"Inside These Fences Is Our Own Little World": Prison-Based HIV Testing and HIV-Related Stigma Among Incarcerated Men and Women

AIDS Educ Prev. 2016 Apr;28(2):103-16. doi: 10.1521/aeap.2016.28.2.103.


Correctional facilities offer opportunities to provide comprehensive HIV services including education, testing, treatment, and coordination of post- release care. However, these services may be undermined by unaddressed HIV stigma. As part of a prison-based HIV testing study, we interviewed 76 incarcerated men and women from the North Carolina State prison system. The sample was 72% men, median age 31.5 years (range: 19 to 60). Thematic analysis revealed high levels of HIV-related fear and stigma, homophobia, incomplete HIV transmission knowledge, beliefs that HIV is highly contagious within prisons ("HIV miasma"), and the View of HIV testing as protective. Interviewees described social distancing behaviors and coping mechanisms they perceived to be protective, including knowing their HIV status and avoiding contact with others and shared objects. Interviewees endorsed universal testing, public HIV status disclosure, and segregation of HIV-positive inmates. Intensified education and counseling efforts are needed to ameliorate entrenched HIV-transmission fears and stigmatizing beliefs.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Serodiagnosis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Prisons*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Social Stigma*
  • Stereotyping
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult