Shame, stigma, HIV: philosophical reflections

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Abstract

It is a distinctive feature of HIV that its pathology cannot be adequately grasped separate from a number of psychosocial factors, and stigma is widely seen as the most prominent. We argue that it is equally important to have an adequate understanding of shame, as the emotional response to stigma. We have identified five ways shame might negatively impact upon attempts to combat and treat HIV, which emerge from the stigma HIV carries and STI-stigma in general. In this paper, we draw out four insights from philosophical work on emotions and shame which we propose will improve understanding of shame and stigma. We conclude by briefly discussing how these insights might shed light on the negative role shame can play for a person living with HIV engaging with, or being retained in, care. We conclude by proposing further study.

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