HIV-related stigma, psychological distress, self-esteem, and social support were investigated in a sample comprising people who have concealed their HIV status to all but a selected few (limited disclosers), people who could conceal but chose to be open (full disclosers), and people who had visible symptoms that made concealing difficult (visibly stigmatized). The visibly stigmatized and full disclosers reported significantly more stigma experiences than limited disclosers, but only the visibly stigmatized reported more psychological distress, lower self-esteem, and less social support than limited disclosers. This suggests that having a visible stigma is more detrimental than having a concealable stigma. Differences in psychological distress and self-esteem between the visibly stigmatized and full disclosers were mediated by social support while differences between the visibly stigmatized and limited disclosers were mediated by both social support and stigma. These findings suggest that social support buffers psychological distress in people with HIV.
Sutterheim, Sarah E.; Bos, Arjan E. R.; Pryor, John B.; Liebregts, Maartje; Schaalma, Herman P.; and Brands, Ronald, "Psychological and Social Correlates of Hiv Status Disclosure: the Significance of Stigma Visibility" (2011). Faculty Publications – Psychology. Paper 3.