Racialized minority and newcomer communities are over-represented in positive HIV cases in Canada. Stigma has been identified as one of the barriers to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment. Faith, media, and social justice sectors have historically served a vital role in promoting health issues in these communities. However, they have been relatively inactive in addressing HIV-related issues. The purpose of this paper is to report on the results of an exploratory study that engaged faith, media, and social justice leaders in the African-Caribbean, Asian, and Latino communities in Toronto.
This study used a qualitative interpretive design and focus groups to explore the challenges and opportunities in addressing HIV stigma. A total of 23 people living with HIV and 22 community leaders took part in seven focus groups. Intersectionality was used as an analytical lens to examine the social processes that perpetuate HIV stigma.
This paper focuses on the perspectives of community leaders. Five themes were identified: misconception of HIV as a gay disease; moralistic religious discourses perpetuate HIV stigma; invisibility of HIV reinforces community denial; need to promote awareness and compassion for people with HIV; and the power of collective community efforts within and across different sectors.
Although affected communities are faced with many challenges related to HIV stigma, effective change may be possible through concerted efforts championed by people living with HIV and community leaders. One important strategy identified by the participants is to build strategic alliances among the HIV, media, faith, social justice, and other sectors. Such alliances can develop public education and HIV champion activities to promote public awareness and positive emotional connections with HIV issues, challenge HIV stigma and related systems of oppression, and engage young people in HIV championship.