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Unveiling the hidden epidemic: a review of stigma associated with sexually transmissible infections

Julia E. Hood A B and Allison L. Friedman A

A Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, N.E, Mailstop E-44, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Sexual Health 8(2) 159-170
Submitted: 12 June 2010  Accepted: 24 August 2010   Published: 18 May 2011


Stigma has long accompanied sexually transmissible infections (STI) and hindered prevention and control efforts. It not only acts as a formidable barrier to STI testing, treatment and disclosure, but has a multitude of consequences for the health and quality of life of infected individuals. This review summarises the literature related to STI stigma and offers practical approaches to counter STI-associated stigma through multi-level efforts. Specifically, it describes the key sources that breed and perpetuate stigma, outlines how STI-associated stigma has been conceptualised and measured in the literature, documents the impact of stigma on infected and uninfected individuals, and summarises the stigma reduction strategies recommended in the literature. Gaps in the literature are identified and areas for further research are suggested, along with practical strategies for moving forward.

Graphical Abstract Image

Additional keywords: literature review, sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases.


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