Despite widening access to treatment, perceived HIV stigma has only risen in Uganda in recent years, although the expressed attitudes toward people living with the virus appear to have improved, aidsmap reports. Publishing their findings in the journal AIDS, researchers conducted two studies in rural Uganda: The first assessed levels of internalized stigma among 329 people beginning antiretrovirals between 2007 and 2012; and the second looked at stigmatizing attitudes toward people with HIV among 1,141 people in 2006 and 1,106 in 2011.

For the internalized stigma study, the researchers used the Internalized AIDS-Related Stigma Scale. The mean stigma scores rose from 1.4 in 2007 to 1.8 in 2012, with an 11 percent annual increase.

In 2006, 46 percent of Ugandans polled expressed accepting attitudes toward people with HIV, compared with 59 percent in 2011. On the other hand, while 47 percent in 2006 said that they expected HIV-positive people to experience stigma upon disclosing their status, this figure rose to 61 percent in 2011.

The researchers posited two explanations for the apparent contradiction in the study’s findings. The responses to questions about feelings about stigma toward HIV could have been swayed by participants’ desires to give what they perceived as the more favorable answer. Or it could be that attitudes toward people living with the virus had indeed changed but that perceived stigma had not improved.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.