Bioethics Blogs

RETI Fellow Examines Intersectional Stigma for HIV-Positive African American Women

Dr. Faith Fletcher, University of Illinois at Chicago

While bearing the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDs in the US, African American women also face multilevel stigma at social, community and institutional levels, which is exacerbated by their HIV-positive status.

Fordham University Center for Ethics Education HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) fellow Dr. Faith E. Fletcher, an assistant professor at University of Illinois at Chicago, recently addressed this issue using her dissertation research in an article titled, “She Told Them, Oh That Bitch Got AIDS”: Experiences of Multi-Level HIV/AIDS- Related Stigma among African American Women Living with HIV/AIDS in the South” published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs.

Dr. Fletcher interviewed 42 African American women with HIV/AIDS living in South Carolina. She found that “HIV/AIDS stigma permeated many dimensions of women’s lives, including the research process.” Using narrative data and the Social Ecological Model, Dr. Fletcher’s findings demonstrate the need for “enhanced” and “tailored” approaches that “address the unique needs” of these women.

Settings most people would consider “safe spaces” are not necessarily safe for HIV-positive African American women due to the intersections of stigma including where they “live, work, love, play, and pray,” Dr. Fletcher explained. Ethical issues that challenged her arose from this unavailability of “safe spaces,” to ensure that no part of the research process further stigmatizes the participants or intensify their vulnerabilities.

Although many of the women in the study chose their homes as safe spaces, Dr. Fletcher said that several requested to use her car for interviews to “ensure more privacy and ultimately a safer study environment” due to others being in the home at the time.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.