“At the university where I study, there was a student who was denied the right to do practical work with others simply because he was HIV positive.”– Participant in the Positive Learning youth consultations (Western and Central Africa).

The Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination includes a targeted focus on ending stigma and discrimination in education settings. There continue to be major issues facing learners living with HIV, whether self-stigma (especially post-diagnosis), or stigma and discrimination from their peers, healthcare professionals or teachers.

HIV-related stigma and discrimination can also intersect with other forms, such as those related to sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, disability, race/ethnicity/indigenous identity, mental health or substance use.

Stigma and discrimination can manifest themselves in many ways, ranging from hurtful remarks and exclusion from activities to violent attacks. Educational institutions must provide staff as well as learners with accurate information about HIV that supplants ignorance, misunderstanding and fear, along with opportunities for them to reflect on their own attitudes, values and behaviours that perpetuate the problem. This includes attitudes, values and behaviours in relation to key populations.

In addition to directly tackling external stigma and discrimination, it is important to support learners who are living with or affected by HIV to overcome internalised stigma, as a key contribution to building their resilience and sense of self-worth.

It is worth remembering that the education sector, particularly in generalised epidemics or settings where HIV prevalence is relatively high, includes many teachers and other staff who are themselves living with or affected by HIV. They also experience social exclusion, stigmatisation and discrimination, inadequate care and support, physical debilitation, psychological stress and depression, and may themselves be subject to intimate partner violence or gender-based violence, all of which may result in them being unable to perform at optimal level in school.

When teachers are struggling with HIV-related issues in their own lives, it is difficult for them to provide effective support to adolescents and young people. Providing an inclusive and supportive environment for teachers and other staff living with HIV is an essential part of positive learning.

Ending HIV-related stigma, discrimination, bullying & violence



3.1Develop and enforce a specific sector-wide policy on ending HIV-related stigma, discrimination, bullying (including cyber-bullying) and violence or, in settings where prevalence is relatively low, ensure that HIV is integrated into non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies. This should include workplace protection and support for teachers and other staff living with HIV.  

3.2As part of such policies, develop and implement codes of behaviour with a specific focus on preventing and addressing bullying and violence based on health status, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.  

3.3Establish safe reporting mechanisms for instances of stigma, discrimination, bullying and violence (not just about HIV, but also other types that adolescents and young people living with HIV may face), whether perpetrated by students or by school staff. Mechanisms must be easily accessible and confidential, with the best interests of the victim/survivor at the centre, and must ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.

3.4Establish or strengthen linkages with the health sector to ensure timely access to services, especially those preventing/addressing gender-based violence and providing mental health support, including helping adolescents and young people living with HIV to deal with internalized self-stigma.

3.5Head teachers and school staff should promote a school culture of inclusion, non-discrimination and support, and actively engage parents/caregivers, teachers’ unions and community members in stigma reduction and promoting inclusive, gender-transformative education.

3.6Promote legal literacy for adolescents and young people living with HIV and young key populations, in school or through linkages to out-of-school programmes, to help them know their rights and understand the policies and legal context in their locality and country.

3.7Offer role models: invite people living with HIV who are open about their status to talk with learners and the wider school community, and promote media (television and radio programmes, soap operas, talk shows, podcasts) that present role models who are living with HIV and that provide accurate, inclusive, rights-based information about HIV.