Meta-analysis of health and demographic correlates of stigma towards people living with HIV

AIDS Care. 2009 Jun;21(6):742-53. doi: 10.1080/09540120802511877.


HIV-related stigma may negatively impact the health, quality of life, social support and well-being of people living with HIV (PLHIV). Previous studies have used diverse samples and a multitude of measurement instruments to examine demographic and health correlates of HIV-related stigma, highlighting the importance of synthesizing findings across different studies to gain a better understanding of these associations. This study examined the relationships between HIV-related stigma and a range of demographic, social, physical and health characteristics. A meta-analysis was conducted to assess the overall strength and direction of these relationships. Twenty-four studies of PLHIV, conducted in North America and published in peer-reviewed journals between January of 2000 and November of 2007, were examined and their findings integrated. The heterogeneity of reported results was also assessed and examined. Our review revealed substantial variability in the ways researchers measure participants' HIV-related stigma as well as their physical, emotional and mental health. In spite of this variability, high stigma level was consistently and significantly associated with low social support (r = -0.369, p<0.0005), poor physical health (r = -0.324, p<0.0005), poor mental health (r = -0.402, p<0.0005), age (-0.066, p<0.05) and income (-0.172, p<0.005). These correlations were of a medium size, which would be recognized by the individual in daily life. Health and mental health professionals working with individuals and families impacted by HIV could benefit from an enhanced understanding of correlates of HIV-related stigma, which will inform assessments, interventions and treatment plans. The association between HIV-related stigma and physical health has potential implications for treatment, care and support for people at different stages of HIV infection. AIDS Service Organizations are also encouraged to integrate findings into HIV stigma interventions and social support programs. Additionally, HIV-related stigma scales should be developed and validated, so that future studies using them are able to report findings that are operationally and conceptually consistent.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Support
  • Stereotyping*