Rumours have helped to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV and AIDS.
Recently there was a story on social media which involved popular Guyanese personalities. The story was also reported by a few news sources. Social media was used to expose a young man who was rumoured to be HIV positive and who was said to be deliberately infecting others. As a result, a few of his former partners felt it necessary to reveal their HIV negative status on social media. The young woman who was known to be his most recent partner traveled to an island and produced an HIV negative test that was shared with her fans during a live broadcast to assure them that she was not infected. A few days after it was reported that she was arrested because it is alleged that she had someone impersonate her to take the HIV test.
The young man at the centre of the story died last week and many believe that cyberbullying affected him and might have been one of the factors that led to his death. Others are alleging that he was sick for a long time before his status was publicly revealed. In a news broadcast, his distraught relatives blamed the persons who were at the centre of revealing that he was HIV positive. Because the story unraveled on a public forum, many have shared their opinions, and some have not been kind in their judgement of the persons involved.
Social media continues to facilitate a malicious and hateful cycle. Many Guyanese use the platform to engage in conflicts, to expose and shame their enemies and some choose to continuously share personal details of their lives. Those who overshare are open to criticism and judgement and often the opinions are from strangers…..