• Article

Stigmatising attitudes among people offered home-based HIV testing and counselling in Blantyre, Malawi: Construction and analysis of a stigma scale

Background
HIV/AIDS related stigma is a major barrier to uptake of HIV testing and counselling (HTC). We assessed the extent of stigmatising attitudes expressed by participants offered community-based HTC, and their anticipated stigma from others to assess relationship with HIV test uptake. From these data, we constructed a brief stigma scale for use around the time of HIV testing.

Methods and Findings
Adult members of 60 households in urban Blantyre, Malawi, were selected using population-weighted random cluster sampling and offered HTC with the option to self-test before confirmatory HTC. Prior to HTC a 15-item HIV stigma questionnaire was administered. We used association testing and principal components analysis (PCA) to construct a scale measure of stigma. Of 226 adults invited to participate, 216 (95.6%) completed questionnaires and 198/216 (91.7%) opted to undergo HTC (all self-tested). Stigmatising attitudes were uncommon, but anticipated stigma was common, especially fearing verbal abuse (22%) or being abandoned by their partner (11%). Three questions showed little association or consistency with the remaining 12 stigma questions and were not included in the final scale. For the 12-question final scale, Cronbach's alpha was 0.75. Level of stigma was not associated with previously having tested for HIV (p = 0.318) or agreeing to HTC (p = 0.379), but was associated with expressed worry about being or becoming HIV infected (p = 0.003).

Conclusions
Anticipated stigma prior to HTC was common among both men and women. However, the high uptake of HTC suggests that this did not translate into reluctance to accept community-based testing. We constructed a brief scale to measure stigma at the time of HIV testing that could rapidly identify individuals requiring additional support following diagnosis and monitor the impact of increasing availability of community-based HTC on prevalence of stigma.

Citation

MacPherson, P., Webb, E. L., Choko, A. T., Desmond, N., Chavula, K., Napierala Mavedzenge, S., ... Corbett, E. L. (2011). Stigmatising attitudes among people offered home-based HIV testing and counselling in Blantyre, Malawi: Construction and analysis of a stigma scale. PLoS One, 6(10), e26814. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026814