doesn’t discriminate. HIV can affect anyone, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. My wish for World AIDS Day is for everyone to wear red, get tested and own their body.