"HIV is not an easily acceptable disease": the role of HIV-related stigma in obtaining cervical cancer screening in India

Women Health. 2019 Aug;59(7):801-814. doi: 10.1080/03630242.2019.1565903. Epub 2019 Feb 4.


Women living with HIV (WLWH) are at high risk for cervical cancer (CC); however, many WLWH in India do not obtain regular CC screening. Little is known about facilitators and barriers of CC screening in this population. This qualitative study examined the relation of HIV-related stigma to obtaining CC screening among women in Surat, India. Semi-structured individual in-depth interviews were conducted between April 2015 and July 2015 with 25 WLWH at the New Civil Hospital Anti-Retroviral Centre and 15 stakeholders providing health care to WLWH. HIV-related stigma emerged as a considerable barrier to gynecologic care and CC screening among WLWH. Two major subthemes were identified: (1) perceptions of HIV-related normative stigma and enacted discrimination; and (2) HIV status disclosure in the context of health care and CC screening. Stakeholders described a general awareness of HIV-related stigma as a barrier to care for WLWH, while WLWH focused on experiences of enacted discrimination. Both patients and stakeholders described that concerns about disclosure and fear of stigma hinder WLWH in India from obtaining health care and CC screening. Findings suggest that interventions to increase cancer screening among WLWH in India should address the role of HIV-related stigma to be maximally effective.

Keywords: Cervical cancer; HIV; India; cancer screening; stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / psychology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • India
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Stigma*
  • Stereotyping
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / psychology*