Stigma towards HIV positive people in the El Paso community

Evdokia Romanova, University of Texas at El Paso


Stigma and discrimination towards individuals living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a serious issue. The stigma experienced by people with HIV relates to how the virus has been primary associated with so-called deviant behaviors (e.g. promiscuity and homosexuality). Stigma may isolate infected individuals from society and create barriers when accessing medical care and seeking social support. Conducted in El Paso, Texas, this study aims to better understand the issue of stigma through the life stories of individuals living with HIV and to test an exploratory model of a community-based intervention for fighting self-stigma. This research project is divided into two stages of data collection and analysis. In Stage 1 of the project, I conducted in-depth interviews (n=12) with people living with HIV in the community of El Paso. In Stage 2 of the project, I conducted and evaluated a theater intervention using workshops. Common themes in the Stage 1 interviews were stigma from primary and secondary social groups, and the way self-stigmatized attitudes influence individual’s self-perceptions, and the positive aspects of having HIV. Stage 1 analyses demonstrate that stigma, especially from friends and family members (i.e., primary groups), remains a relevant issue in the El Paso community as individuals living with HIV tended to experience stigma, which had a strong influence on their self-esteem and emotional health. The evaluation conducted in Stage 2 revealed that all participants (n=13) were satisfied with the intervention; the follow-up interviews (n=4) suggested that participants received an emotional and psychological release, open up about their personal problems, and improved their relationships within the support group. Practically, the results speak to the necessity of providing additional support, not only to individuals living with HIV, but also to their families and close friends and to the importance of educating community activists about the close connection between HIV stigma and heterosexist and homophobic values. Lastly, this thesis illustrates opportunities for theater approaches as efficient ways for working with support groups serving individuals living with HIV.

Subject Area

Social work|Public Health Education|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Romanova, Evdokia, "Stigma towards HIV positive people in the El Paso community" (2015). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10000789.