Perceived HIV stigma among children in a high HIV-prevalence area in central China: beyond the parental HIV-related illness and death.
ABSTRACT (1) Examine the psychometric properties of two parallel measures of HIV-related stigma (i.e., perceived public stigma and children's personal stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS [PLWHA]) among children affected by HIV/AIDS. (2) Examine whether expressions of stigma measures differ by child's sex, developmental stage, family socioeconomic status (SES), or orphanhood status (i.e., AIDS orphans, vulnerable children, and comparison children). (3) Examine the association between HIV-related stigma and children's psychosocial adjustments among these children.
Cross-sectional data were collected from 755 AIDS orphans (children who had lost one or both their parents to AIDS), 466 vulnerable children who lived with HIV infected parents, and 404 comparison children who did not experience HIV-related illness and death in their families. The measures included perceived public stigma, personal stigma, depressive symptoms, loneliness, self-esteem, future expectations, hopefulness about the future, and perceived control over the future.
Both stigma scales were positively associated with psychopathological symptoms (e.g., depression, loneliness) and negatively associated with psychosocial well-being (e.g., self-esteem, positive future expectation, hopefulness about future, and perceived control over the future). Both stigma measures contribute to children's psychosocial problems independent of their orphanhood status and other key demographic factors.
Community-wide stigma reduction and psychological support should be part of the care efforts for children affected by AIDS. Stigma reduction efforts should not only target the stigma against PLWHA but also possible stigma against the entire community (e.g., villages) with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The stigma reduction efforts also needs to be appropriate for children's age, gender, family SES, and AIDS experience in the family. Future research should explore individual and contextual factors such as social support, coping, and attachment in mitigating the negative effect of stigma among these children.