Normative vs personal attitudes toward persons with HIV, and the mediating role of perceived HIV stigma in rural Uganda

Alexander C. Tsai, Bernard Kakuhikire, Jessica M. Perkins, Jordan M. Downey, Charles Baguma, Emily N. Satinsky, Patrick Gumisiriza, Justus Kananura, David R. Bangsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: HIV stigma has well-documented negative impacts on HIV testing, transmission risk behavior, initiation of and adherence to antiretroviral therapy, and retention in care. We sought to assess the extent to which anticipated HIV stigma is based on misperceptions of normative attitudes toward persons with HIV, and to determine whether persons with HIV have stronger misperceptions compared with HIV-negative persons or persons of unknown serostatus. We also sought to estimate the association between normative attitudes about persons with HIV and personal attitudes about persons with HIV, and to determine the extent to which anticipated stigma mediates this association. Methods: We conducted a whole-population survey of 1776 persons living in 8 rural villages in southwestern Uganda. Negative attitudes toward persons with HIV, and anticipated stigma, were measured using a newly validated 15-item scale measuring multiple dimensions of HIV stigma, including social distance, blaming attitudes, and concerns about reciprocity. We used multivariable regression to estimate the association between normative attitudes about persons with HIV and personal attitudes toward persons with HIV, and to determine the extent to which perceptions of normative attitudes (anticipated stigma) mediated this association. Results: Study participants believed that negative attitudes toward persons with HIV were more pervasive than they actually are. Perceptions of the extent to which these negative attitudes are normative mediated more than one-third of the association between normative attitudes and their personal attitudes. In contrast to what we originally hypothesized, persons with HIV were less likely to misperceive these norms and perceived normative attitudes to be less stigmatizing than did others in the general population. Conclusions: Interventions designed to accurately describe normative attitudes toward persons with HIV may reduce HIV stigma without directly focusing on the educational components that are typically embedded in anti-stigma interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4956
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of global health
Volume11
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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