The impact of HIV-related stigma on the lives of HIV-positive women: an integrated literature review

J Clin Nurs. 2016 Jan;25(1-2):8-19. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12938. Epub 2015 Aug 2.


Aims and objectives: To critically explore how Human Immunodeficiency Virus-related stigma impacts on the lives of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-positive women through an integrative review of the literature.

Background: Throughout history Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection has been associated with sex trade, injecting drug use and other deviant behaviours within society. These historical associations can lead to the generation of negative perceptions of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-positive women. As such, women who contract Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection can be susceptible to societal stigma.

Design: An integrative literature review.

Methods: To identify the publications on the impact of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-related stigma among women, a search was performed using the following databases: CINAHL, Medline, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstract covering the period from 2000-2014. The following key words were included in the search: 'women', 'Human Immunodeficiency Virus', and 'stigma'.

Results: Twenty-six articles were retrieved and reviewed. From the results, four key themes merged in relation to the impact of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-related stigma on Human Immunodeficiency Virus-positive women's lives: the individual, relationships, work and the community.

Conclusions: Despite great advances in the management and treatment of those who are Human Immunodeficiency Virus positive, it appears the lives of many women living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus remain greatly affected by their Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection with gender-specific stigma and stereotypes. Having a holistic understanding of this impact offers the potential for those responsible for the funding and draws the attention of researchers and policy makers on promoting medical services specifically for Human Immunodeficiency Virus-positive women, minimising social stigmatisation towards this client group, and optimising their health outcomes.

Relevance to clinical practice: In an attempt to amplify Human Immunodeficiency Virus-positive women's ability to resist social injustice, obtain support and optimise their health outcomes, nurses should expand their roles and work with professionals from different sectors to ensure the provision of comprehensive care to women with Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection.

Keywords: HIV; female; stigma; women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Stigma*