Laura McGough, Ph.D.
"Stigma and the Political Economy of Disease: The Neglected Dimension of Interventions to Reduce HIV/AIDS Stigma"
As access to antiretroviral treatment becomes increasingly available in developing countries, the potential exists for the reduction of stigma related to HIV/AIDS, thereby increasing access to HIV testing, counseling, and treatment. The historical record suggests, however, that access to treatment alone does not reduce stigma for all persons suffering from an STI. For example, when penicillin became available for the treatment of syphilis and gonorrhea during World War II, a highly publicized campaign to treat prostitutes as the principal vectors of disease reinforced the stigma associated with these diseases. Centuries earlier, when a variety of treatments for syphilis first became available in Renaissance Italy (regarded as cures at the time), witchcraft accusations nevertheless persisted. Patients who had bought medications and been “cured” blamed witchcraft for subsequent relapses and denounced suspected witches to the Inquisition. As treatment becomes available, stigma can shift from the entire group of patients to certain sub-groups: those who do not respond medically to treatment, to the poor and marginalized, to the “guilty” who sell sex or inject drugs. Recent work on stigma (Parker and Aggleton) has highlighted the importance of policy and structural intervention in reducing the impact of stigma.