Stigmatizing attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS: validation of a measurement scale

Marianne Beaulieu, Alix Adrien, Louise Potvin, Clément Dassa
BMC Public Health 2014 December 4, 14: 1246

BACKGROUND: Although stigmatization has long been recognized as a major obstacle to HIV prevention. The lack of a valid and reliable measurement tool for stigmatization is a major gap in the research. This study aimed to: 1) develop a scale of stigmatizing attitudes towards people living with HIV (SAT-PLWHA-S) and 2) demonstrate its reliability and validity.

METHODS: French and English-speaking experts (n = 21) from different professional communities (academics, practitioners) assessed the clarity and relevance of the proposed items. The psychometric properties of the SAT-PLWHA-S were assessed with a random digit dial population based telephone survey (n = 1,500) of respondents in Quebec, Canada. Analyses included exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, correlations, multiple linear regressions, t-tests, hypothesis testing of factorial structure invariance, and Cronbach's alpha.

RESULTS: Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) supported a 27-item structure with seven factors: 1) concerns about occasional encounters; 2) avoidance of personal contact; 3) responsibility and blame, 4) liberalism, 5) non-discrimination, 6) confidentiality of seropositive status, and 7) criminalization of HIV transmission. Cronbach's alphas indicate satisfactory internal consistency. An assessment of concurrent validity using Pearson's correlation and multiple linear regression shows that homophobia and HIV transmission knowledge are significant determinants of stigmatizing attitudes toward PLHIV. Discriminant validity (t-test) results suggest that the SAT-PLWHA-S can differentiate attitudes between different groups and indicates invariant factor structure across language.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that the SAT-PLWHA-S is a reliable and valid tool for measuring stigmatizing attitudes toward PLHIV and that it can contribute to a deeper understanding of HIV stigma.

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