Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the relationships between stigma and shame associated with seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and undergoing testing for gonorrhea and HIV.
Methods: Participants were 847 males and 1126 females (mean age: 24.9 years) in 7 cities. Two scales assessed STD-related stigma and STD-related shame.
Results: Rates of stigma and shame were higher among participants without a gonorrhea test in the past year and among those without an HIV test. Sex, age, health service use, previous suspicion of gonorrhea, and low levels of stigma were independently associated with gonorrhea testing. Age, enrollment site, use of health services, gonorrhea testing, and low levels of stigma were independently associated with HIV testing.
Conclusions: Shame is part of the experience of seeking STD-related care, but stigma may be a more powerful barrier to obtaining such care.