HIV stigma trends in the general population during antiretroviral treatment expansion: analysis of 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 2003–2013
Background: HIV-related stigma is associated with increased risk-taking behavior, reduced uptake of HIV testing, and decreased adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Although ART scale-up may reduce HIV-related stigma, the extent to which levels of stigma in the general population have changed during the era of ART scale-up in sub-Saharan Africa is unknown.
Methods: Social distance and anticipated stigma were operationalized using standard HIV-related stigma questions contained in the Demographic and Health Surveys and AIDS Indicator Surveys of 31 African countries between 2003 and 2013. We fitted multivariable linear regression models with cluster-correlated robust standard errors and country fixed effects, specifying social distance or anticipated stigma as the dependent variable and year as the primary explanatory variable of interest.
Results: We estimated a statistically significant negative association between year and desires for social distance (b = −0.020; P P
Conclusions: Concomitant with ART scale-up in sub-Saharan Africa, anticipated stigma in the general population increased despite a decrease in social distancing toward people living with HIV. Although ART scale-up may help reduce social distancing toward people living with HIV, particularly in high-prevalence countries, other interventions targeting symbolic or instrumental concerns about HIV may be needed.