Stigma and AIDS: Three Layers of Damage
associated with HIV/AIDS can be organized into three layers.
First, over 95% of persons with AIDS in the United States
belong to social groups whose fundamental human rights had
been truncated long before HIV had appeared-gay men, injection
drug users, African-Americans, Hispanics, and sex workers. All
of these people had been isolated, ostracized, or constrained
by law and/or tradition from occupying full citizenship.
Long-term stigmatization has profound effects on the lives of
the disdained, including the development of counterculture. In
the case of gay men, for example, stigmatization led widely to
creating and fostering a milieu of short-term, often
anonymous, relationships as opposed to monogamy. Thus
society's attitudes actually caused AIDS by guaranteeing
transmission of HIV. And, finally, stigmata intrude on
prevention, in that society is inhibited from creating or
supporting programs that are humane and sensitive to the needs
of vulnerable people.
should be directed to Alvin Novick, MD
Department of Biology
PO Box 208104
New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8104