Health: Young people fear HIV stigma

One in three young people in the south east fears their parents would react negatively to them if they told them they were HIV positive, a new survey from the British Red Cross reveals.

And in a further sign that stigma attached to HIV is still strong, one in five said their parents wouldn’t want them to tell anyone else if they had the disease. These concerns were more prevalent in the south east than anywhere else in the country.

The findings come as the charity launches a celebrity-backed digital campaign, addressing the stigma and the isolation young people living with HIV can feel, to coincide with World Aids Day.

“Some of the findings from this survey have been so sad,” said Alyson Lewis, British Red Cross lead on HIV.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that young people could feel so scared about people’s reactions to HIV that they couldn’t even tell their parents.

“It’s vitally important that we break this stigma and that people are able to feel that their friends and families would be there for them.”

Musician Annie Lennox, comedian Stephen K. Amos, T4’s Georgie Okell and former Eastenders actor Chris Parker all appear in a Red Cross online video which asks viewers if they could be the one their friends turn to.

The video also features the story of a young person living with HIV and the isolation he suffered at not feeling able to talk to anyone.

Asking young people how their parents would react if they told them they were HIV positive, the Red Cross survey uncovered remarkable gender differences, with young women and girls (23 per cent) significantly more likely to fear being judged negatively by their parents than young men or boys (16 per cent).

However, some findings were reassuring that stigma is being overcome; just over half of those questioned in the South East said their parents would listen to them and respect their needs, and more than two-thirds said their parents would love them whatever happens.