Individual and Collective Forms of Stigma Resistance: Pathways Between HIV and Sex Work Stigma and Viral Suppression Among Female Sex Workers in the Dominican Republic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



AIDS and behavior




Dignity; HIV; Resistance; Sex work; Social cohesion; Stigma


Intersecting forms of stigma including both HIV and sex work stigma have been known to impede HIV prevention and optimal treatment outcomes among FSW. Recent research has indicated that intersectional stigma can be resisted at the community and individual level. We assessed pathways between HIV stigma, sex work stigma, social cohesion and viral suppression among a cohort of 210 FSW living with HIV in the Dominican Republic. Through Poisson regression we explored the relationship between HIV outcomes and internalized, anticipated and enacted HIV and sex work stigma, and resisted sex work stigma. We employed structural equation modeling to explore the direct effect of various forms of stigma on HIV outcomes, and the mediating effects of multi-level stigma resistance including social cohesion at the community level and occupational dignity at the individual level. 76.2% of FSW were virally suppressed and 28.1% had stopped ART at least once in the last 6 months. ART interruption had a significant negative direct effect on viral suppression (OR = 0.26, p < 0.001, 95% CI: 0.13-0.51). Social cohesion had a significant positive direct effect on viral suppression (OR = 2.07, p = 0.046, 95% CI: 1.01-4.25). Anticipated HIV stigma had a significant negative effect on viral suppression (OR = 0.34, p = 0.055, 95% CI: 0.11-1.02). This effect was mediated by the interaction between cohesion and dignity which rendered the impact of HIV stigma on viral suppression not significant. Findings demonstrate that while HIV stigma has a negative impact on viral suppression among FSW, it can be resisted through individual and collective means. Results reinforce the importance of community-driven, multi-level interventions.


Prevention and Community Health