HIV-Related Stigma and Knowledge
in the U.S., 1991-1999




People with AIDS (PWAs) and the social groups to which they belong have been stigmatized worldwide since the epidemic began. Stigma has interfered with effective societal response to AIDS and has imposed hardships on people living with HIV as well as their loved ones, caregivers, and communities.

PWAs have been shunned by strangers and family members, discriminated against in employment and health care, driven from their homes, and subjected to physical abuse. Fear of stigma has deterred individuals from being tested for HIV and from disclosing their seropositive status to sexual partners, family, and friends.

Among the US public, AIDS stigma has been manifested in the form of anger and other negative feelings toward PWAs; beliefs that they deserve their illness; avoidance and ostracism; and support for coercive public policies that threaten their human rights.

Stigmatizing attitudes are strongly correlated with misunderstanding the mechanisms of HIV transmission and overestimating the risks of casual contact and with negative attitudes toward social groups disproportionately affected by the epidemic, especially gay men and injecting drug users.

The present study was conducted to describe the prevalence and nature of AIDS-related stigma in the United States using data from surveys conducted with national probability samples of US adults in 1997 and 1999. In addition, trends in stigma throughout the 1990s are identified by examining data from the present study in conjunction with previously-reported findings from a comparable 1991 survey.

    Sample and methodology

Download a copy of the full report, HIV-related stigma and knowledge in the United States: Prevalence and trends, 1991-1999.

    AIDS Stigma Page
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