Destigmatization of HIV

Progress or Regress?

Published in: International Journal of Self Help and Self Care, v. 3, no. 3-4, 2005, p. 213-260

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by Ian D. Coulter, Carl A. Maida

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The HIV epidemic has resulted in a renewed interest by social scientists in stigmatization and in a corresponding need to reconceptualize stigma, especially its relationship to power. While the professions have some power to control stigma, the emergence of self-help and mutual aid groups such as those founded by the gay activists involved in the AIDS epidemic, has shown that patients are not simply passive victims in the process of stigmatization. This new approach to stigma raises the questions: does destigmatization occur? What would constitute evidence of such a process? This article examines the change from seeing HIV as an epidemic and as a fatal disease to seeing it as a chronic illness-a possible example of destigmatization in action, noting the basic problems and promise of this process.

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