Examining the impact of perceived and internalized hiv stigmas on HIV-related civic engagement
As the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to impact the American South, funding, services, and outreach for those affected by the disease is at a premium. Effective advocacy is critical not only to support people living with HIV/AIDS but also to prevent infections. Those living with HIV/AIDS provide powerful advocacy, unmatched by others. However, HIV stigma, which impacts various aspects of the lives of those living with HIV, can also have a negative impact on the willingness of this population to advocate on issues related to HIV. Those who benefit from this funding and services are often clients of AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) and, in addition to stigma, these individuals face issues of race, poverty, rural-ness, and the like. Literature has often treated stigma as a singular element, not differentiating between the unique manifestations of perceived and internalized HIV stigmas. For this study, it was hypothesized that both perceived and internalized stigmas would negatively impact HIV-related civic engagement, and that the impact of internalized stigma would be stronger than that of perceived. Further, it was predicted that self-efficacy, along with various demographic variables, would moderate these relationships. Clients of 9 ASOs in Alabama were surveyed. Findings revealed no relationship between perceived stigma and civic engagement, however, a significant negative relationship was evident between internalized stigma and civic engagement. Among the moderators, levels of employment and income provided significant effects. Findings indicate that ASOs could possibly increase HIV-related civic engagement among clients by providing programs designed to reduce internalized stigma and by offering opportunities to engage that are not hindered by factors relating to lacking income or employment.