The role of stigma in the acceptance and disclosure of HIV among recently diagnosed men who have sex with men in Australia: A qualitative study

Jade E. Bilardi, Alana Hulme-Chambers, Marcus Y. Chen, Christopher K. Fairley, Sarah E. Huffam, Jane E. Tomnay

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Background Our primary study aimed to explore the experiences of men who have sex with men (MSM) recently diagnosed with HIV and their partner notification practices. Themes relating to acceptance, and disclosure of, their HIV status strongly emerged during analysis in our larger study and are reported separately here. Method Fifteen MSM participated in semi-structured interviews by phone or face to face about their experience of a recent HIV diagnosis. In this paper we report on how they received and accepted the diagnosis, who they disclosed their diagnosis to and what is needed to improve support for MSM recently diagnosed with HIV. Results MSM’s reactions to their HIV diagnosis ranged from shock, devastation and anger to a calm acceptance and feeling HIV would not have a significant impact on their lives. MSM who reported strong social support networks, or knew others with HIV, seemed better able to cope with and accept their diagnosis than those with fewer support networks. Due to prevailing stigma around HIV, most MSM were very selective about who they disclosed their status to, often only telling partners perceived to be at risk but no, or only few, close friends. Regardless of how well men accepted their diagnosis, most did not disclose their status to family members for fear of rejection or causing distress due to ideologies based on outdated information about HIV. Conclusion The prevailing stigma around HIV can have a significant impact on MSM’s acceptance of, and willingness to disclose their HIV serostatus to others, and consequently the levels of professional and social support they receive. HIV-related stigma needs to be addressed through community campaigns which better educate the wider population about the current state of HIV prognosis and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0224616
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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