Working in collaboration with the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA), CSRH has recently completed an online study assessing the experiences of stigma among people living with HIV (PLHIV). Survey data was collected from 697 PLHIV, while NAPWA conducted additional in-depth interviews with 31 PLHIV. Findings show that the health and wellbeing consequences of stigma are different and more severe for people with visible HIV-related symptoms, but data also show that attachment to an HIV-positive community acts as a buffer against these negative consequences. This study also highlights different experiences of stigma for different social groups in the Australian context, particularly by exploring the experiences of stigma for heterosexual and homosexual PLHIV. Findings suggest that heterosexual PLHIV appear to experience more stigma than homosexual PLHIV and are less likely to access HIV treatment. Furthermore, the research also indicates that consequences of experienced stigma are mediated by psychological resilience. This raises the possibility that stigma not only affects health and wellbeing outcomes, but can also deplete critical coping resources, which further compounds the deleterious impact of stigma on PLHIV. While many studies have identified the negative consequences of HIV-related stigma, our research extends these findings by providing evidence that such stigma is multifaceted and may be experienced differently by different PLHIV. It also highlights buffering variables, which may potentially protect PLHIV from some of the negative consequences of stigma. These variables are both external (HIV-positive community attachment) and internal (resilience) to the individual and form appropriate targets for the development of novel interventions.
Levi Strauss Foundation
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing