Background People living with HIV/AIDS(PLWHA) are vulnerable to discrimination because of the stigma associated with the disease.
Aim(s)/objectives To examine the level of disease awareness, discriminatory attitudes towards PLWHA and factors in association with such attitudes.
Methods A cross sectional survey was conducted by using a semi-structured validated telephone questionnaire of a random sample from the Sri Lankan telephone directory. The questionnaire consisted questions regarding awareness of the modes of transmission and questions to assess the attitude toward PLWHA.
Results Around 92% (120/130) of the respondents reported discriminatory attitudes in at least five out of the 20 relevant items, about 98% would avoid making physical contact with PLWHA, hesitating to sit next in the public transport (98%), divorcing the infected spouse (85%) and dismissing a HIV positive maid (100%). A sizeable proportion of the respondents exhibit negative perceptions; PLWHA are merely receiving the punishment they deserve (92%) and believe that they are purposefully infect others (94%). Also 89% concluded that the majority of PLWHA are promiscuous. Multiple regression analysis found that age, HIV related knowledge, above mentioned negative perceptions about PLWHA and fear associated with AIDS are independent predictors of discriminatory attitudes towards PLWHA. About 90% would give PLWHA the lowest priority in resource allocation among five groups of chronic diseases.
Conclusion Stigma among this study sample of general public was mostly due to fear of contracting the HIV/AIDS. Therefore, steps need to take increase public awareness and dissemination of information regarding HIV/AIDS to reduce the stigma associated with HIV.