AIDS stigmas delay HIV diagnosis, interfere with health care, and contribute to mental health problems among people living with HIV. While there are few studies of the geographical distribution of AIDS stigma, research suggests that AIDS stigmas are differentially experienced in rural and urban areas. We conducted computerized interviews with 696 men and women living with HIV in 113 different zip code areas that were classified as large-urban, small-urban, and rural areas in a southeast US state with high-HIV prevalence. Analyses conducted at the individual level (N = 696) accounting for clustering at the zip code level showed that internalized AIDS-related stigma (e.g., the sense of being inferior to others because of HIV) was experienced with greater magnitude in less densely populated communities. Multilevel models indicated that after adjusting for potential confounding factors, rural communities reported greater internalized AIDS-related stigma compared to large-urban areas and that small-urban areas indicated greater experiences of enacted stigma (e.g., discrimination) than large-urban areas. The associations between anticipated AIDS-related stigma (e.g., expecting discrimination) and population density at the community-level were not significant. Results suggest that people living in rural and small-urban settings experience greater AIDS-related internalized and enacted stigma than their counterparts living in large-urban centers. Research is needed to determine whether low-density population areas contribute to or are sought out by people who experienced greater AIDS-related stigma. Regardless of causal directions, interventions are needed to address AIDS-related stigma, especially among people in sparsely populated areas with limited resources.
Prevention Science – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 11, 2017
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