HIV Stigma, Mental Health, and Alcohol Use Disorders among People Living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans

J Urban Health. 2019 Dec;96(6):878-888. doi: 10.1007/s11524-019-00390-0.


Evidence suggests that HIV-related stigma is a contributing factor to mental health and substance use problems among people living with HIV (PLWH). Limited research, however, has examined the differential effects that multiple stigma constructs, specifically, anticipated, enacted, and internalized stigma may have on mental health and alcohol use disorders among PLWH. Furthermore, no studies have examined this relationship within the larger context of urban life stressors. The purpose of this study was to examine associations of an overall HIV-related stigma measure and four HIV stigma subscales on depression, anxiety, and hazardous drinking among a sample of 380 PLWH in New Orleans. Log-Poisson models with generalized estimating equations were used to estimate relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). A test of interaction was used to determine presence of effect modification by urban life stressors. Overall, higher levels of HIV-stigma were associated with depressive symptoms (RR 1.67, 95% CI 1.25, 2.23), anxiety symptoms (RR 1.91, 95% CI 1.17, 3.12), and hazardous drinking (RR 1.45, 95% CI 1.02, 2.05). Internalized HIV-stigma (measured using the negative self-image subscale) was associated with all three outcomes and had the highest magnitude point estimates across the four stigma subscales. Urban life stressors, measured by the Urban Life Stressors Scale (ULSS), modified the association between HIV-related stigma and mental health and alcohol use disorders (P < 0.2), highlighting the importance for examining the larger urban environmental context. Findings from this study may inform interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma operating at the individual and structural level.

Keywords: Alcohol use; HIV stigma; Mental health; People living with HIV; Urban life stressors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • New Orleans / epidemiology
  • Social Stigma*
  • Young Adult