People with AIDS (PWAs) and the social groups
to which they belong have been stigmatized worldwide since
the epidemic began. Stigma has interfered with effective
societal response to AIDS and has imposed hardships on people
living with HIV as well as their loved ones, caregivers,
PWAs have been shunned by strangers and family
members, discriminated against in employment and health
care, driven from their homes, and subjected to physical
abuse. Fear of stigma has deterred individuals from being
tested for HIV and from disclosing their seropositive status
to sexual partners, family, and friends.
Among the US public, AIDS stigma has been
manifested in the form of anger and other negative feelings
toward PWAs; beliefs that they deserve their illness; avoidance
and ostracism; and support for coercive public policies
that threaten their human rights.
Stigmatizing attitudes are strongly correlated
with misunderstanding the mechanisms of HIV transmission
and overestimating the risks of casual contact and with
negative attitudes toward social groups disproportionately
affected by the epidemic, especially gay men and injecting
The present study was conducted to describe
the prevalence and nature of AIDS-related stigma in the
United States using data from surveys conducted with national
probability samples of US adults in 1997 and 1999.
trends in stigma throughout the 1990s are identified by
examining data from the present study in conjunction with
previously-reported findings from a comparable 1991 survey.