This report evaluates the extent of perceived and enacted HIV/AIDS-related stigma in a rural setting in Zambia. Stigmatisation is abundant, ranging from subtle actions to the most extreme degradation, rejection and abandonment. Women with HIV and pregnant women assumed to be HIV positive are repeatedly subjected to extensive forms of stigma, particularly once they become sick or if their child dies. Despite increasing access to prevention of mother to child transmission initiatives, including anti-retroviral drugs, the perceived disincentives of HIV testing, particularly for women, largely outweigh the potential gains from available treatments. HIV/AIDS related stigma drives the epidemic underground and is one of the main reasons that people do not wish to know their HIV status. Unless efforts to reduce stigma are, as one peer educator put it, “written in large letters in any HIV/AIDS campaign rather than small”, stigma will remain a major barrier to curbing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Evaluation and Program Planning (2002) 25 (4) 347-356 [doi:10.1016/S0149-7189(02)00046-0]