Stigma, disclosure, and depressive symptoms among informal caregivers of people living with HIV/aids

Mary M. Mitchell, Amy Knowlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Informal care receipt is associated with better HIV treatment outcomes among patients vulnerable to treatment failure. Yet, informal caregiving can be highly stressful, leading to distress and cessation of caregiving. Research on factors contributing to informal caregivers' psychological distress may advance our understanding of how to improve caregivers' well-being and sustained HIV caregiving for a vulnerable population. We examined relationships among caregiver stigma, disclosure, and depressive symptoms in a cross-sectional sample of 207 informal caregivers of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) in Baltimore, Maryland. Caregivers were primarily African American, low-income, urban adults participating in the Action, Resources, and Knowledge (ARK) study (2003-2005), which recruited urban PLWHAs and their main supporters. Results indicated that among caregivers, HIV caregiving-related stigma was associated with more depressive symptoms, while disclosure of caregiving status was associated with fewer symptoms. We also explored the buffering effect of disclosure in the relationship between stigma and depressive symptoms. Results indicated that among those who reported greater stigma, there was a significant decrease in depressive symptoms as the number of disclosures increased. In contrast, participants who indicated lower stigma had consistently fewer depressive symptoms regardless of number of disclosures. These results suggest the need for interventions to address high levels of depressive symptoms among informal HIV caregivers, particularly those who report greater caregiving stigma and less disclosure of their caregiver status. In addition, future research should examine these relationships further using longitudinal data from informal caregivers and their care recipients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-617
Number of pages7
JournalAIDS patient care and STDs
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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