The City of West Hollywood is seeking feedback about stigma experienced as a result of sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. The city’s Social Services Division is conducting a short survey as part of efforts to implement the city’s “HIV Zero Strategic Plan.” Community members, regardless of HIV status, are encouraged to provide feedback. A goal of the survey is to understand how stigma impacts access to care and overall health and wellness. The survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/hivzerosurvey.

In addition to the online survey, staff members from the city’s Social Services Division will host two HIV Zero “pop-up” events in October. The first will be held on Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the West Hollywood Library, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The second will be on Oct. 18 from 8 to 10 a.m. adjacent to Starbucks, at 8595 Santa Monica Blvd. at Westmount. Community members are invited to stop by; there will be free giveaways for people who complete surveys.

Stigma and discrimination are potentially the most difficult aspects of HIV/AIDS to address. For people living with HIV, stigma is related to negative psychosocial, physical and mental health issues such as social isolation, anxiety and depression. Among HIV-negative gay and bisexual men and transgender women, sexual orientation-based stigma and gender identity-based stigma can negatively affect mental health, coping skills and willingness to disclose important health information, which has an impact on healthcare access in everything from screenings to interventions, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). The prejudice and discrimination resulting from stigma can be overt, such as barriers to healthcare coverage or employment termination, or subtle, such as social exclusion.

A goal of the City of West Hollywood’s HIV Zero strategic plan is to build an inclusive community that supports underserved groups and honors the contributions made by people living with HIV. Addressing stigma is vital to “getting to zero,” and the community’s input is an essential component of achieving that goal.

For additional information about the city’s HIV Zero strategic plan visit www.weho.org/services/social-services/aids-hiv-resources.

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