It seems more money is being spent these days on billboards or bus advertising or other promotional activities targeted to the public to presumably reduce HIV-related stigma. Every time I hear about this, I get annoyed. These campaigns are well-intended, but sometimes I feel they unwittingly contribute more to promoting stigma than reducing it.
I simply don’t believe that HIV stigma will be reduced by spending a lot of money to reach out to the stigmatizers. Stigma will be reduced by empowering the stigmatized. The civil rights movement of the 1960s didn’t triumph because the white majority woke up one day and decided not to be prejudiced; it happened when the black minority got fed up and wouldn’t take it any more.
Self-stigma is the most powerful kind of stigma. Ultimately, it serves as a fuel for others to stigmatize us as well. That’s one reason why I am such a strong supporter of networks of people with HIV, because they combat, first and foremost, the self-stigma that holds many of us back.