Experiences of HIV Stigma in Rural Southern Religious Settings

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Experiences of stigma, including stigma in religious settings, among individuals who are HIV positive have been widely documented. However, research related to stigma has predominantly focussed on urban locations. As a result, stigma incurred via religious settings in non-urban areas has been underexplored. The aim of this study is to uncover the experiences of individuals who are HIV positive with religious institutions, leaders and congregants in the non-urban American South. A total of 22 participants were interviewed. Experiences with stigma were pervasive with participants often describing anticipation of future stigma (often based on past negative experiences), the experience of stigma, and, for some participants, intersectional or layered stigma related to being both gay, or being perceived as gay, and HIV positive. Our findings suggest that the conditions of the non-urban setting in which this research took place made specific contributions to participants’ experiences of stigma.