Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Exploring the beliefs, experiences and impacts of HIV-related self-stigma amongst adolescents and young adults living with HIV in Harare, Zimbabwe: a qualitative study

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posted on 2022-06-01, 16:17 authored by Camille Rich, Webster Mavhu, Nadine Ferris France, Vongai Munatsi, Elaine ByrneElaine Byrne, Nicola Willis, Ann Nolan
Background: HIV-related self-stigma is a significant barrier to HIV management. However, very little research has explored this phenomenon, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. This study explored the beliefs, experiences, and impacts of HIV self-stigma amongst adolescents and young adults (AYALHIV) in Harare, Zimbabwe to inform future interventions. It aimed to capture the lived experience of self-stigmatization among AYALHIV and its impact on their social context using Corrigan et al (2009) self-stigma framework of 'awareness', 'agreement', and 'application'.
Methods: Virtual semi-structured key informant interviews were conducted between June and July 2020 with adolescents and young adults (Female = 8; Male = 8) living with HIV (18-24 years) in Harare, Zimbabwe. We conducted the interviews with a purposive sample of AYALHIV enrolled in Africaid's 'Zvandiri' program which provides HIV support services. Interviews were mainly conducted in English and with three in Shona, the main indigenous language. Audio-recorded qualitative data were transcribed, translated into English (where necessary) and deductively coded using Corrigan et al.'s self-stigma framework. The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 coincided with the commencement of data collection activities, which impacted on both the sample size and a shift from in-person to virtual interviewing methods.
Results: Sixteen respondents (50% male) took part in the interviews. The mean age of respondents was 22 years. All respondents reported HIV-related self-stigma either occasionally or frequently. Three main themes of self-stigmatizing experiences emerged: disclosure, relationships, and isolation. These themes were then analyzed within the self-stigma development framework by Corrigan et al. (2009) known as 'the three As': awareness, agreement, and application of self-stigmatizing thoughts. Respondents' experiences of self-stigma reportedly led to poor well-being and decreased mental and physical health. Gendered experiences and coping mechanisms of self-stigma were reported. Data suggested that context is key in the way that HIV is understood and how it then impacts the way people living with HIV (PLHIV) live with, and experience, HIV.
Conclusions: HIV-related negative self-perceptions were described by all respondents in this study, associated with self-stigmatizing beliefs that adversely affected respondents' quality of life. Study findings supported Corrigan et al.'s framework on how to identify self-stigma and was a useful lens through which to understand HIV-related self-stigma among young people in Harare. Study findings highlight the need for interventions targeting PLHIV and AYALHIV to be context relevant if they are to build individual resilience, while working concurrently with socio-political and systemic approaches that challenge attitudes to HIV at the wider societal levels. Finally, the gendered experiences of self-stigma point to the intersecting layers of self-stigma that are likely to be felt by particularly marginalized populations living with HIV and should be further explored.



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Published Citation

Rich C, et al. Exploring the beliefs, experiences and impacts of HIV-related self-stigma amongst adolescents and young adults living with HIV in Harare, Zimbabwe: A qualitative study. PLoS One. 2022;17(5):e0268498.

Publication Date

18 May 2022

PubMed ID



  • Graduate School of Healthcare Management




  • Published Version (Version of Record)