From victim to denier: Romanian MSMs' strategies to
cope with HIV - implications on support interventions
T. Kovacs, T. Ban
PSI Romania, Programs, Bucharest, Romania
Background: Little research has documented lifestyle changes
among HIV infected men who have sex with men and how double stigma impacts their
wellbeing. For PSI/Romania, implementer of peer support activities for
HIV-positive MSM, it is essential to understand the perception of stigma and
the associated coping mechanisms, that can be harmful for them and for negative
and assumed negative MSM.
Methods: PSI Romania conducted a qualitative study
involving face-to-face interviews with 17 HIV-positive MSM split between
different age groups, infection time spans, relationship status and from urban/rural
areas. Data was collected using in-depth spoken narrative interviews, to assess
the perception of stigma and the main coping mechanisms.
Results: Findings show HIV-positive MSM face stigma from
the society as a whole and also from other MSM (double stigma). The researchers
identified four archetypes within the target group: The Victim, The Condemned, The
Denialist and The Fighter.
[subsegm MSM living with HIV]
Sero-conversion brings fundamental changes in
self-perception, social life and sexual behaviors, adding
a “moral” response to the pressure for unsafe sex. Strategies for status
disclosure are different among these subgroups, depending on the expectations
from the addressee, the relationship type with the addressee, the anticipated disclosure
Conclusions: The findings are used to refine activities
to meet the needs of all four categories of HIV-positive MSM, while working to
address HIV-related stigma that often leads them to self-imposed isolation. The
peer support network for MSM living with HIV can only be supported properly or
expected to develop if these categories are considered.
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