Stigma and metaphors built around HIV/AIDS have drawn academic and public interest. Particularly interesting is that the severity of the AIDS pandemic has transformed our lives profoundly, and that stigma experienced by persons living with the disease has grave consequences for public health efforts. Stigma constitutes prejudice, discrimination, categorisation, differentiation, and stereotyping. The phobia and metaphorical references attached to HIV/AIDS marshal fear, isolation and shame. Powerful metaphors have been mobilised around HIV/AIDS to reinforce stigmatisation. The word plague, for example,(derived from the Latin form plaga for collective calamity) is the principal metaphor by which the epidemic has come to be known in modern society. This conception of the disease contributes to the resonance of the inexorability and inescapability of HIV-infection. It also produces laxity on individual protection. Such thinking has been fostered by some religious leaders who have come to see the presence of HIV/AIDS as a fulfilment of apocalyptic prophecy. A sign for the end of time and a general punishment for immorality! The conception of suffering from HIV/AIDS as a consequence of immorality leads to the view of the epidemic as a disease of others and thus leads to the rejection and discrimination of those suffering from it. Getting the HI-virus is regarded as a wilful act that deserves punishment.
Another conjecture that has often come with HIV-related stigma is the popular discourse which equates testing HIV-positive to having AIDS yet testing positive points to the presence not of the HI-virus per se but of the antibodies to the virus. Nonetheless, this perception is so strong that once a person is diagnosed HIV-positive, people often see the person as “already dead!” While death may be inevitable for a person living with HIV/AIDS, it is often quickened by the landscape of “social terror” that produces anxiety and stress for sufferers. Metaphors kill because they make people to be irrationally fearful of even effective measures and foster credence in virtually useless remedies such as sleeping with virgins as a cure for HIV/AIDS as some reports say in South Africa. In light of the above, I want to argue that the mystifications and metaphoric trappings that have been built around HIV/AIDS have produced a profound impact on social and moral responses to the epidemic. It is, therefore, important for public health practitioners to deal with stigma because it is one of the greatest barriers to HIV/AIDS disclosure.