Author(s): Lichtenstein B
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Abstract Sexually transmitted infections (STI) occur at high rates in the US compared to other Western nations. Sociocultural indicators such as race and ethnicity, lower socioeconomic status and historically higher rates of certain diseases, such as syphilis, are correlated factors but do not explain fully why STI rates are particularly high in the American Deep South. One salient factor is the stigma associated with STI and its effect on screening and treatment. This paper presents the results of six focus group interviews that were conducted among mainly African-American health workers, patients and students in Alabama, USA. The results showed that STI-related stigma directly and indirectly affected willingness to be treated for STI at public health clinics. Four dimensions of stigma emerged: (1) Religious ideation affected how health workers felt about 'promiscuous' patients (especially women), (2) privacy fears discouraged male patients from seeking treatment at local clinics, (3) racial attitudes affected willingness to be treated for STI and (4) Stigma transference (being "scarlet lettered") emerged as a potent disincentive to treatment. Partner notification was more likely if patients felt betrayed by a sexual partner. Further research is needed to clarify these stigma-related dimensions and the impact on screening, treatment and partner services.
This article was published in Soc Sci Med
and referenced in Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research