Poverty stigma is associated with suboptimal HIV care and treatment outcomes among women living with HIV in the United States

AIDS. 2019 Jul 1;33(8):1379-1384. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000002189.


Objective: To examine whether experienced poverty stigma is associated with worse HIV care and treatment outcomes.

Design: We analyzed cross-sectional data from 433 women living with HIV enrolled in the Women's Adherence and Visit Engagement substudy of the Women's Interagency HIV Study.

Methods: Exposure was experienced poverty stigma, measured using the Perceived Stigma of Poverty Scale. Outcomes were viral suppression, CD4 cell count at least 350 cells/μl, and attending all HIV care visits in the past 6 months. Multivariable logistic regression models adjusted for income, age, race/ethnicity, education, substance use, months taking antiretroviral therapy (ART), number of antiretroviral pills in ART regimen, unstable housing, relationship status, and exchanging sex for money, drugs, or shelter. We also explored whether self-reported at least 95% ART adherence mediated the relationship between poverty stigma and viral suppression and CD4 cell count at least 350 cells/μl.

Results: Experienced poverty stigma was associated with lower adjusted odds of viral suppression [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.76; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.61-0.96], CD4 cell count at least 350 cells/μl (aOR 0.69; 95% CI 0.52-0.91), and attending all HIV care visits (aOR 0.73; 95% CI: 0.54-0.98). Exploratory mediation analysis suggests that at least 95% ART adherence significantly mediates the relationship between experienced poverty stigma and viral suppression and CD4 cell count at least 350 cells/μl.

Conclusion: Longitudinal research should assess these relationships over time. Findings support interventions and policies that seek to reduce poverty stigma among people living with HIV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Stigma*
  • Sustained Virologic Response
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents