Alcohol abstinence stigma and alcohol use among HIV patients in Thai Nguyen, Vietnam

PLoS One. 2020 Sep 30;15(9):e0239330. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239330. eCollection 2020.


Background: Hazardous alcohol use is prevalent among people living with HIV (PWH), leading to sub-optimal HIV treatment outcomes. In Vietnam, alcohol use is highly normative making it socially challenging for PWH to reduce or abstain. We used mixed methods to develop a quantitative scale to assess alcohol abstinence stigma and examined the association between alcohol abstinence stigma with alcohol use among PWH in Vietnam.

Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews with 30 PWH with hazardous alcohol use from an antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic in the Thai Nguyen to inform item development. Alcohol use was assessed using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. We tested items in a survey of 1,559 ART clinic patients to assess internal consistency and structural validity. We used log binomial modeling to estimate associations between any reported alcohol abstinence stigma and alcohol use.

Results: Using the results from the qualitative interview data, we developed the alcohol abstinence stigma scale with seven final items with scores ranging from 0 (no stigma) to 28 (high stigma). The scale had good internal consistency (α = 0.75). Exploratory factor analysis suggested the presence of three factors: internalized, experienced, and anticipated stigma that explained 56.9% of the total variance. The mean score was 2.74, (SD = 4.28) and 46% reported any alcohol abstinence stigma. We observed a dose-response relationship between alcohol abstinence stigma and alcohol use. PWH who reported any alcohol abstinence stigma had greater hazardous alcohol use (aPR = 1.32, 95% CI: 1.12, 1.56), harmful alcohol use (aPR = 2.26, 95% CI: 1.37, 3.72), and dependence symptoms (aPR = 3.81, 95% CI: 2.19, 6.64).

Conclusion: Alcohol abstinence stigma is associated with increased alcohol levels of alcohol use among PWH in Vietnam, signaling challenges for alcohol reduction. Consideration of alcohol abstinence stigma will be essential for the design of effective alcohol reduction interventions and policy efforts to prevent adverse health consequences of alcohol use among PWH.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Abstinence / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Stigma*
  • Vietnam