HIV-Related Stigma: The New Survey
Edinburgh University urges people living with HIV from around the world to take part in the study of HIV stigma.
Stigma, which is an unfair, negative belief held about a group of people for being different, is important in HIV as it can affect people’s quality of life. As a result of stigma people may not want to tell others about having HIV, may feel low in mood and they might not want to get tested to find out if they have HIV for fear of being treated differently. Knowing what factors affect the relationship between stigma and quality of life can help with treatments to improve overall well-being.
Some research in other stigmatised groups has found that if people are subjected to stigma they will become less compassionate (kind and understanding) towards themselves and this may make them more likely to feel low. One aim of this study is to investigate whether self-compassion affects the relationship between stigma and well-being in people living with HIV.
Studies have also found that when people are discriminated against they start to believe the negative things others say about them and the content of their own thoughts about themselves becomes more judgemental and negative. This in turn makes them feel low in mood and more anxious. Research has also found that it is not only the content of thoughts about ourselves that is important but also how preoccupied we are with them. For example, if someone has negative beliefs about themselves due to stigma, if they become very preoccupied with these thoughts rather than shaking them off as ‘just thoughts’, they are likely to be more upset by them. So the content of thoughts and the way people relate to them can be important in the relationship between stigma and quality of life. The study aims to explore if this is the case in people living with HIV.
In summary, the aim of the study is to explore if self-compassion, the content of thoughts and the way people relate to their thoughts play a role in the relationship between stigma and quality of life.
In 2017 HIV Ireland launched a major study on HIV stigma. The findings were grim, with 17% of those living with the virus reporting suicidal feelings last year. The study showcased the level of HIV-related stigma and perceived stigma, with 88% of those polled agreeing that ‘some people believe that having HIV is shameful’.
In 2016 a Terrence Higgins Trust survey revealed that nearly one in three Britons wrongly believed that HIV can be transmitted by sharing toothbrushes, while one in five think that it can be transmitted by kissing.