XVIII International AIDS Conference


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Examining internalized stigma among people with HIV/AIDS in Puerto Rico

R. González-Arias, J. Toro-Alfonso, N. Varas-Díaz

University of Puerto Rico, Departament of Psychology, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Background: Many studies have indicated the dire consequences of stigma related to HIV / AIDS. However the majority of studies have focused on manifested stigma, and very few have focused on the internalized experience of stigma. Internalized stigma has very adverse effects on people with HIV / AIDS. It has been documented that this type of stigma negatively affects mental health and the ability to effectively manage this disease. Internalized stigma can induce feelings of shame, guilt, anger and depression in PWHA (Lee, et al., 2002). The main objective of this study was to document internalized HIV / AIDS stigma among people living with the disease in Puerto Rico.
Methods: The sample was recruited by availability and consisted of 180 participants being HIV+. Participants were recruited in clinics and community based organizations that serve in the San Juan metropolitan area. To explore internalized stigma in people with HIV in Puerto Rico, we used the Multidimensional Measure of Internalized HIV Stigma (Sayles et al., 2008). For the analysis, descriptive statistics and correlations in the statistical program SPSS were carried out.
Results: Results indicate that 75% (n=125) of the participants showed between high and moderate levels of internalized stigma. Results showed a statistically significant relationship between time of diagnosis and level of internalized stigma (r =.- 24 ** p < .001). We also found a statistically significant relationship between levels of stigma and disclosure of status (r =.- 31 ** p < .001).
Conclusions: It is necessary that people with HIV are provided with skills to deal with the consequences of internalized stigma. It is also essential that researchers and service centers understand the impact of internalized stigma so they can help fostering social support networks for PWHA to develop interventions in which PWHA con build up skills of dealing with HIV/AIDS related stigma.

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