What are the Stigmas Attached to HIV/AIDS and How are they Related to Voluntary Counseling and Testing in the African Born Immigrant Community (ABIC) in Lowell, Massachusetts


Several studies provide evidence that Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and Acquired Immune

Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) related stigma affects individuals’ decisions to seek HIV Voluntary

Counseling and Testing (VCT) services. Many of these studies relate to HIV associated related stigma in

relation to those living with HIV/AIDS, but there is little information on the affected and not infected by

and with HIV, and how stigma impacts peoples’ decision to test or not test for HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS

contends that efforts to increase voluntary counseling and testing is key to reducing the future burden of

the HIV/AIDS pandemic and related stigmas on individuals and societies. Could it be that the more people

are aware of their HIV status, assuming they ‘protect’ that status, HIV/AIDS could well turn around from

a pandemic into an endemic disease or more ambitiously be in history.

Using theories of Health Belief Model this research identifies the stigmas attached to

HIV/AIDS in the African Born Immigrants Community (ABIC) in Lowell Massachusetts, and their

reasons for seeking and/or not seeking VCT services. A random sample of thirty African Born

Immigrants between ages, 18 to 50, was interviewed for their perceptions and conceptions of

HIV/AIDS, the stigmas attached to the disease and how their perceptions and the stigmas impact their

utilization of VCT services. Findings revealed that HIV/AIDS is still highly stigmatized, a death

sentence among ABIs in Lowell. Despite the perception, that HIV is a death sentence, if offered the test,

overwhelming numbers of the respondents said they would agree to an HIV test. There was, however, a

lack of self initiative and motivation to utilize HIV VCT services, predominantly owed to lack of

accessibility. Also a foreign environment with unique social structures and community set up was

accentuated. Most respondents cited continuous education as a strategy to reduce stigmas.


Public Health

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