The Role of Stigma Management in HIV Treatment Adherence.

Document Type


Publication Date




Journal Title

Int J Environ Res Public Health

MeSH Headings

Social stigma, Treatment Adherence and Compliance, HIV Infections


Social stigma is linked to improper HIV treatment adherence, but how stigma impairs adherence outcomes is poorly understood. This study included 93 people living with HIV in the United States who participated in focus groups or one-on-one interviews regarding how stigma might affect medication management. Latent content analysis and constant comparative techniques of participant responses that were produced three thematic groupings that described how participants (a) orient to HIV stigma, (b) manage HIV stigma in ways that directly impair treatment adherence, and (c) manage HIV stigma in ways that may indirectly impair adherence. These findings illustrate the need to understand how patients orient to HIV stigma when prescribing medications and the complications that are inherent to such assessments. In addition, these findings provide a simple framework for organizing the different ways in which stigma management strategies may disrupt treatment adherence. Conceptually, these findings also offer a paradigm shift to extent theories on disclosure and concealment, in which only disclosure has been cast as an active process. These findings demonstrate how concealment is far from a passive default, often requiring enormous effort. Ultimately, these findings may guide intervention programs that help to entirely eliminate HIV by promoting optimized counseling and subsequent treatment adherence.