Perceptions of HIV-Associated Stigma in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Elizabeth Di Valerio, Safiya George Dalmida*, Tai Hunte-Ceasar, Amy Schweizer, Gritell C.B. Martinez, Alexandra Savinkina, Laura Harker, Kate Yuhas, Kelsey Simhachalam, Hayley Robinett, Peiyuan Huang, Brittany Freeman and George C.T. Mugoya

Perceptions of HIV-Associated Stigma in the U.S. Virgin Islands

For over a decade, the U.S. Virgin Islands has consistently had one of the highest per
capita prevalence rates of HIV infection in the nation, despite a total population of only approximately 110,000.

By the end of 2014, the USVI was ranked as having the third highest rate of people
living with HIV/AIDS in the US. HIV-related stigma is among one of the socio-cultural factors that may help
explain these high rates due to serving as a barrier to HIV testing and disclosure.

According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization
(WHO), HIV/AIDS-related stigma is a barrier is to treat HIV and there is a need for research
that provides better conceptual and operational definitions of stigma and that identifies different types of HIV/AIDS-related stigmas.

Past research in the Caribbean region also identified stigma as a barrier to accessing
HIV care, but few published studies have been conducted in the USVI.

The purpose of this research study was to explore the perceptions of HIV/AIDS-related stigma
and identify the most common stigmas in the USVI.

Review of relevant literature and past studies regarding HIV related stigma
demonstrate the issues regarding stigma as a barrier to care.

Studies confirmed the presence of a strong stigma in the Caribbean Basin
and the USVI related to sexual health, as well as in other geographic locations across the United States
including Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Arizona, New York, and Texas.

HIV/AIDS Res Treat Open J. 2016; SE(1): S23-S30. doi: 10.17140/HARTOJ-SE-1-104