Interpersonal Roulette and HIV/AIDS as Disability: Stigma and Social Support in Tension
Rebecca J. Cline Uniuersity of Florido Nelya J. McKenzie Aubum Uniuersity, Montgomery
Keywords: Disclosure, identity management, stigma, social support, uncertainty reduction
Disability divides the world into "us" and "them." For the disabled, much everyday interaction is driven by interpersonal dynamics associated with stigma. People with HIV/AIDS are more likely to be stigmatized than to be socially supported (Cline, 1989). For most of the course of their disease, people with HIV/AIDS have a disability that is not identifiable by passing observation. Ironically, concealing their stigma obviates potential social support. Given the power of social support in health care and disease prevention ( DiMatteo & Hays, 1981), people with HIV/AIDS face a kind of interpersonal roulette, in which they weigh the chances of receiving the benefits of social support against the risks of outright rejection and dehumanizing treatment, in deciding whether to disclose their disability.
This chapter explores the dilemma of disclosure of HIV disease in the context of the tensions between stigma and social support. The literature (a) establishes the stigmatizing nature of interpersonal communication often experienced by those with HIV/AIDS, (b) identifies the socially supportive interpersonal communication potentially available to HIV-infected