Levels and functions of HIV/AIDS stigma within the Iranian community living in the Sydney metropolitan area
Objective: This study examines the levels of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) related stigma among the Iranian population and the factors that contribute to the formation of stigma within the study population. Design: A quantitative research design was used in this research whereby participants completed a self-administrated questionnaire. A sample of 236 adults aged 20-65 were collected using non-probability sampling techniques. Setting: The study was carried out in the Sydney (Australia) metropolitan area and data were collected in 2007. Method: To obtain a desirable sample size, multivariate techniques including snowball were used. Herek's (1986) functional approach to attitudes was used to analyze HIV/AIDS stigma in the study population. Results: The findings illustrate that HIV/AIDS-related stigma was dominant among the study population. Overall, participants had negative feelings toward people with HIV/AIDS (PWHA); they were in favour of punitive policies against them and were more likely to avoid having contact with people who had contracted HIV/AIDS. Multiple regression analysis revealed that both instrumental (fear of contamination) and symbolic factors (attitudes towards homosexuals and injecting drug user) independently contributed to HIV/AIDS stigma. Conclusion: The findings suggest that HIV/AIDS stigma has instrumental and symbolic function, and concentrating solely on instrumental (HIV/AIDS transmission routes) factors is less likely to address it properly. Therefore, educational campaigns to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma should also focus on symbolic factors. The findings contribute to the knowledge area of better understanding of HIV/AIDS stigma among ethnic minorities of similar characteristics. The results are valuable for the Iranian community, health service providers, health educators and policy makers.