This study examines the association between anticipated stigma – the expectation of rejection or discrimination against by others in the event of seroconversion – and HIV testing behaviors among a sample of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women living in New York City. Data was collected from 305 volunteer participants who were 18 or older, reported as unaffected by HIV, and reported at least one instance of unprotected sex with a male partner in the last 30 days. Surveys were self-completed via computer. The authors found that approximately one third of participants had not been tested for HIV in the past six months and participants who reported higher anticipated stigma were less likely to have been tested in the past six months. The authors conclude that anticipated stigma may be an important barrier to testing behavior and that directly addressing stigma in the development of strategies for new prevention programs is necessary.
While this study is useful, it is important to note that New York City has more highly accessible LGBTQ- and HIV-related health services than other parts of the United States, which can affect testing behavior, perceived risk, and stigma. With the growing attention around prevention research and the rise of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), anti-HIV stigma campaigns targeting HIV negative individuals may have the potential to reframe social norms and attitudes towards HIV testing.