The sense of HIV/AIDS stigma and its mechanisms in HIV-infected people: The role of minority stress and social support in two temporal perspectives (NSC OPUS 18 grant no. 2019/35/B/HS6/00141)
Project duration: 2020 - now
In June 2019, 38 years elapsed since scientists first recorded cases of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), responsible for causing a previously unknown disease, that is the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Over the years, tremendous advances have been made in treating HIV positive people and that has changed the public perception of this disease from a definitively fatal condition to a chronic medical problem which can be controlled. Additionally, it is worth noting that the current life expectancy of HIV-infected people does not differ significantly from that of the general population.
Despite many positive changes in treatment and health care, HIV-infected patients still report lower levels of well-being compared not only to the general, but also to patients suffering from other chronic diseases. Results of many studies indicate that the cause of this paradoxical situation is the persistent stigma of people infected with HIV. Although its external manifestations have changed over time, the overall severity of the phenomenon has remained relatively similar compared to the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Taking the above into account, in our project we aim at analysing psychological and social determinants of the stigma associated with HIV infection.
- In particular, we want to investigate specific mechanisms of HIV/AIDS stigma (the so-called internalised stigma, expected and actually experienced by these patients), which may be differently related to the psychological, social and physical aspects of the functioning of HIV-infected people;
- Additionally, we also want to check the role of social support in this process;
- We also strive to prove the existence of the so-called accumulation of HIV/AIDS cross-stigma among HIV-positive people from sexual minorities. To investigate this, we will measure the level of the so-called minority stress, which is a type of stress experienced by stigmatised minority social groups (e.g. sexual minorities).
In our study, we will use innovative methods of psychological measurement, that is the classic longitudinal measurement of the studied variables and the so-called intense longitudinal measurement.
a) As for the first type of measurement, we plan to carry out six measurements of the examined variables with two-month intervals between them;
b) In parallel, we will conduct electronic diary measurements for a subgroup of the study participants taking part in in the classic longitudinal measurement. For two consecutive weeks, each evening, subjects will complete short versions of online questionnaires sent via a hyperlink to their e-mail box. A single diary entry will take approximately 5 minutes. In order to carry out this type of measurement, we will purchase professional software dedicated to online diary measurements.
To sum up, it is worth pointing to the potential benefits related to the implementation of this research project. Firstly, to the best of our knowledge, the project presented above describes the first study in the HIV/AIDS literature concerning such a broad understanding of the HIV/AIDS stigma combined with a novel method of measuring it. Secondly, a deeper insight into the mechanisms responsible for the stigma of HIV-infected people could help to create more effective psychological support measures aimed at reducing the HIV/AIDS stigma and improving the well-being of HIV-infected patients.
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