Stigma mechanisms and outcomes among sub-Saharan African descendants in Belgium: contextualizing the HIV stigma framework

Lazare Manirankunda, Aletha Wallace, Charles Ddungu, Christiana Nöstlinger

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HIV-related stigma and discrimination are recognized barriers to HIV prevention, testing and treatment among people of Sub-Saharan African descent (SSA) origin living in Belgium, but insights into HIV related-stigma mechanisms and outcomes are lacking for this population with high HIV prevalence. Guided by Earnshaw and Chaudoir's stigma framework (2009), we conducted this qualitative study using 10 focus-groups with 76 SSA community members and 20 in-depth interviews with SSA descendants living with HIV to explore specific HIV-stigma mechanisms and outcomes and underlying drivers. Inductive and deductive thematic analysis showed high degrees of stigma among SSA communities driven by fear of HIV acquisition and misconceptions in a migration context, negatively affecting SSA descendants living with HIV. The results allowed for contextualization of the framework: At the community level, prejudices and stereotypes were major stigma mechanisms, while physical distancing, gossips, sexual rejection, violence and increased HIV prevalence emerged as stigma outcomes. Among SSA descendants living with HIV, enacted, anticipated and internalized stigmas were validated as stigma mechanisms, with witnessed stigma as an additional mechanism. Self-isolation, community avoidance and low utilization of non-HIV specialized healthcare were additional outcomes. These results are relevant for tailoring interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8635
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number16
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
  • Africa South of the Sahara/epidemiology
  • Belgium/epidemiology
  • HIV Infections/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Social Stigma

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