Intersectional health-related stigma in persons living with HIV and chronic pain: implications for depressive symptoms

Academic Article


  • “Intersectional health-related stigma” (IHRS) refers to stigma that arises at the convergence of multiple health conditions. People living with HIV (PLWH) and chronic pain have two highly stigmatized health conditions, and thus may be at especially high risk for internalizing these stigmas and consequently experiencing depression. This study examined the intersectionality of internalized HIV and chronic pain stigma in relation to depressive symptoms in a sample of PLWH and chronic pain. Sixty participants were recruited from an HIV clinic in the Southeastern United States. Chronic pain was defined as pain that has been present for at least three consecutive months, and that has been an ongoing problem for at least half the days in the past six months. All participants completed the HIV Stigma Mechanisms Scale, Internalized Stigma in Chronic Pain Scale, the Short-Form Brief Pain Inventory, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies–Depression Scale. Clinical data was collected from medical records. An intersectional HIV and chronic pain composite variable was created and participants were categorized as either high (28%), moderate (32%), or low (40%). Results revealed that intersectional HIV and chronic pain stigma was significantly associated with severity of depressive symptoms (p =.023). Pairwise contrasts revealed that participants with high (p =.009) and moderate (p =.033) intersectional stigma reported significantly greater mean depressive symptom severity than those with low intersectional stigma. Participants who reported the highest levels of internalized HIV and chronic pain stigma also reported the greatest severity of depressive symptoms. This suggests that the experience of both HIV and chronic pain stigma (i.e., IHRS) among PLWH and chronic pain may synergistically perpetuate negative mood in a more profound manner than experiencing either one stigma alone.
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    Author List

  • Goodin BR; Owens MA; White DM; Strath LJ; Gonzalez C; Rainey RL; Okunbor JI; Heath SL; Turan JM; Merlin JS
  • Start Page

  • 66
  • End Page

  • 73
  • Volume

  • 30