Stigma, HIV and AIDS: an exploration and elaboration of a stigma trajectory

Soc Sci Med. 1995 Aug;41(3):303-15. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(94)00384-6.


Stigma is a social construction which dramatically affects the life experiences of the individuals infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and their partners, family and friends. While it has been generally recognized that the nature of stigma varies across illnesses, it has usually not been considered as changing and emerging over the course of a single illness. In this paper, HIV/AIDS is analyzed in terms of a stigma trajectory. The primary purpose is to conceptualize how individuals with HIV/AIDS experience stigma and to demonstrate how these experiences are affected by changes in the biophysical dimensions of HIV/AIDS. Four phases of the HIV/AIDS stigma trajectory are depicted: (1) at risk: pre-stigma and the worried well; (2) diagnosis: confronting an altered identity; (3) latent: living between illness and health; and (4) manifest: passage to social and physical death. The essential processes through which individuals personalize the illness, dilemmas encountered in interpersonal relations, strategies that are used to avoid or minimize HIV-related stigma, and subcultural networks and ideologies that are drawn upon to construct, avow, and adapt to an HIV identity are considered across the stigma trajectory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude to Death
  • Bisexuality / psychology
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Prejudice*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Role*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / psychology