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AIDS Care. 2011 Nov;23(11):1456-66. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2011.565021. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

"The way I see it": the effect of stigma and depression on self-perceived body image among HIV-positive individuals on treatment in British Columbia, Canada.

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British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Vancouver, Canada.


With significant reductions in AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, HIV is increasingly viewed as a chronic condition. However, people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) are experiencing new challenges such as metabolic and morphological body changes, which may affect self-perceived body image. The concept of body image is complex and encompasses an individual's perception of their existential self, physical self and social interpretation of their body by others. The Longitudinal Investigations into Supportive and Ancillary Health Services (LISA) cohort is a prospective study of HIV-positive persons on ART. An interviewer-administered survey collects socio-demographic and health information including body image, stigma, depression, food insecurity, and quality of life (QoL). In bivariate analyses, Chi-squared or Wilcoxon rank sum tests were used to compare individuals reporting positive body image with those reporting negative body image. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine associations between negative body image and covariates. Of 451 LISA participants, 47% reported negative body image. The adjusted multivariate analysis showed participants who reported high stigma in the presence of depressive symptoms were more likely to have negative body image compared to people reporting low stigma and no depressive symptoms (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 2.41, confidence interval [CI]: 1.24-4.68). The estimated probability of a person having positive body image without stigma or depression was 68%. When stigma alone was included, the probability dropped to 59%, and when depression was included alone the probability dropped to 34%. Depressive symptoms and high stigma combined resulted in a probability of reporting positive body image of 27%. Further efforts are needed to address body image among people living with HIV. In order to lessen the impacts of depression on body image, such issues must be addressed in health care settings. Community interventions are also needed to address stigma and negative body image to improve the lives of people living with HIV.

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