Designing Universal Indicators for HIV Stigma and Discrimination

Article Date

01 December 2009

Article Author

By Gillian Gaynair

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) recently wrapped up a three-day workshop on measuring stigma and discrimination related to people living with HIV.

Hosted by ICRW in collaboration with Global Network of People Living with HIV, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and UNAIDS, the meeting brought together programmers, evaluation experts, academics and people living with HIV to assess the effectiveness of current stigma measures. The long-term goal is to develop, test and validate a universal set of indicators that measure the causes, levels and consequences of HIV-related stigma.          

“Everyone is working in isolation right now, and researchers are independently developing measures to assess the same thing,” said Anne Stangl, ICRW behavioral scientist and stigma specialist. “This makes it difficult to compare data across diverse settings, which is one of the challenges we’re facing globally.”

A pioneer in the field of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, ICRW over the last decade has analyzed the causes, manifestations and consequences of stigma. Its efforts also included developing interventions for mitigating stigma as well as evaluating programs that aim to reduce it.

ICRW studies found that regardless of culture or context, stigma and fear of it prevent people with HIV from telling their partners about their status; threatens their ability to receive medical care and increases their vulnerability to physical violence, among other social repercussions.

Despite such findings, ICRW’s Laura Nyblade said more still needs to be addressed in the field of HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

“Without a standardized set of global indicators, the impact of stigma on people living with HIV is not reported to policy-makers,” said Nyblade, who directs ICRW’s work on stigma and discrimination. “That in turn diminishes funding and advocacy efforts for programs to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination.”

Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer/editor.