Gender differences in HIV disclosure, stigma, and perceptions of health

AIDS Care. 2014;26(11):1419-25. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2014.921278. Epub 2014 Jun 12.


HIV disclosure is a gateway to HIV prevention - particularly among couples living in regions severely affected by the HIV epidemic. This cross-sectional study utilizes data collected from 862 people living with HIV across three countries (Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Uganda) in 2011 to determine the role of partner disclosure on self-reported health perceptions and changes in sexual risk behavior. The study's secondary aims are to understand whether or not internalized stigma mediates this relationship and if there is a different pattern of results by gender. The multivariate analysis reveals that the three key HIV-related independent variables, belonging to a support group, doing volunteer work, and disclosing to one's spouse or partner, were significantly associated with lower levels of internalized stigma. Internalized stigma was associated with self-perceptions of poorer health for both women and men, with women reporting higher levels of internalized stigma than men. Disclosure to spouse was positively associated with perceptions of better health for women but not for men. For men, doing HIV-related volunteer work and disclosing their status to their spouse were positively associated with self-reported changes in sexual risk behavior, although stigma was not found to mediate this relationship. Findings from this study suggest that disclosure and stigma have gender-specific effects on individual well-being and changes in sexual risk behaviors. As such, programs must address gender inequity in disclosure patterns and stigma to enhance prevention efforts.

Keywords: HIV disclosure; PLWH; discordant couples; self-perceptions of health; stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethiopia
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mozambique
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Perception
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Spouses
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • Uganda
  • Young Adult