Social-cultural factors of HIV-related stigma among the Chinese general population in Hong Kong

Tien Ee Dominic Yeo*, Tsz Hang Chu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)


HIV-related stigma in the wider community compounds the suffering of people living with HIV (PLWH) and hampers effective HIV prevention and care. This study examines the level of public stigma toward PLWH in Hong Kong and associated social-cultural factors. A telephone survey was conducted in June–July 2016 with 1080 Chinese adults aged 18–94 randomly selected from the general population. The results indicate substantial degree of public stigma toward PLWH. Overall, 58.1% of the participants endorsed at least one statement indicating negative social judgment of PLWH. Over 40% attributed HIV infections to irresponsible behaviors and nearly 30% perceived most PLWH as promiscuous. About 20% considered HIV to be a punishment for bad behavior and believed that PLWH should feel ashamed of themselves. These statistics indicate that HIV-related stigma among the general Hong Kong population had no noticeable reduction in a decade but is lower than that among rural and urban populations in China. Our findings suggest that the lower stigma in Hong Kong may be linked to higher education levels rather than Hongkongers’ more Westernized outlook. The results of a multiple regression analysis showed that education level (β = −.19), homophobia (β =.30), and conformity to norms (β =.14) were independent predictors of HIV-related stigma but not age, income, or cultural orientations. By differentiating between associated social-cultural factors, this study provides a more nuanced understanding of the layered nature of HIV-related stigma: not broadly grounded in religion or Chinese culture but stemming from more specific social-cultural beliefs–perceptions of norm violation and negative attitudes toward homosexuality, which were not mutually exclusive. These findings have implications for HIV-related stigma reduction by providing evidence for the importance of addressing homophobia. Existing HIV publicity activities should be re-examined for inadvertent contribution to the stigmatization process–particularly press conferences and prevention campaigns that reinforce negative stereotypes of gay/bisexual men and PLWH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1255-1259
Number of pages5
JournalAIDS Care: Psychological and Socio-medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

User-Defined Keywords

  • Stigma
  • people living with HIV
  • social norms
  • homosexuality
  • Hong Kong


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