Date of Conferral
This study was conducted to gain a better understanding of HIV/AIDS-related stigma within religious communities in rural Gujarat, India. This study used the hidden distress model of HIV stigma and the HIV peer education model as conceptual frameworks to examine a rural population sample of 100 participants. Regression analysis was conducted to test if school education had a moderating effect on the relationship between illness as punishment for sin (IPS) and HIV stigma. Religiosity was tested for mediating effects on the relationship between early religious involvement (ERI) and HIV stigma. The results of this study indicated that single unemployed men under the age of 28 were more likely to relate religiosity, IPS, and ERI to HIV stigma. Furthermore, education did not significantly moderate the relationship between IPS and HIV Stigma, and religiosity also did not mediate the relationship between ERI and HIV stigma. However, an additional mediation analysis showed that IPS did mediate the relationship between religiosity and HIV stigma in this study. The results of this study suggested that HIV/AIDS awareness programs may need to focus on young unemployed men because they may be the most susceptible to stigmatic thinking. It can be concluded that IPS was a major contributor in the proliferation of HIV stigma for participants in this study. Further research is needed to understand how belief in an authoritarian God could increase IPS, and how education initiatives may aid in decreasing IPS among inhabitants. This study strived to add to the existing body of knowledge and help improve the lives of those infected with HIV in rural parts of India.