Breaking down the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS

More than 2.5 million people have died from AIDS in the 30 years since it was first diagnosed

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s been more than ten years since Martha Lang tested positive for AIDS. “I was diagnosed in 2001; I probably had the virus many years prior to that because I got diagnosed with AIDS,” she said.

Fourteen years later, she continues to tell her story in hopes of educating people about the potentially deadly virus. It’s a story of fear, depression, and empowerment felt by more than 200 thousand women in the United States.

An HIV positive diagnosis is difficult for patients, but doctors say it’s also a challenge for them.

Dr. Daniel Skiest, the Chair of Infectious Diseases at Baystate Medical Center told 22News no matter how many times he delivers the bad news to patients, it never gets easier. “It’s always challenging, every situation is different. What I tell them is we know ways to treat people, to keep people healthy, and we really think of it more as a chronic that can be treated,” he said.

Dozens of people gathered at Baystate Medical Center on Saturday to attend the 4th annual National Women & Girl’s HIV/AIDS Conference. During the conference, women described every day challenges they face, including struggling to cope with the stigma around virus.

Dr. Eunice Aviles is a Psychotherapist who sees her patients struggling with the stigma every day. “Anxiety, fear, depression, they’re very scared of the stigma. They’re scared of the discrimination, of medications,” she said.

More than 2.5 million people have died from AIDS in the 30 years since it was first diagnosed.

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