HIV Stigma

What is HIV stigma?

HIV stigma is the term for negative attitudes, beliefs, and judgments about people living with, perceived to be living with, or at risk for HIV.

HIV stigma has been around since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began. Lack of knowledge, fear, and the spreading of public rumors are among the many causes of HIV stigma. Although there have been great advancements in HIV prevention and treatment, there are still misconceptions about HIV that continue to fuel HIV stigma today.

What is the difference between HIV stigma and discrimination?

Stigma refers to attitudes and beliefs, while discrimination refers to people’s actions, behaviors, and treatment of others due to those attitudes and beliefs.

Stigma drives discrimination. Discriminatory acts and behaviors create barriers and exclusions in many sectors of society such as healthcare, employment, and housing for individuals living with HIV.


Internalized HIV Stigma

When someone takes negative thoughts, feelings, and stereotypes about HIV and applies them to themselves — this can result in shame and depression.

If you or someone you know is experiencing concerns due to internalized HIV stigma consider a consultation with their primary care provider for medically accurate HIV information and support. If concerns begin to manifest into emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety or depression consult a mental health professional for assistance. If you’re a patient of Prism Health North Texas, you can access our behavioral health services by speaking to your case manager.

Examples of HIV Stigma

  • People assuming, they can be exposed to HIV through casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands with a person living with HIV.
  • Believing only certain groups of people are at risk of exposure to HIV due to their sexual orientation.
  • Judging and stereotyping people living with HIV or people who take preventative measures against HIV.
  • Believing an HIV diagnosis results only in death and is not a manageable health condition.

Examples of HIV Discrimination

  • Avoiding or not wanting to be in the same room with someone because of their HIV status.
  • The refusal of housing access based on someone living with HIV.
  • The refusal of health care services to someone living with HIV.
  • The firing of an employee because they are living with HIV.
Silhouette of young man feeling sad

The Effects of HIV Stigma

HIV stigma and discrimination can affect a person’s mental health and overall well-being. It can also negatively affect a person’s personal, work, and social life. People who experience HIV stigma also experience internalized stigma, which can lead to increased feelings of shame, isolation, and fear.

The fear of HIV stigma and discrimination discourages many from disclosing their status or getting tested and treated for HIV. HIV stigma and discrimination discourage people from accessing healthcare services, including HIV prevention methods, learning their HIV status, enrolling in care, and adhering to treatment.


Ways to Stop HIV Stigma

Show support to anyone you know who is living with or at risk for HIV. Learn about HIV and correct any misconceptions you hear. Help normalize HIV as a manageable health condition by having open and honest conversations and be mindful about the words you use about HIV and the people living with HIV. Together we can promote medically accurate information about HIV transmission and decrease judgment and stereotyping of people living with HIV.

Visit CDC’s page on ways to stop HIV stigma and discrimination. There you’ll find a Stigma Language Guide to learn how to talk about HIV and examples of everyday situations and how to address stigma.

HIV Stigma Video Series

PHNTX sits down with experts and community leaders to discuss the stigma surrounding HIV. The video series highlights how HIV stigma affects the LGBTQ+, Latino/Latinx, Black, and Transgender community.

Watch the videos below or watch on Vimeo.

HIV Stigma Podcast Series

If you prefer to listen to the series, you can do so through our Beneath the Briefs podcast!

The podcast series also includes two additional episodes in Spanish:

  • Informacion general sobre el VIH
  • El estigma del VIH en la comunidad hispana

Listen below or on your favorite platform:

Spotify  •  Apple Podcasts  •  Google Podcasts  •  Anchor  •  Breaker  •  RadioPublic  •  Overcast

Articles About HIV Stigma

Supported by a grant from the Southern AIDS Coalition through the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®. Gilead Sciences, Inc. has had no input into the development or content of these materials.

Content Source: Centers of Disease Control and Prevention,,,,,