Reducing HIV-related stigma in social interaction: Testing interaction strategies using virtual reality methodology
10 / 2009 - 09 / 2013
HIV-related stigma is an important and existing problem in the daily lives of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). PLWHA often experience social rejection in initial social encounters. Research on social stigma has paid limited attention to social interactions between nonstigmatized and stigmatized individuals, partly because it is difficult to study such interactions. Virtual reality is a research methodology that provides the opportunity to investigate social interactions with PLWHA under different circumstances. The present studies examine the impact of interaction strategies that PLWHA may use to minimize stigmatizing reactions in initial social encounters. People may have controlled (thoughtful or deliberative) and automatic (immediate or impulsive) reactions towards PLWHA. Therefore, main outcome measures are self-report questionnaires, as well as implicit measures of stigma (IAT), behavioural measures (e.g. distance from PLWHA) and physiological measures (e.g., skin conductance),. The first two experiments investigate the impact of target characteristics on stigmatization (exp 1: sexual orientation of PLWHA; exp 2: visibility of symptoms). The following experiments test the impact of different interaction strategies on stigmatization (exp 3: acknowledgment of HIV status; exp 4: predictable behaviour; exp. 5: mimicry of behaviour).