Clinical Implications of Stigma in HIV/AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections

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This study sought to identify stigma differences between HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Interviewees from Alabama, USA (n=537) rated two types of stigma (damage to social reputation and

This study sought to identify stigma differences between HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Interviewees from Alabama, USA (n=537) rated two types of stigma (damage to social reputation and “moral weakness”) for seven infections ranging from “nuisance” conditions (e.g., pubic lice) to life-threatening disease (e.g., HIV/AIDS). When asked which of the seven STIs would be most damaging to reputation, 74.8% of respondents chose HIV/AIDS. However, when asked to choose which STI represented moral weakness in infected persons, HIV/AIDS was rated as significantly lower than the other STIs, which suggests that HIV/AIDS is perceived differently than non-HIV STIs. This study addresses the possibility that advances in public awareness of HIV/AIDS have not necessarily been extrapolated into awareness of other STIs. Clinicians should be aware of these high levels of stigma as potential barriers to treatment for all STIs. Public health officials should consider the impact of undifferentiated stigma on STI prevention messages.