JOURNAL ARTICLE

The theoretical basis of stigma as applied to genital herpes

Carmen Radecki Breitkopf
Herpes: the Journal of the IHMF 2004, 11 (1): 4-7
15115630
This paper defines stigma and its characteristics, outlines strategies and consequences of stigma management, describes the theoretical basis of stigma, and offers methodological considerations for those applying stigma theory to the domain of genital herpes. Stigma is an interactional process, defined within societies, in which particular social identities are collectively devalued. The subjective experience of stigma may vary due to features associated with the stigmatizing condition (e.g. concealability, course, strain, aesthetic qualities, cause and peril). The interpersonal management of stigma may include secrecy, withdrawal, covering, informing or disclosing. Future research addressing herpes-associated stigma should benefit from theoretical frameworks including attribution theory, social-cognitive theory, preoccupation model of secrecy and the illness intrusiveness framework, although the difficulty in identifying and recruiting stigmatized individuals and the lack of domain-specific measures of herpes-related stigma remain barriers to progress.

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