March 2015 Vol. 4 Issue
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Global Advanced Research Journal
of Medicine and Medical Sciences (GARJMMS) ISSN: 2315-5159
March 2015 Vol. 4(3), pp.
Copyright © 2015 Global Advanced
Full Length Research Paper
“People don’t know that I’m HIV positive”:
self-stigma in the lives of sub-Saharan African
migrant women in Belgium
Agnes Ebotabe Arrey1*, Johan Bilsen1,
Patrick Lacor2 and Reginald Deschepper1
Health and Wellbeing Research Group, Department of
Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy,
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.
of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases-AIDS
Reference Centre, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel,
*Corresponding Author E-mail:
Accepted 13 March, 2015
Antiretroviral treatment has significantly reduced
AIDS-related deaths but the increased number of
people living with HIV/AIDS and experiencing stigma
remains a global health challenge. Self-stigma
deeply affects the lives of people with HIV/AIDS and
may thwart prevention efforts.
paper explores the drivers of self-stigma,
experiences and the coping strategies common to
HIV-positive sub-Saharan African (SSA) migrant women
in Belgium. Qualitative study of 40 SSA migrant
women was conducted between April 2013 and December
Participants were recruited through purposive
sampling and snowball techniques from AIDS Reference
Centers and AIDS workshops in Belgium; if 18 years
and older, French or English speaking, and diagnosed
HIV-positive more than 3 months.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with
patients and did observations during consultations
and support groups attendances. Follow-up interviews
were conducted four to eight months later.
analysis was used to identify themes, aided by NVivo
8 as they emerged from data.
Self-stigma was ubiquitous in the lives of almost
by: public endorsed negative feelings,
chronic/incurable nature of disease, HIV
The most striking implications of HIV self-stigma
include: reluctance to seek treatment/care,
unwillingness to disclose HIV+ status.
Participants reported that
disclosure/non-disclosure, treatment adherence,
faith in God, empathy and support help them cope
HIV/AIDS self-stigma. Our findings highlight the
complex and shifting nature of self-stigma
experienced by SSA migrant women living with
HIV/AIDS in Belgium. There is urgent need for
innovative culturally-adapted self-stigma reduction
programs that will improve personalized support
services and optimize HIV prevention and treatment.
HIV/AIDS, Self-stigma, Stigma drivers, African
migrant women, Belgium.