Rationale Cross-sectional studies demonstrate that perceived discrimination is related to the psychological and physical well-being of stigmatized people. The theoretical and empirical foci of most of this research in on how racial discrimination undermines well-being. The present study takes a transactional approach to examine people with HIV, a potentially concealable stigma. Hypothesis The transactional approach posits that even as discrimination adversely affects the psychological well-being of people with HIV, psychological distress also makes them more sensitive to perceiving that they may be or have been stigmatized, and may increase the chances that other people actually do stigmatize them. Methods This hypothesis was tested in a longitudinal study in which 216 New England residents with HIV were recruited to complete measures of perceived HIV stigma and well-being across three time points, approximately 90 days apart. This study also expanded on past research by assessing anticipated and internalized stigma as well as perceived discrimination. Results Results indicated that all of these aspects of HIV stigma prospectively predicted psychological distress, thriving, and physical well-being. Equally important, psychological distress and thriving also prospectively predicted all three aspects of HIV stigma, but physical well-being did not. Conclusion These findings suggest that people with HIV are ensnared in a cycle in which experiences of stigma and reduced psychological well-being mutually reinforce each other.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- History and Philosophy of Science