Dealing with Stigma
Stigma is one of the greatest barriers to testing and treatment for people living with HIV. It also creates
obstacles to prevention. People may not want family, friends, and neighbors to know that they are visiting an
HIV/AIDS provider for testing or treatment. In rural communities with limited anonymity, people may not seek
care at all. There is also stigma associated with working in an HIV/AIDS clinic.
Rural HIV/AIDS programs have addressed stigma in different ways, including by offering HIV services in health
departments or community-based organizations that provide many different types of services and are not “branded
with HIV/AIDS.” Many rural HIV/AIDS programs also conduct community education about HIV to reduce the
stigma associated with the disease and increase the likelihood that people will seek care. Additionally, rural
HIV/AIDS programs have helped people to obtain medications through the mail in nondescript packages. Social workers can also play an important role in
providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services, increasing awareness, and providing education
Additional strategies have been identified that can reduce
stigma for people living with HIV in rural communities, including:
- Delivering provider education and training related to HIV stigma and misconceptions
- Using telehealth and other remote care delivery models to provide increased access to treatment
- Using mobile vans to deliver prevention, testing, and treatment services directly in communities
Resources to Learn More
Toolkit: Addressing Stigma: A Blueprint for Improving HIV/STD Prevention and Care Outcomes for Black and
Latino Gay Men
Offers recommendations aimed to help health departments and others address stigma for Black and Latino gay men
to improve HIV prevention and treatment.
Organization(s): National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
The Effects of Stigma on People
Living with HIV in Rural America
Highlights the different types of stigma people with HIV face in rural areas of the U.S. and the impact of these
experiences. Describes the challenges of access to HIV care from a provider and patient perspective and
discusses the positive impact a rural clinician can offer.
Organization(s): AIDS Education &Training Center Program (AETC) National Coordinating Resource Center
Psychology and AIDS Exchange
Offers information for practitioners on HIV/AIDS current research, new developments, and recent activities of
the American Psychological Association (APA). Includes articles focused on the challenges and needs people living
with HIV face in rural communities.
Organizations(s): American Psychological Association (APA)
Strategies for Addressing
Highlights strategies effective in reducing stigma associated with HIV/AIDS gleaned from a review of published
research on stigma reduction intervention in the U.S. and in other countries.
Author(s): Restall, G., & Gonzalez, M.
Organization(s): University of Manitoba
HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination
A brief specifically designed to help social workers and others working with people living with HIV/AIDS
understand the individual and cultural stigmas surrounding HIV and its effect on prevention, care, and
treatment. Includes suggestions for social workers to help address stigmas associated with HIV/AIDS in their
Author(s): Tomaszewski, E.
Organization(s): National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Human Rights and International Affairs