Qualitative Health Research
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Stigmatization contributes to inequity by marginalizing persons living with HIV and AIDS (PHAs). In this study we examined the stigmatizing practices in health care settings from the perspectives of PHAs and health care providers (HCPs). A qualitative design, using a participatory action research approach, was used. Interviews and focus groups were completed with 16 aboriginal and 17 nonaboriginal individuals living with HIV (APHAs and PHAs) and 27 HCPs in Ottawa and Edmonton, Canada. We present findings to support the premise that stigmatization can be used as a social control mechanism with PHAs. Participants described both active and passive social control mechanisms: shunning and ostracizing, labeling, and disempowering health care practices. Forgiving behavior, balancing disclosure, practicing universal precautions, bending the rules, shifting services, and reducing labeling were strategies to manage, resist, and mitigate social control. The findings illustrate the urgent need for multilevel interventions to manage, resist, and mitigate stigma.