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Attitudes towards AIDS have been closely studied by psychologists since the condition became widespread.



AIDS Awareness Sign. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (August 2005).

AIDS stigma exists around the world in a variety of ways, including ostracism, rejection, discrimination and avoidance of HIV infected people; compulsory HIV testing without prior consent or protection of confidentiality; violence against HIV infected individuals or people who are perceived to be infected with HIV; and the quarantine of HIV infected individuals.[1] Stigma-related violence or the fear of violence prevents many people from seeking HIV testing, returning for their results, or securing treatment, possibly turning what could be a manageable chronic illness into a death sentence and perpetuating the spread of HIV.[2]

AIDS stigma has been further divided into the following three categories:

  1. Instrumental AIDS stigma—a reflection of the fear and apprehension that are likely to be associated with any deadly and transmissible illness.[3]
  2. Symbolic AIDS stigma—the use of HIV/AIDS to express attitudes toward the social groups or lifestyles perceived to be associated with the disease.[3]
  3. Courtesy AIDS stigma—stigmatization of people connected to the issue of HIV/AIDS or HIV- positive people.[4]

Often, AIDS stigma is expressed in conjunction with one or more other stigmas, particularly those associated with homosexuality, bisexuality, promiscuity, and intravenous drug use.

In many developed countries, there is an association between AIDS and homosexuality or bisexuality, and this association is correlated with higher levels of sexual prejudice such as anti-homosexual attitudes.[5] There is also a perceived association between all male-male sexual behavior and AIDS, even sex between two uninfected men.

Those most likely to hold misconceptions about HIV transmission and to harbor HIV/AIDS stigma are less educated people and people with high levels of religiosity or conservative political ideology.[3][5][6]

For more details on this topic, see Stigma and HIV-AIDS, A review of the literature[7]

See also[]

References & Bibliography[]

  1. UNAIDS (2006). "The impact of AIDS on people and societies" 2006 Report on the global AIDS epidemic (PDF). URL accessed 2006-06-14.
  2. Ogden, J. and Nyblade, L. (2005). Common at its core: HIV-related stigma across contexts. (PDF) International Center for Research on Women. URL accessed on 2007-02-15.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Herek, G. M. and Capitanio, J. P. (1999). AIDS Stigma and sexual prejudice. (PDF) Am. Behav, Scientist. URL accessed on 2006-03-27.
  4. Snyder M, Omoto AM, Crain AL. (1999). Punished for their good deeds: stigmatization for AIDS volunteers. American Behavioral Scientist 42 (7): 1175–1192.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Herek GM, Capitanio JP, Widaman KF. (2002). HIV-related stigma and knowledge in the United States: prevalence and trends, 1991–1999. Am. J. Public Health. 92 (3): 371–377.
  6. Herek, GM, Widaman, KF, Capitanio, JP (2005). When sex equals AIDS: Symbolic stigma and heterosexual adults’ inaccurate beliefs about sexual transmission of AIDS. Social Problems. 52 (1): 15–37.
  7. United States Health Resources and Services Administration. Stigma and HIV-AIDS, A review of the literature. HRSA. URL accessed on 2006-03-24.

Key texts[]



  • Annas G (1998) . Protecting patients from discrimination: the Americans with Disabilities Act and HIV infection. N Engl J Med.;339:1255-9.
    • Brown L, Macintyre K, Trujillo L (2003). Interventions to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma: what have we learned? AIDS Educ Prev.;15(1):49-69.
  • Brown L, Trujillo L, MacIntyre K (2001). Interventions to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma: what have we learned? Horizons Program, Tulane University. September [ litrvwstigdisc.pdf. Full text]
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2000). HIV-related knowledge and stigma—United States, MMWR.;49(47):1062-4.
  • Chesney MA, Smith AW (1999). Critical delays in HIV testing and care: the potential role of stigma. Am Behav Scientist.;42(7):1162-74.
  • Gerbert B, Maguire BT, Bleeker T, Coates TJ, McPhee SJ (1991). Primary care physicians and AIDS: attitudinal and structural barriers to care. JAMA.:266:2837-42.
  • Gerbert B, Sumser J, Maguire BT (1991). The impact of who you know and where you live on opinions about AIDS and health care. Social Science and Medicine.;32:677-81.
  • Gielen AC, O’Campo P, Faden RR, Eke A (1997). Women’s disclosure of HIV status: experiences of mistreatment and violence in an urban setting. Women’s Health.;25:19-31.
  • Herek GM. (1999) AIDS and stigma. Am Behav Scientist.;42(7):1106-16. [ http:// Full text].
  • Herek GM. (1990) Illness, stigma and AIDS. In: VandenBos GR, ed. Psychological Aspects of Serious Illness. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association;.
  • Herek GM, Capitanio JP. (1999) AIDS stigma and sexual prejudice Am Behav Scientist.;42(7):1126-43.
  • Herek GM, Capitanio JP. (1998) Symbolic prejudice or fear of infection? A functional analysis of AIDS-related stigma among heterosexual adults. Basic App Soc Psychol.;20(3):230-41.
  • Herek GM, Capitanio JP. (1997) AIDS stigma and contact with persons with AIDS: effects of direct and vicarious contact. J Appl Soc Psychol.;27(1):1-36.
  • Herek GM, Capitanio JP. (1993) Public reactions to AIDS in the United States: a second decade of stigma. Am J Public Health.;83(4):574-7.
  • Herek GM, Capitanio JP, Widaman KF. (2002) HIV-related stigma and knowledge in the United States: prevalence and trends, 1991–1999. Am J Public Health.;92(3):371-7.
  • Herek GM, Gillis JR, Cogan J. (1999) Psychological sequelae of hate crime victimization among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults. J Consult Clin Psychol.;67(6) 945-51.
  • Herek GM, et al. (1998) AIDS and stigma: a conceptual framework and research. AIDS Public Policy J.;13(1):36-47.
  • Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). (2002) A Conceptual Framework and Basis for Action: HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination. Geneva, Switzerland: UNAIDS;.
  • Kaiser Health Poll Report. (2000) Relationship between stigma and HIV testing,. Full text.
  • Klein SJ, Karchner WD, O’Connell DA. (2002) Interventions to prevent HIV-related stigma and discrimination: findings and recommendations for public health practice. J Public Health Manage Pract.;8(6):44-53.
  • Myers T, Orr KW, Locker D, Jackson EA. (1993) Factors affecting gay and bisexual men’s decisions and intentions to seek HIV testing. Am J Public Health.;83:701-4.
  • Rozin P, Markwith M, McCauly C. ( 1994) Sensitivity to indirect contacts with other persons: AIDS aversion as a composite of aversion to strangers, infection, moral taint, and misfortune. J Abnorm Psychol.;103(3):495-503.
  • Snyder M, Omoto AM, Crain AL(1999). Punished for their good deeds: stigmatization for AIDS volunteers. Am Behav Scientist.;42(7):1175-92.
  • Weinberger M, Conover CJ, Samsa GP, Greenberg SM. (1992) Physicians’ attitudes and practices regarding treatment of HIV-infected patients. South Med J.;85:683-6.
  • Zierler S, et al. (2000) Violence victimization after HIV infection in a U.S. probability sample of adult patients in primary care. Am J Public Health.;90(2):208-14.

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