The accounts of a group of gay men living with HIV in Dublin, most of whom rarely, if ever, disclose their HIV status to casual sexual partners, starkly reveal the extent of HIV stigma within the gay community, according to a qualitative study published online ahead of print in Qualitative Health Research. While interviewees feared being sexually and socially excluded on account of their HIV status, they also stigmatised others living with HIV and rejected a shared identity.
For this in-depth, small-scale study, Patrick Murphy of the National University of Ireland Galway interviewed 15 gay men living with HIV in Dublin, all of whom were taking HIV treatment and had casual sexual partners. Participants were aged between 21 and 48 years and had been diagnosed with HIV for between six months and 20 years. Half were born in other European countries or in the Americas. Interviews were conducted in 2013.
Among these individuals, not disclosing HIV status to casual partners was common. In addition more than half had never disclosed their status to a gay friend. Murphy identified three ways in which the interviewees constructed the experience of not disclosing their status, each inextricably linked with stigmatising discourses surrounding HIV.