Background: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus /Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is not just a medical problem but its social impact is increasingly affecting its effective management. The fear of HIV-stigma constitutes a major barrier to HIV testing, prevention, uptake and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). We aimed to quantify HIV-related stigma, and identify the factors associated with high HIV-related stigma among persons living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIVA) and on ART.
Methods: A hospital-based cross sectional analytic survey targeting PLHIVA on ART at the HIV-day care unit of the Bamenda Regional Hospital of Cameroon was conducted from February to April 2016. A total of 308 eligible and willing participants were consecutively included in the survey. Data were collected using a pretested questionnaire designed from the Berger HIV stigma scale and analyzed using Epi info 3.5.4.
Results: The mean age of the 308 participants was 40.1±10.2 years. The mean overall HIV/AIDS related stigma score was 88.3 ± 18.80 which corresponds to a moderate level of stigma according to the Berger stigma scale. Further analysis revealed that most participants suffered from moderate forms of the different subtypes of stigma including: personalized (49.8%), disclosure (66.4%), negative self-image (50.0%) and public attitude (52.1%) stigmatization. It was estimated that 62.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 57.8-68.9%) of the participants lived with high levels of HIV-related stigma. After controlling for gender, religion, age and occupation, level of education below tertiary (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR] = 0.70 [95% CI = 0.44-0.91]; p = 0.036) and a duration from diagnosis below 5 years (AOR = 1.74 [95% CI = 1.01-3.00]; p = 0.046) were significantly associated with high HIV-related stigma.
Conclusion: About three out of every five PLHIVA receiving ART in Bamenda Regional Hospital still experience high levels of HIV-related stigma. This occurs more frequently in participants with low educational status, and who may have known their HIV status for less than 5 years. Anti-HIV-stigma programs in the North West Region need strengthening with intensified psychosocial follow-up of newly diagnosed cases.
Keywords: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; Antiretroviral therapy; Cameroon; Human immunodeficiency virus; Stigma.