Stigma, disclosure, and psychological functioning among HIV-infected and non-infected African-American women

Heather Jordon Clark, Gretchen Lindner, Lisa Armistead, Barbara-Jeanne Austin
Women & Health 2003, 38 (4): 57-71
HIV is on the rise among African-American women. AIDS-related stigma plays an important role in the lives of HIV-infected and non-infected African-American women. Among HIV-infected women, the decision to disclose HIV seropositive status is likely affected by perceived stigma. The first purpose of the study is to examine perceived AIDS-related stigma over a six year period and across two groups of African-American women: HIV-infected and non-infected. The second purpose of the study examines whether disclosure of HIV seropositive status moderates the relationship between stigma and psychological functioning. Participants were 98 HIV-infected and 146 non-infected African-American women, between the ages of 18 and 50. Data were collected at four points across six years. Results indicated that HIV-infected women perceived a significantly higher level of AIDS-related stigma than non-infected women at all four assessments. Perceptions of stigma did not significantly change over time for the entire sample or within either HIV group. Among HIV-infected women, as the level of perceived stigma increased, the level of disclosure and psychological functioning decreased. Regarding the hypothesized moderating relationship, at high, but not low, levels of disclosure, the relationship between stigma and distress was significant. Implications for health professionals' work with HIV-infected African-American women around the issue of disclosure and stigma are discussed.

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