AIDS Stigma and Sexual Prejudice, Gregory M. Herek & John Capitanio, 42 American Behavioral Scientist 1126 (1999) (preprinted version)

Research and Journal Articles

This article outlines the link between homophobia and HIV stigma, presenting new data on attitudes about HIV taken from surveys of the public. The findings demonstrate a clear link between negative attitudes about people living with HIV and negative attitudes about gay men. Moreover, although everyone who contracted HIV sexually was blamed to some extent for becoming infected, gay and bisexual men were blamed more than heterosexual men and women. The findings demonstrate that sexual prejudice is correlated with both misconceptions about HIV transmission and discomfort with HIV-infected people. A substantial portion of the public expressed concern about mere symbolic contact with people living with HIV, such as touching an article of clothing used by a person living with HIV, and this discomfort was correlated with sexual prejudice. The article discusses the disturbing implications of these findings for HIV prevention efforts and human rights, and how antigay sentiments have fueled proposals for quarantines, state sodomy laws, mandatory tattooing people living with HIV, and the elimination of laws protecting people living with HIV from discrimination, all under the guise of fighting HIV.