Stigma in the workplace: employer attitudes about people with HIV in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Chicago

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Nov;67(10):1541-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.07.024. Epub 2008 Aug 28.


Studies of HIV stigma in China are becoming more prevalent, but these studies have seldom involved direct cross-cultural comparisons. Moreover, although researchers consider employers to be a key power group whose practices can significantly impact the adjustment and recovery of people with HIV, the attitudes of employers in China towards people with HIV have rarely been studied. The present study sought to investigate employers' attitudes and hiring practices towards people with HIV across three culturally and linguistically distinct cities: Chicago, Beijing, and Hong Kong. One hundred employers from a broad spectrum of firm types were interviewed across the three cities, and their qualitative data were analyzed for information about the processes behind employer practices in hiring people with HIV. Employers from all three cities showed reluctance to hire people with HIV, but this trend was most pronounced with employers from Beijing and Hong Kong. Concerns about biological contagion were apparent in all three cities. Social contagion, or the belief that people with HIV could morally corrupt those around them, was a particular concern of employers from Beijing and Hong Kong. The concerns about hiring people with HIV in Hong Kong and Beijing may be related to specific cultural dynamics related to loss of 'face', level of contact and knowledge about people with HIV, and the psychological interconnectedness between people in society. In sum, employers in all three cities showed concerns about hiring people with HIV, but at the same time, their attitudes about discriminating against people with HIV differed widely across the cities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Chicago
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Job Application
  • Prejudice*
  • Workplace / psychology*