Almost 70 per cent of people living with HIV have rated themselves to be having a good quality of life. This is according to one of the researches presented at the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research, PEER Bhutan Research Symposium 2023 held in the capital, yesterday. However, the research also reveals that discrimination and especially, perceived stigma is still prevalent.
The one-year research conducted since last year interviewed 455 people living with HIV with the help of counsellors. It recorded that the good quality of life is high among males compared to females.
Besides, participants with higher education and good relationships with family claimed good quality of life.
Meanwhile, 75.1 per cent have self-rated their health conditions to be satisfactory.
However, the study found out that 37 per cent of them have faced discrimination while 94 per cent experienced mid-level perceived stigma. Perceived stigma is the fear of being discriminated by the society.
“First of all, I have to make a clarification here that stigma is related to more of an attitude, whereas discrimination is more related to behaviour. When I correlate issues on stigma and discrimination, definitely the existence of or the prevalence of stigma and discrimination certainly have a very negative impact on one’s quality of life and well-being,” said Dr Nidup Dorji, a researcher.
The research also shows that 60 per cent of people living with HIV agreed that most people think HIV is “disgusting”. Additionally, 80.6 per cent choose to hide that they have HIV.
Similarly, Lhak-Sam, a Civil Society Organisation, which is the only network of people living with HIV and AIDS in the country, say that although discrimination and stigma towards people living with HIV and AIDS is common even among family members, it has become less severe compared to about two decades ago.
“I would say that compared to 2006 when I was first detected living with HIV in the country, and now I think drastic improvement and change has been made in terms of reducing social stigma and discrimination, including fear among the general population,” said Wangda Dorji, the executive director of Lhak-Sam.
Researchers from the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, the Yale School of Public Health, and the Brown University from the United States conducted the study. Currently, there are 660 people living with HIV in the country.
The research indicates that the support of family members is integral in the well-being of people living with HIV. Therefore, researchers recommend sensitising the general public on how stigma and discrimination can affect the well-being of such individuals.
Edited by Kipchu