Antiretroviral therapy and aging as resources for managing and resisting HIV-related stigma in rural South Africa

The widespread roll-out of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Africa has contributed to a large population of adults aging with HIV. However, little is known about how HIV-related stigma interacts with aging in the ART era. This study uses in-depth interviews with middle-aged and older South Africans living with HIV to explore stigma-related experiences and response strategies. Participants describe a persistence of stigma which requires the deployment of a range of common and age-based stigma management and resistance strategies. We find that participants minimize their exposure to stigma through selective disclosure of their HIV status; neutralize HIV-related stigma through comparisons to chronic illnesses common among older adults, and deflect stigma through asserting an ART-adherent identity and othering younger non-adherent adults. Overall, our study highlights the roles of ART and aging as resources for managing and resisting HIV-related stigma.
HIV; ART; Stigma; Aging; South Africa