Following Donald Sterling’s ignorant and offensive remarks about Magic Johnson and HIV/AIDS, openly gay journalist Josh Barro took some time out while on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to discuss the dire impact HIV stigma already has on our society. You’ll recall that Sterling, referring to Magic Johnson and the black community, said,
"What has he done, can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?...He's got AIDS. Did he do any business? Did he help anyone in South LA?...Well, what kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself.
Though Sterling may sound ridiculous, having later to be instructed as to the distinction between HIV and AIDS by interviewer Anderson Cooper, Barro points out that Sterling is “far from alone in his outdated views on HIV.” In polls conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2012, 44% of adults responded that they would not be comfortable eating food prepared by an HIV positive person; 21% said they believe AIDS is a punishment for declining moral standards; 34% believe you can contract HIV from a drinking glass, toilet seat or a swimming pool. This stigma then has a negative impact on HIV positive individuals. According to the University of California at San Francisco, 36% of HIV patients have reported being discriminated against by a medical provider. Meanwhile, only 25% of Americans with HIV are on antiviral medications that help keep the disease at bay and individuals exposed to HIV stigma are more likely to not see their doctors and take prescribed medication. As Barro says,
Once they get tested, a majority of HIV positive individuals fall away from HIV care. And negative social attitudes are a major reason why. That is, negative attitudes about HIV are literally killing people.
Watch Barro’s full segment, AFTER THE JUMP…