The minority stress theory suggests that health disparities experienced by gay and bisexual men (GBM) and other sexual minorities can be explained in terms of stigma-related stressors such as discrimination at work, school, religious institutions, communities and families. The unique stressors of an HIV-positive status experienced by GBM, however, has been overlooked within research on minority stress.
Fordham University Center for Ethics Education HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) Fellow Dr. Jon Rendina, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Faculty Investigator and Director of Quantitative Methods at The Center for HIV Educational Studies & Training (CHEST) of Hunter College, CUNY, recently addressed this issue within a paper published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Dr. Rendina has been conducting HIV research with GBM for more than ten years. He explained the need to thoroughly test “the role of internalized stigma about sexual orientation, or internalized homophobia, and internalized HIV stigma within a unified model to see whether one or both have an impact on HIV-positive gay or bisexual men.” Although it is already established that GBM are negatively impacted by internalized sexual minority stigma, the purpose of this study was to further explore the impact of HIV-related stressors on the health of GBM.
Dr. Rendina and his colleagues extended the minority stress model to include HIV-related stressors and found that “internalized homophobia and internalized HIV stigma are each bad for health, and having both is even worse.” Men who experienced both stigmas reported greater symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sexual compulsivity and were also more likely to engage in sexual behaviors that put them and their partners at risk.
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