The impact of living with HIV: differences in experiences of stigma for heterosexual and homosexual people living with HIV in Australia

Loren Brener, Hannah Wilson, Sean Slavin, John de Wit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


UNLABELLED: Background HIV in Australia has been closely aligned with the gay community and continues to disproportionately affect members of this community. Although heterosexual transmission remains low, recently there has been an increase in new HIV diagnoses attributable to heterosexual sex. This highlights the need to address the health and social consequences for heterosexual people living with HIV (PLHIV). This subanalysis of a larger study compared the experiences of stigma, health and wellbeing of a sample of gay and heterosexual PLHIV.

METHODS: Data were drawn from a study of experiences of stigma among PLHIV in Australia. All 49 participants who reported being heterosexual were included, as were 49 participants randomly selected from the 611 gay participants. The samples were compared on perceived HIV stigma, HIV treatment-related stigma, perceived negative reactions of others, HIV status disclosure, and health and wellbeing measures.

RESULTS: The findings illustrate that heterosexual PLHIV have more negative experiences in terms of both general HIV stigma and treatment-related stigma than gay PLHIV. The heterosexual PLHIV also perceived greater negative reactions in relation to their HIV status by different people in their social environment and were less likely to access treatment than the gay PLHIV. There were no differences between the two groups in any of the health and wellbeing measures.

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that in the Australian context, heterosexual PLHIV may feel more stigmatised than gay PLHIV. In view of lower HIV treatment uptake in heterosexual PLHIV, addressing HIV-related stigma could contribute to increasing access to HIV treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-9
Number of pages4
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • HIV Infections
  • Heterosexuality
  • Homosexuality
  • Humans
  • Social Stigma
  • Journal Article


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