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Tulane University

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


Research Question – How does stigma and discrimination toward men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women affect their vulnerability toward HIV/AIDS?

Background – Although there has been progress over the years on improving attitudes towards, and knowledge about, sexual diversity, LGBT persons continue to be harshly discriminated against and stigmatized. The conservative and machista nature of Chilean society, as well as a lack of information about sexual diversity, perpetuates this treatment and marginalization of those who do not conform to the social expectations surrounding sexual relations and strict gender norms, specifically homosexual men and other MSM, as well as transgender women. This study seeks to identify what kinds of stigma and discrimination the two populations face in Chile, and describe how they influence their vulnerability and risk towards HIV through social, economic, and behavioral factors.

Methodology – This investigation consisted of 10 formal interviews, 5 with men who have sex with men, and 5 with transgender and transsexual women in Arica, Chile, and informal interviews with two professionals who have experience with both populations and HIV prevention.

Results – Various personal histories and interviews revealed that stigma and discrimination towards the two populations is still very prevalent in Chilean society. Reported stigma consistently took the form of stereotypes and generalizations while reported discrimination took a variety of forms, including social exclusion, direct aggressions, and structural violence among others. The perceptions of participants about the knowledge of HIV among their pertaining populations were mixed but generally revealed that there exists a great amount of misinformation, low perceived risk, and a lack of condom usage among both populations, especially among MSMs. Reoccurring themes include the danger of exposure or expression of sexuality, the high rates of sex work among transgender women, and the ignorance and lack of education as a starting point and reinforcement of stigma and discrimination.

Conclusions – Stigma and discrimination influence many different aspects of the lives of both populations. These influences manifest in a manner that marginalize gay men and other MSM as well as trans women, and create social and structural barriers that impede the knowledge, prevention, and timely diagnosis of HIV. Additionally these influences place them in situations of heightened risk towards the virus due to a lack of opportunity.


Community-Based Research | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Latin American Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Medicine and Health | Medicine and Health Sciences


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