No laughing matter: HIV/AIDS seems as misunderstood as ever PIC: Reuters
No laughing matter: HIV/AIDS seems as misunderstood as ever (Reuters)

"Don't die of ignorance" warned a terrifying UK TV campaign about the dangers of Aids nearly 30 years ago. Yet when it comes to HIV, many people still live in ignorance today.

Much has changed since the gravestone with Aids carved on it crashed into the nation's consciousness.

Yet stigma and myth still cling to HIV like practically no other condition. So this 1 December, on World Aids Day, take the time to find out what not to say if someone reveals their HIV status to you.

"HIV is perceived to be something which has either gone away, is not relevant to them or is something that happens thousands of miles away in another country," says Simon Taylor, deputy chair of Aids charity Terrence Higgins Trust.

"This has never been further from the truth."

Hamish MacKenzie-Sempill, who has HIV, told IBTimes UK that common perceptions about the illness were out of date.

Medication has never been better for treating the condition and celebrity galas to raise awareness have helped keep HIV/Aids in the public eye.

But as the list of shame below, compiled by the Terrence Higgins Trust, illustrates, the message is just not getting through for some, a few of whom think that HIV can be passed on by sitting in a hairdresser's chair.

All these examples were said to different people with HIV after they disclosed their status, said the trust.

1. "It's really cool that you know how you're going to die."

2. "Does the treatment make you lose your hair?"

3. "Oh my God! No wonder you're so skinny."

4. "Oh, there's a pill to get rid of that now."

5. "That's impossible - you don't look like you could have it."

6. "You should keep your head down."

7. "What's that then?"

8. "You? That's weird - you're nearly celibate"

9. "I can't believe you're allowed to be a hairdresser!"

If a friend or relation confides in you this year then it is worth remembering that they are likely to be looking for comfort and support most of all.


HIV infection rates are falling across Africa, but not in Uganda. Why?

My life with HIV, by Hamish MacKenzie-Sempill

HIV and me - living with one of the world's most feared illnesses

Watch the 1980s UK 'tombstone' campaign on YouTube, below: