Institutional and structural barriers to HIV testing: Elements for a theoretical framework

Beth Meyerson, Priscilla Barnes, Roberta Emetu, Marlon Bailey, Anita Ohmit, Anthony Gillespie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Stigma is a barrier to HIV health seeking, but little is known about institutional and structural expressions of stigma in HIV testing. This study examines evidence of institutional and structural stigma in the HIV testing process. A qualitative, grounded theory study was conducted using secondary data from a 2011 HIV test site evaluation data in a Midwestern, moderate HIV incidence state. Expressions of structural and institutional stigma were found with over half of the testing sites and at three stages of the HIV testing visit. Examples of structural stigma included social geography, organization, and staff behavior at first encounter and reception, and staff behavior when experiencing the actual HIV test. Institutional stigma was socially expressed through staff behavior at entry/reception and when experiencing the HIV test. The emerging elements demonstrate the potential compounding of stigma experiences with deleterious effect. Study findings may inform future development of a theoretical framework. In practice, findings can guide organizations seeking to reduce HIV testing barriers, as they provide a window into how test seekers experience HIV test sites at first encounter, entry/reception, and at testing stages; and can identify how stigma might be intensified by structural and institutional expressions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
JournalAIDS Patient Care and STDs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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