An article published in the journal AIDS Care has, for the first time, reviewed research on HIV stigma between gay men and within gay communities.
HIV stigma within gay communities is expressed through somcial exclusion, ageism, rejection, violence, and discrimination based on physical appearance. There are serious consequences associated with HIV stigma, including higher rates of depression, feelings of isolation and high-risk behaviour.
"We know that gay men with HIV are at greater risk of mental health problems. HIV stigma exacerbates these issues and can have serious consequences for general and mental health. Not much attention has been given to HIV stigma between gay men, and increased efforts to combat HIV stigma, in all its forms, are needed," says Dr Michael Brady, co-author, consultant in sexual health and HIV at King's College Hospital, London, UK, and a member of the Men2Men Collective.
"Stigma and segregation have very negative impacts on the efficacy of sexual health programmes and onward HIV transmission," says Peter J. Smit, lead author, a member of Men2Men Collective and pro bono human rights advocate and journalist at the Dutch HIV Association. "HIV stigma should have decreased with the introduction of effective therapies. However, our review has found stigmatising and discriminatory views continue to be held, among gay men themselves, and their effects are detrimental to the quality of life and emotional well-being of HIV-positive gay men."
While previous studies have looked at HIV stigma and discrimination, this is the first to review the effects of HIV stigma within gay communities across Europe, North America and Australasia, and understand its wide-ranging causes and consequences. "We hope that this work will provide new ways to help support gay men with HIV and reduce the impact of stigma," says Dr Brady.
To coincide with the online publication of the literature review on stigma within gay communities, Men2Men Collective is launching a survey to find out more about how gay men view HIV and how their beliefs affect personal decisions.
Aimed at gay men and men who have sex with men, the survey asks for views on HIV, relationships, sex and the role of the gay community and is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese. The results will be reported in 2012.