“I Am Dead to Them”: HIV-related Stigma Experienced by People Living With HIV in Kerman, Iran

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Abstract

People living with HIV (PLWH) are often subject to discrimination. The causes, types, and consequences of this stigma in Iran are not yet fully understood. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were held with a purposively selected group of 25 PLWH recruited from a triangular HIV clinic in Kerman, Iran. Almost all participants reported experiencing internal and external stigma in a variety of contexts. Participants mentioned at least three major types of internal stigma (silence, shame, and feeling miserable). PLWH also reported experiencing external stigma from their families, communities, and the health care system. While previous studies have demonstrated that the Iranian public has reported fairly positive attitudes toward PLWH, our participants' experiences tell a different story. Therefore, it is imperative to engage both public and private sectors in continuing education programs to reduce the level of stigma faced by PLWH.

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