Purpose: To present a metasynthesis of qualitative findings on stigma in HIV-positive women.
Method: Metasummary and metasynthesis techniques were used to integrate findings on stigma in 93 reports of qualitative studies conducted between 1991 and 2002 with a total of 1,780 women, mostly from minority groups.
Findings: Both perceived and enacted stigma were pervasive in the lives of HIV-positive women. HIV-related stigma was intensified in women because they were women. Stigma management largely involved efforts to control information in the service of preserving social relations and maintaining moral identity.
Discussion: This metasynthesis reprises and clarifies the connections between recurring themes in primary quantitative studies and metastudies of HIV-positive people and of stigmatizing diseases and conditions. This work also shows how affected people's location on key axes of difference can both facilitate and complicate efforts to manage stigma.
Conclusions: HIV-positive women experience stigmatization in relationships with others. HIV-related stigma is as much a reflection of these others as it is central to the experience of HIV-positive people themselves. Even those not infected with HIV are still affected by it and are thus appropriate targets for interventions to reduce its negative effects.