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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers: Faculty and Colleagues Assess HIV Stigma in San Francisco

Rutgers School of Public Health associate professor, Dr. Henry F. Raymond, and his colleagues assessed trends in HIV stigma in San Francisco finding that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) stigma is not decreasing at the same speed as new HIV cases and increases in survival rates.  Cities worldwide, including San Francisco, are striving to get to zero HIV stigma as a condition to get to zero new infections.

In 2010, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced the goals of zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination towards people living with HIV (PLHIV). With these goals in mind, the team tracked an indicator of perceived HIV stigma across surveys of men who have sex with men (MSM) in San Francisco. Ending HIV stigma is a pillar of San Francisco’s strategy to end the epidemic in part because it is considered a pervasive barrier to prevention and treatment.

Through the surveys little improvement in perceived HIV stigma was observed, from 22.3 percent of MSM agreeing with the statement “Most people would discriminate against someone with HIV” in 2011 to 21.0 percent in 2017. Gauging progress in reducing HIV stigma is challenging. Measures of stigma are more complex than new HIV diagnoses and AIDS-related death and are not yet specifically defined by UNAIDS or the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

“We will not get to zero HIV stigma in San Francisco by 2030 based on the trajectory of our indicator among MSM in our city,” the authors concluded. “The finding stands in contrast to reductions in new HIV diagnoses and improvements in survival. While our data cannot establish a causal connection, it is notable that new infections are not decreasing among groups at the intersection of multiple sources of stigma, discrimination, and prejudice.”