The Influence of Transmission-Based and Moral-Based HIV Stigma Beliefs on Intentions to Discriminate Among Ward Staff in South Indian Health Care Settings

AIDS Behav. 2022 Jul 1. doi: 10.1007/s10461-022-03755-w. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

HIV stigma is comprised of several beliefs, including transmission fears and moral judgments against affected communities. We examined the relationships among HIV-related stigma beliefs, endorsement of coercive measures for people living with HIV (PLWH), and intentions to discriminate. We sought to understand to what degree the different stigma beliefs shape support for restrictive policies and discriminatory intentions. Data were drawn from the baseline assessment of DriSti, a cluster randomized controlled trial of an HIV stigma reduction intervention in Indian healthcare settings (NCT02101697). Participants completed measures assessing transmission fears and moral judgments of HIV, endorsement of coercive measures against PLWH (public disclosure of HIV status, refusal of healthcare services, marriage and family restrictions, required testing, and sharing of HIV information in a clinic), and intentions to discriminate against PLWH in professional and personal settings. We utilized multivariate regression modeling with backward elimination to identify the coercive measures and behavioral intentions most strongly associated with moral judgments. 1540 ward staff members completed the assessment. Participants had relatively high perceptions of transmission fears (M = 1.92, SD = 0.79) and moral judgments (M = 1.69, SD = 0.83); endorsed more intentions to discriminate in professional (M = 6.54, SD = 2.28) than personal settings (M = 2.07, SD = 1.49), and endorsed approximately half of all coercive measures (M = 9.47, SD = 2.68). After controlling for transmission fears, perceptions of stronger moral judgments against PLWH were significantly associated with higher endorsement of coercive measures related to refusing services (β = 0.10, t = 4.14, p < 0.001) and sharing patients' HIV status in clinics (β = 0.07, t = 3.04, p = 0.002), as well as with stronger behavioral intentions to discriminate in professional settings (β = 0.05, t = 2.20, p = 0.022). HIV stigma interventions for hospital-based ward staff in India need to focus on both transmission fears and moral judgments that underlie prejudicial beliefs. While the moral judgments are not technically related to risk in a hospital setting, our findings suggest that personnel will continue to discriminate in their professional work so long as these beliefs bear on their decisions and actions.

Keywords: HIV; Intervention; Stigma.