Abstract: Does Disclosure, Social Support, and Religiosity Lead to HIV Stigma? Examining Bangladeshi Poor Women's Experience with HIV (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Does Disclosure, Social Support, and Religiosity Lead to HIV Stigma? Examining Bangladeshi Poor Women's Experience with HIV

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Camelback B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Shirin Sultana, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, SUNY Brockport, Brockport, NY
Jemel Aguilar, PhD, Assistant Professor, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT

Contemporary literature finds people with HIV suffer from stigma, yet women suffer disproportionately more stigmatizing situations compared to men especially in the least developed countries. Gender inequities in Bangladesh result different access to social power, education, healthcare wherein women must overcome great obstacles compared to men (Hossain, 2018; Morshed & Haque, 2015). Bangladesh women living with HIV experience greater inequities than women without HIV in that they are subject to greater risks when disclosing their HIV status to friends and family members. Disclosure related risks inhibit social support in the context of living with HIV in Bangladesh. Given Bangladesh’s patriarchal culture, where majority of Bangladeshi women rely on their male counterpart to access any support to deal with their challenges, Bangladesh women living with HIV (BWLWH) are no different in the stigma encountered when accessing health and mental health care. Studies suggest that disclosure, social support, and religiosity leads women to experience greater levels of stigma, but less research studies are focused on women living with HIV in Bangladesh.


This study aims to examine the association between disclosure, social support, religiosity, and stigma among Bangladesh women living with HIV. Data were collected using scales about Social Support (Sherbourne & Stewart, 1991), India HIV-related Stigma (Steward et al., 2008), and Religiosity (Haj-Yahia, 1998) with a cross-section of WLWHA (N=200) in Bangladesh. All scales were validated within the local context to ensure the validity of the measure for the Bangladesh population.


Correlation analysis revealed that disclosure is positively associated with family stigma, community ostracization, and medical stigma as well as overall HIV-related stigma. Disclosure is also positively associated with social support when sick and from friends or family.


Disclosure of one’s HIV status in the context of gender inequities has considerable risks of losing family, friend, and community social support. The results from this study add international social work knowledge by delving into the dynamics of disclosure in the Bangladesh context among women at greatest risk of negative life outcomes if their HIV status is revealed. These findings pose challenges to educational interventions and mental health services that might strive to strengthen women’s individual coping with HIV stigma in Bangladesh because the risk of disclosure is great. Social workers, human service providers, counselors, and public health professionals must consider structural and community-based campaigns to promote wellbeing of HIV/AIDS-positive individuals, particularly Bangladesh women.