Despite global progress in HIV stigma reduction, persistent HIV stigma thwarts effective HIV service delivery. Advances in HIV biomedical research toward a cure may shift perceptions of people living with HIV and HIV stigma. The purpose of this study was to examine how men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV in Guangzhou, China perceive HIV cure research and its potential impact on MSM and HIV stigma. We conducted in-depth interviews with 26 MSM living with HIV about their perceptions of HIV cure research and the potential impact of an HIV cure on their lives. Thematic coding was used to identify themes and structure the analysis. Two overarching themes emerged. First, participants stated that an HIV cure may have a limited impact on MSM-related stigma. Men noted that most stigma toward MSM was linked to stereotypes of promiscuity and high rates of sexual transmitted diseases in the MSM community and might persist even after a cure. Second, participants believed that an HIV cure could substantially reduce enacted, anticipated, and internalized stigma associated with HIV. These findings suggest that a biomedical cure alone would not remove the layered stigma facing MSM living with HIV. Comprehensive measures to reduce stigma are needed.
Keywords: China; HIV cure; HIV-related stigma; MSM; Sexual orientation.