According to Stigma and HIV/AIDS: A Review of the Literature published by the HIV/AIDS Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services, "HIV-related stigma refers to all unfavorable attitudes, beliefs, and policies directed toward people perceived to have HIV/AIDS as well as toward their significant others and loved ones, close associates, social groups, and communities. Patterns of prejudice, which include devaluing, discounting, discrediting, and discriminating against these groups of people, play into and strengthen existing social inequalities- especially those of gender, sexuality, and race- that are at the root of HIV-related stigma."
Within the Stigma and HIV/AIDS: A Review of the Literature, four of the main stigma categories associated with HIV/AIDS patients are:
- Patients infected with HIV are often blamed for their condition and many people believe HIV could be avoided if individuals made better moral decisions.
- Although HIV is treatable, it is nevertheless a progressive, incurable disease.
- HIV transmission is poorly understood by some people in the general population, causing them to feel threatened by the mere presence of the disease.
- Although asymptomatic HIV infection can often be concealed, the symptoms of HIV-related illness cannot. HIV-related symptoms may be considered repulsive, ugly, and disruptive to social interaction.