AIDS stigma in health services in the Eastern Caribbean


Address for correspondence: Scott Edward Rutledge, School of Social Administration, Temple University, 1301 Cecil B. Moore Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19122 USA


Stigma obstructs HIV/AIDS prevention and care worldwide, including in the Caribbean, where the prevalence of AIDS is second only to sub-Saharan Africa. To contextualise the experience of AIDS stigma in health services in Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago, we conducted eight focus groups with 51 people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), families, and service providers. Quasi-deductive content analysis revealed consonance with Western and Northern conceptualisations of AIDS stigma wherein stigma is enacted upon marginalised populations and reinforced through psycho-sociological processes comparing ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups. Socially constructed to be physically contagious and socially deviant, PLHA are scorned by some service providers, especially when they are perceived to be gay or bisexual. PLHA and providers identified passive neglect and active refusal by hospital and clinic staff to provide care to PLHA. Institutional practices for safeguarding patient confidentiality are perceived as marginally enforced. Interventions are needed to reduce provider stigma so the public will access HIV testing and PLHA will seek treatment.