Personal Contact With HIV-Positive Persons Is Associated with Reduced HIV-Related Stigma: Cross-Sectional Analysis of General Population Surveys From 26 Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Chan, B.T., Tsai, A.C. Journal of the International AIDS Society (January 2017), 20(1): 1–8, doi:10.7448/IAS.20.1.21395.

This study examined the "contact hypothesis" and its relevance to addressing HIV-related stigma in sub-Saharan Africa. This hypothesis suggests that personal contact with people living with HIV (PLHIV) may reduce stigmatizing attitudes in the general population. The authors analyzed data on 206,717 women and 91,549 men derived from Demographic and Health Surveys and AIDS Indicator Surveys from 26 African countries between 2003 and 2008. They focused on associations between contact with PLHIV and indicators for social distance (desire to avoid PLHIV) and anticipated stigma (desire to hide the status of a known PLHIV to avoid stigma). Findings indicated that those who had personal contact with PLHIV were significantly less likely to desire social distance; a sensitivity analysis of community-level indicators had similar results. The authors found no association, either at the community or individual level, between contact with PLHIV and anticipated stigma. The association between contact with PLHIV and reduced desire for social distance does not imply a causal link, the authors said; but it does suggest that interventions to reduce stigma could benefit from extensive participation by PLHIV. They recommended further study to test the efficacy of such interventions in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.

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