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Journal of Tropical Medicine
Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 145891, 14 pages
Review Article

Stigma of People with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Literature Review

Department of Health Promotion, School of Public Health and Primary Care CAPHRI, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

Received 25 November 2008; Revised 3 May 2009; Accepted 16 June 2009

Academic Editor: Jean-Paul Gonzalez

Copyright © 2009 Ngozi C. Mbonu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The aim of this literature review is to elucidate what is known about HIV/AIDS and stigma in Sub-Saharan Africa. Literature about HIV/AIDS and stigma in Sub-Saharan Africa was systematically searched in Pubmed, Medscape, and Psycinfo up to March 31, 2009. No starting date limit was specified. The material was analyzed using Gilmore and Somerville's (1994) four processes of stigmatizing responses: the definition of the problem HIV/AIDS, identification of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), linking HIV/AIDS to immorality and other negative characteristics, and finally behavioural consequences of stigma (distancing, isolation, discrimination in care). It was found that the cultural construction of HIV/AIDS, based on beliefs about contamination, sexuality, and religion, plays a crucial role and contributes to the strength of distancing reactions and discrimination in society. Stigma prevents the delivery of effective social and medical care (including taking antiretroviral therapy) and also enhances the number of HIV infections. More qualitative studies on HIV/AIDS stigma including stigma in health care institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa are recommended.