Words by Mark Mesiti | @P3Parents 

Despite significant medical advances, increased awareness and the ability to live a full life with HIV, a social stigma still exists around people with HIV having a family.

This stigma does not just affect the LGBT community; it is very much a mainstream issue.

Does a stigma exist?

With almost 50% of HIV-positive respondents in a recent European study commissioned by Gilead Sciences, stating that they felt having HIV would be a barrier to them having a family, it is evident that stigma surrounding parenting with HIV is very real.

The P3 Network, the organisation that aims to better support LGBT people who are looking to become parents, who already have children and representing non-traditional families, has found among its own network of HIV-positive heterosexual and LGBT parents and prospective parents, that the stigma persists.

People living with HIV often feel cut off from society and judged by their decision to become parents. Because HIV is still viewed by mainstream society as predominately an LGBT issue, HIV-positive parents and prospective parents (irrespective of their sexual orientation) unfortunately bear not only the brunt of a historical HIV stigma, but also stigma surrounding LGBT people becoming parents.

How can we end the stigma?

The first step in breaking down the stigma is awareness. That’s not just awareness around the realities of life with HIV now - with the advancement in medication and people now living long, healthy lives -  but also letting

HIV-positive people know that being a parent is an

option to them. It’s something that isn’t off the table.

“HIV isn’t just an LGBT issue; it is a global issue,” says Michael Newton, the COO of The P3 Network. “As a gay man living with HIV it concerns me that 68% of people living with HIV live in fear of disclosing their  status, and nearly 50% believe that having HIV is a barrier to having a family.”

This is why The P3 Network is spearheading a new ‘Positive Parenting’ campaign, with a key message: ‘HIV doesn’t define a parent’s power to love #endHIVstigma’, backed by organisations including the British HIV Association and Children’s HIV Association.

As well as spreading this powerful message, an online resource hub at  www.hivandfamily.com, will provide useful, up to date resources and a directory of relevant support to those with HIV who are looking to start a family - as well as those who just want to know more.

We believe that education amongst both HIV-positive people and mainstream society is the key to unlocking stigma, and the website will seek to demystify what  having a family for HIV-positive parents entails and shine a light on the fact that it’s perfectly safe.

“This mentality is the driving force behind our mission,” explains Michael. “We want to break down these stigmas - our message truly is that ‘HIV doesn’t define a parent’s power to love’.”