A comparison of HIV stigma and disclosure patterns between older and younger adults living with HIV/AIDS

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2006 May;20(5):350-8. doi: 10.1089/apc.2006.20.350.


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between age, HIV-related stigma, and patterns of disclosure. Previous literature has suggested that older age is associated with increased HIV stigma and less disclosure of HIV status. Eighty-eight individuals, 44 between the ages of 20-39 and 44 aged 50 and over were recruited for the study through an AIDS service organization in the Pacific Northwest. Subjects in each group were matched as closely as possible by gender, ethnicity, HIV exposure and diagnosis. In a comparison of sociodemographic characteristics, older adults (50+) were significantly more likely to live alone, and to be retired. Younger adults were significantly more likely to be never married/ partnered, unemployed and be recipients of Medicaid. Bivariate analysis revealed no significant differences in overall stigma scores between groups; however, younger adults were more likely to fear losing their job because of HIV. Older adults were less likely to disclose HIV to relatives, partners, mental health workers, neighbors, and church members than those 20-39 years of age. Pearson product moment correlations found disclosure to be significantly associated with time since diagnosis, heterosexual exposure, ethnicity, use of HIV services, and having a confidant. Stigma was associated with ethnicity, having a confidant, and instrumental social support. In a multiple regressions analysis, 48.4% of the variance in disclosure accounted for by time since first diagnosis, service use, and having a confidant. Service use was the only independent variable significantly associated with stigma, accounting for 21.6% of the variance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Social Support
  • Stereotyping*
  • Washington / epidemiology