Stigmatization keeps many lessons of HIV pandemic from reaching society.

The HIV pandemic afflicted the LGBTQI+ community especially early: people who were already stigmatized. Researchers from Bielefeld University’s School of Public Health argue that stigmatization stifled the lessons of HIV pandemic being extended to other parts of society. This has implications for the Covid 19 pandemic. In the journal Science they present how society can learn from the experiences of those living in stigmatized communities. Their contribution is part of a program that is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research at the Research Institute Social Cohesion.

The result of stigmatization is to discredit the knowledge that some individuals have gained and the experiences they have gained as stated by Professor Dr Oliver Razum. He is the Director of the Department of Epidemiology and International Public Health of the School of Public Health. “This was the case during HIV pandemic. Because people belonging to the LGBTQI+ community were considered to be a burden, their experiences of AIDS and the pandemic were deemed to be devalued. LGBTQI+ stands for bisexual, gay, lesbian trans, queer, and intersex.

This is why stigmatization results in many lessons from the HIV pandemic not being able to reach the general public. The information is available, but it’s not accessible,’ says Dr Yudit Namer who co-authored the letter with Razum in the journal Science and is also an investigator in the same department. This has implications for the Covid 19 epidemic. For instance, with the help of protective measures, HIV-affected communities have learned how to improve the acceptance of barrier methods–such as condoms. These lessons were lost to the wider society and had to again be learned when it came to wear masks as protection measures.

Stigmatization also harms social cohesion. It keeps social groups small or exempt which can cause marginalization of them and push them towards the edges, which perpetuates inequalities. Namer and Razum have published a letter that is now embedded in their project titled “Health Care for Marginalized Groups: An indicator of Societal Cohesion” This is a sub-project at the Research Institute Social Cohesion.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is in support of the FGZ

The FGZ is an association that is comprised of eleven research centers and universities, including Bielefeld University. Since 2020, it is being supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for an initial period of four years. In their sub-project, Namer and Razum are looking into how different marginalized groups have access to healthcare and how it improves or undermines social cohesion.

The Science project was prepared by researchers. The collective experiences of marginalized groups are often left out even in research. Razum states that both the HIV and Covid 19 pandemics are examples of the importance for researchers to consider their perspectives.

Scientists have proposed a variety of research methods that can help us learn from the experiences of the LGBTQI+ community during HIV pandemic. These include digital “archives for survivorship’ which collect the existing film and text material as well as interviews with the affected. In participatory action research, people from the affected community are also involved in research as researchers themselves by developing their own research questions or conducting surveys.

Stigmatization needs to be fought with research.

Namer and Razum stress that this isn’t about claiming that marginalized groups learn more from their experiences. “It is the marginalized that need to learn from the experiences of those affected,” Razum says. Namer states that this is just a first step and must be followed by combating marginalization and stigmatization.

In other research projects, the scientists are also focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups. Razum is the spokesperson for the PH-LENS research team, which draws on the example of refugees’ health to examine health inequalities across the board across Germany. The German Research Foundation (DFG) will continue to support the research group until 2022.

Razum states, “Our research serves as an magnifying glass: it is not just about learning about marginalized groups’ experiences but as well to draw generalizations about health and society from their experiences.”

Journal reference:

Namer, Y & Razum, O., (2021) Collective agency transforms societies. Science.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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