Stigma and criminalization

Stigma happens when others devalue a person or a group of people because they are associated with a certain disease, behaviour or practice. The stigma of HIV prevents people from getting tested and from accessing treatment and services if they are positive. In combination with other forms of stigma, it hinders the efforts of men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and other marginalised groups to avoid HIV. For example:

  • stigma may stop those with the virus from telling their partners about their status,
  • stigma increases people's vulnerability to physical violence,
  • HIV-related stigma affects people‚Äôs ability to earn a living, and
  • women are held to a different moral standard than men, so they are often blamed for HIV in their communities.

All such effects are multiplied when sex work, MSM as homosexuality or drug use are criminalised as well.


Stigma-reduction campaigns can work, as studies have shown. STRIVE partners work on filling knowledge gaps, such as:

  • the potential range of stigma-reduction programmes
  • cost and cost-effectiveness
  • evaluation of country programmes, and
  • the effect of stigma-reduction interventions on uptake of HIV prevention, care and treatment.