Date of Award

Winter 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Valerian J. Derlega

Committee Member

Robin J. Lewis

Committee Member

Louis H. Janda

Committee Member

Delanyard Robinson

Committee Member

Kathrin Hartman


HIV/AIDS-related stigma remains prevalent in our society despite advances in medical treatment, and appears to be based on fear of the illness and negative attitudes toward gay individuals. Previous literature examining the phenomenon, enactment, and consequences of HIV/AIDS-related stigma has primarily been based on self-report measures examining participants' imagined reactions toward a person with HIV/AIDS (PWHA). The present study attempted to expand on the self-report findings and contribute uniquely to the literature by examining participants' attitudes toward an individual believed to be gay and HIV-positive after a real-life interaction. This study, which involved the use of a confederate whose sexual orientation (straight, gay) and HIV serostatus (negative, positive) had been manipulated, examined participants' attitudes along dimensions of liking and trust, willingness to affiliate, and enactment of social support and self-disclosure. Results revealed several gender differences in reactions to the confederate, whereby men offered more solace and made fewer low descriptive/low evaluative statements toward an HIV-positive individual, but women were more willing to affiliate with the confederate regardless of his sexual orientation or HIV serostatus. Participants also used more low descriptive/low evaluative statements when interacting with a gay, versus straight, HIV-positive confederate, suggesting that negative attitudes toward gays is a driving force in the perpetuation of HIV/AIDS-related stigma. The findings offer support to the previous literature demonstrating that HIV/AIDS continues to be strongly associated with homosexuality, and reveal that negative attitudes are apparent in real-life situations as well as on self-report measures. However, participants' willingness in many cases to provide social support and intimate self-disclosure is hopeful, and indicates that continued educational efforts aimed at reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma may meet with success.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.