Geographic distribution of HIV stigma among women of childbearing age in rural Kenya

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HIV stigma is considered to be a major driver of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, yet there is a limited understanding of its occurrence. We describe the geographic patterns of two forms of HIV stigma in a cross-sectional sample of women of childbearing age from western Kenya: internalized stigma (associated with shame) and externalized stigma (associated with blame).


Geographic studies of HIV stigma provide a first step in generating hypotheses regarding potential community-level causes of stigma and may lead to more effective community-level interventions.


Spatial regression using generalized additive models and point pattern analyses using K-functions were used to assess the spatial scale(s) at which each form of HIV stigma clusters, and to assess whether the spatial clustering of each stigma indicator was present after adjustment for individual-level characteristics.


There was evidence that externalized stigma (blame) was geographically heterogeneous across the study area, even after controlling for individual-level factors (P = 0.01). In contrast, there was less evidence (P = 0.70) of spatial trend or clustering of internalized stigma (shame).


Our results may point to differences in the underlying social processes motivating each form of HIV stigma. Externalized stigma may be driven more by cultural beliefs disseminated within communities, whereas internalized stigma may be the result of individual-level characteristics outside the domain of community influence. These data may inform community-level interventions to decrease HIV-related stigma, and thus impact the HIV epidemic.

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