Scientific literature has systematically documented the negative effects of social stigma for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). HIV/AIDS stigma has the potential to negatively impact self-care strategies for those already affected, and simultaneously hinder prevention efforts to deter the emergence of new infections. When health professionals manifest these negative attitudes access to quality health-care and prevention strategies can be seriously affected. Scientifically tested interventions to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma among health professionals are still scarce. Although the number of tested interventions has increased over the past decade, few of them target Latino health professionals or Spanish-speaking populations. Furthermore, although some of those interventions have been reported as effective for stigma reduction, more work is needed to better understand the underlying variables that account for the reduction of stigma attitudes in those efforts. The SPACES intervention has been documented as an effective HIV/AIDS stigma-reduction intervention focusing on health-care professionals in training. The intervention, which is delivered in Spanish, has been previously tested with medical students in Puerto Rico and shown significant results in addressing negative attitudes toward PLWHA. The main objective of this study was to document the underlying variables that fostered reduction of HIV/AIDS stigma due to participation in the SPACES intervention. Results evidence that health professionals in training who participated in the intervention (n = 507) had less stigmatizing attitudes toward PLWHA due to an increase in their positive emotions toward this population. In light of these results, we discuss the importance of engaging health professionals in HIV/AIDS stigma-reduction interventions that go beyond the provision of information and skills for interacting with PLWHA, and address the emotional component of HIV/AIDS stigma.
Keywords: Emotions; HIV/AIDS; health professionals; reduction; stigma.