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In the 21st Century: stigmatisation and rejection of the HIV-positive

There are 3,600 HIV-positive victims in Lebanon. This seems like a small number for a population of little more than 4.5 million, but their lives are fraught with agony in all spheres of society.

 

Armando Reyes

 

A 45-year-old woman, mother of three children, described that upon discovering that she was HIV-positive she felt something like “going through hell”, according to her declaration to representatives of the non-governmental organisation Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communautaire (SIDC).

The woman’s world was turned upside down and she kept silent on the subject for fear of the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, said the NGO.

“I suffered terrible moments over many months without being able to take care of myself or my children”, she stated.

The stigma takes on many forms in most Lebanese because of the taboos around sexual relations imposed by social norms. This was reflected in a report by the non-governmental organisation.

There are often cases of social isolation, economic exclusion and total abandonment due to lack of information.

It is only with the medical, social and human support from SIDC that the woman in question remained standing and renewed her life, the humanitarian entity reported.

In other cases, there are violations of patient-institution confidentiality. This happened to a young 24-year-old man.

“The lab technician commented to my boss that I was positive and I lost my job; now I don’t have employment or money”, he pointed out.

Another 56-year-old man described that his wife accepted to keep him at her side despite knowing that he was a carrier of the virus, but her brother forced her to divorce him after finding out from the nurse at the hospital.

One of the most notorious episodes of social rejection of carriers of the immunodeficiency virus acquired in Lebanon happened to a father and his 13-year-old son.

The adolescent had a fever of 41 degrees when he took him to hospital. When they admitted that the son had the virus, the doctor started to yell and threw them out.

The next day he accepted receiving my son after I gave him 65 dollars, said the crestfallen father.

The Lebanese society even imposes criteria that break family values, as took place between mothers and children.

“After finding out that I was a carrier, my Mum insisted on washing my clothes separately, that I use my own plate and cutlery, while another mother asked to only be informed about her son once he was dead”, reports by the SIDC relate.

In the same way, there are those who make the most of the situation in order to obtain perks.

“I worked very hard to buy a house that I put in my Mum’s name, but when my older brother found out that I was positive, he convinced her to make him the beneficiary of the estate. When she dies, I’ll be out on the street”.

Other cases attended to by the Lebanese NGO include people that pertain to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community who are also victims of abuse, isolation and discrimination.

The SIDC reported that a transsexual who still has masculine organs claims to lack a normal life. “Every time the police stop me in the street I have problems because my identification card does not match my appearance”, this person commented. In any case, this person added, they lock me up and while behind bars I receive abuse and insults from police officers and inmates. “I haven’t been able to get operated because I lack the resources”, this person outlined. (PL)

(Translated by Sarah Claman) – Photos: Pixabay

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