The stigma surrounding HIV has diminished drastically since it first appeared in mainstream nearly three decades ago. People no longer where face masks when they come in contact with an HIV positive client. And HIV positive people rarely suffer the public degradation and humiliation they did before. Education about the disease has contributed greatly to this shift. It has been well established that HIV/AIDs cannot be passed from one person to another through casual contact or by breathing the same air. However, sexual contact, blood transfusions, and intravenous drug use are ways the virus can be passed. Despite this knowledge, a large number of at risk individuals, specifically, men who have sex with other men and IV drug users, still do not get tested for HIV.
Valerie A. Earnshaw of the School of Public Health and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS at Yale University wanted to find out why those most likely to contract the disease were the least likely to get tested for it. In a recent study, Earnshaw looked at discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes as impediments to testing in a sample of 93 participants receiving methadone treatment. All of the participants were HIV negative, but were at high risk of contracting HIV. Earnshaw surveyed the participants and found that discrimination and prejudice related towards HIV did not contribute to testing resistance, but stigma did.
Specifically, Earnshaw discovered that the stereotype surrounding the HIV individual negatively impacted willingness to get tested. The more they endorsed the stereotype, the more they perceived their risk for HIV to be minimal. Therefore, they didn’t get tested as often as those who thought there risk for HIV was higher. In sum, the participants who endorsed the stereotype felt a strong disconnection from that image, believing that “they were not one of THEM.” This study underscores the importance of addressing the cognitive appraisals surrounding HIV, and not just the behaviors that put people at risk. “Differentiating between HIV stigma mechanisms in future work can provide critical insight into how to intervene in HIV stigma to increase HIV testing and improve HIV prevention among at-risk populations,” said Earnshaw.
Earnshaw, Valerie A., Laramie R. Smith, Stephanie R. Chaudoir, I-Ching Lee, and Michael M. Copenhaver. Stereotypes about people living with HIV: Implications for perceptions of HIV risk and testing frequency among at-risk populations. AIDS Education & Prevention 24.6 (2012): 574-81. Print.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.