Journal Article

Stigma among key populations living with HIV in the Dominican Republic: Experiences of people of Haitian descent, MSM, and female sex workers

Objective(s)
To describe stigma among seropositive MSM, female sex workers (FSWs), and Haitian-descent individuals in the Dominican Republic, and to assess whether stigma is associated with HIV treatment outcomes.

Design
Cross-sectional survey using Stigma Index 2.0.

Methods
People living with HIV (PLHIV) interviewed seropositive adult MSM, FSWs, Haitian-descent persons, and other PLHIV who did not identify with these communities about experiences of social exclusion, harassment, stigma in healthcare settings, and internalized stigma. Bivariate analyses were conducted to compare experiences between FSWs and other women; MSM and other men; and Haitian-descent participants and non-Haitian PLHIV. Within each community, separate multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between stigma experiences with viral suppression and with missed antiretroviral doses.

Results
The 891 participants consisted of 154 MSM, 216 FSWs, 90 Haitian-descent persons, and 447 who did not identify with any of these three communities. Compared with other women, FSWs reported significantly higher levels of harassment due to their HIV status, and those of Haitian descent reported significantly lower levels of social exclusion compared with non-Haitian PLHIV. In adjusted analyses, MSM who experienced more stigma in HIV-specific services had a significantly lower odds of knowing they had undetectable viral load (adjusted odds ratio 0.37, P < 0.05). Higher internalized stigma scores were significantly associated with missing an antiretroviral treatment dose among FSWs (adjusted odds ratio 1.26, P < 0.05).

Conclusion
For FSWs and MSM, efforts to mitigate HIV-related stigma are necessary to improve treatment adherence and viral suppression. For Haitian-descent PLHIV, interventions must address not only their HIV-specific needs, but also the broader social and legal barriers to care.