This study examines the experiences of 50 male U.S. military veterans living with HIV and their perceptions of HIV stigma within health care contexts. Participants described a variety of behaviors performed by health care personnel as stigmatizing, ranging from nonverbal cues to blatant discrimination and physical abuse. These findings are particularly useful in that they (1) focus on health care personnel's actual behaviors rather than their attitudes and beliefs about HIV-positive patients, (2) include patients' perceptions regarding the behaviors of both clinical and nonclinical health care personnel, and (3) identify behaviors patients perceive as stigmatizing that are unique to health care contexts. Combined, these findings provide health care personnel a tangible list of behaviors that should either be avoided or further explained to HIV-positive patients, as they may be interpreted as stigmatizing. The study also discusses the prevalence of stigma and how stigma can constitute a public health problem by preventing people living with HIV from accessing care, creating additional stress and health problems, and preventing people with HIV from disclosing their status.
The Center for HIV Law and Policy is a national resource and advocacy organization working to advance the rights of people affected by HIV. We combine an online HIV Policy Resource Bank, a creative national advocacy agenda, and case assistance focused on systems and institutions with significant impact on marginalized communities.