HIV-related stigma remains a considerable barrier to engaging at-risk populations in HIV testing and prevention programs. We assessed the moderating role of HIV-related stigma on the relation between perceived susceptibility to HIV and HIV testing intention among college students. We hypothesized that the moderating role of HIV-related stigma would be differential between heterosexual and sexual minority college students. We administered a survey focused on HIV-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in Spring 2016 (N = 2,159). We used multi-group path analysis to analyze the hypothesized moderation. HIV-related stigma moderated the relation between perceived susceptibility and testing intention for heterosexual, but not sexual minority college students. Specifically, higher HIV-related stigma decreased the association between perceived susceptibility and testing intention. These results demonstrate the importance of priority population segmentation for HIV testing campaigns.
HIV affects about 1.2 million people in the United States. To reduce transmission of HIV, public health specialists create health communication campaigns to encourage people to get tested for HIV. One way to encourage people to get tested for HIV is to change their perception of their risk behavior (called perceived susceptibility). People who feel at risk for getting HIV are more likely to get tested. However, HIV-related stigma is a barrier to HIV testing.
In this paper, we analyzed data from college students to identify differences in the role of stigma and perceived susceptibility on intention to get tested for HIV among straight (heterosexual) and sexual minority (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc.) college students. Our results indicate that stigma reduces the positive influence of perceived susceptibility on HIV testing intention for heterosexual but not sexual minority college students. Public health specialists should make sure that health communication campaigns address HIV-related stigma as a barrier for heterosexual students.
Is this paper peer reviewed? This paper is published in Health Promotion Practice. This journal uses a peer review process where the authors and the reviewers do not know each other’s identities.
Who paid for this project? Data reported in this paper were collected through a small research grant provided by the University of Florida Center for Undergraduate Research University Scholars Program, awarded to Tyler James under the mentorship of Dr. Sadie Ryan.
Are there any conflicts of interest? There are no conflicts of interest.