Counteracting complex intersectional self-stigmatisation through empathetic group work

King, Helena (2024). Counteracting complex intersectional self-stigmatisation through empathetic group work. In: 20th Biennial Conference of the European Society of Health and Medical Sociology (ESHMS), 2-5 Jul 2024, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium.


People living with HIV (PLHIV) can lead deeply complex lives often shaped by profound inequality. Intersecting stigmatised identities, socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, and comorbidities contribute to heightened vulnerability compounded by living with a hidden disability. Mental ill health is common and has been linked with internalised stigma. Whilst effective psychosocial support can help PLHIV mitigate the effects of stigma, in the UK access to mental/social support is variable and there are no well-established interventions that target internalised stigma and multifaceted biopsychosocial issues associated with HIV. This paper provides insights from a peer-led ‘retreat’ intervention which offers PLHIV opportunities to build support networks and explore the diversity of challenges they face in a safe, confidential environment. The study project sought to understand the therapeutic processes inherent to retreats as a way of improving our understanding of complex internalised stigma.

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