Dr Power began her presentation with a brief outline of Stigma, stating that “stigma is a social product”, rather than something that is an innate part of who we are as people.
Her research focussed on findings that have emerged from the HIV futures study, which began in 1997 and is repeated and added to every two years. In this aspect of the study, Dr Power measured the social impact of enacted stigma that people living with HIV encountered, assessing levels of internalised stigma and also anticipated stigma. Ultimately, the study is intended to show the relationship between stigma and health outcomes; seeking to find ways to use the data toward strategies to combat stigma.
Participants in the research were surveyed through the most recent HIV futures 8 study. Questions repeated those of previous studies, but also new questions were developed using language that participants of previous studies had used to describe the impact of stigma.
Findings highlighted a significant increase in disclosure related fears, with isolation and social withdrawal being a dominant theme. People living with HIV who reported lower perceived stigma reported higher levels of social support, higher levels of disclosure and good relationships with the healthcare professionals they engaged with.
Stigma encountered within the workplace and anxiety about unintended disclosure at work featured highly in participant responses. Dr Power explained that these findings enables strategising toward combatting stigma through workplace focused initiatives. Even though the workplace often dominates people’s ability to move through life and is entrenched with hierarchies, workplaces are also structures through which to communicate. The findings of Dr Power’s research provides good evidence for resilience through workplace social support programs.