Background: HIV-related stigma is associated with health consequences among people living with HIV, including increased risk for alcohol problems. Theory suggests that maladaptive coping may mediate the relationship between HIV-related stigma and alcohol outcomes, and these variables may be bidirectionally associated over time. However, no studies have examined the temporal relationships among these variables in people living with HIV.
Purpose: This study examined prospective bidirectional and mediated associations among HIV-related stigma, maladaptive coping, and alcohol use severity in patients enrolled in the Ontario HIV Treatment Network Cohort study.
Method: Patients receiving care for HIV (N = 1,520) at one of several clinics completed self-report measures annually. Data were analyzed in a four-wave, cross-lagged panel model.
Results: Greater HIV-related stigma at each wave consistently predicted increased maladaptive coping 1 year later. Similarly, maladaptive coping consistently predicted greater subsequent HIV-related stigma. Further, we observed some evidence that maladaptive coping mediated the prospective associations between HIV-related stigma and alcohol use severity in both directions (i.e., stigma to subsequent alcohol use severity and vice versa) although these associations were not observed across all waves.
Conclusion: Results suggest that HIV-related stigma and maladaptive coping are bidirectionally associated with one another over time. This study also provides some evidence that coping may be a relevant mediator of these associations, although findings were less consistent for mediated pathways. Future research should examine whether interventions addressing stigma and coping among people living with HIV may help to minimize health risks such as hazardous drinking.