Effects of HIV-related discrimination on psychosocial syndemics and sexual risk behavior among people living with HIV

Randolph Chun Ho CHAN, Don OPERARIO, Winnie W. S. MAK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In the context of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, people living with HIV (PLHIV) might be vulnerable to a ‘syndemic’ of co-occurring psychosocial challenges that can affect sexual behavior. The present study examined how HIV-related discrimination contributes to co-occurring psychosocial syndemic problems and results in inconsistent condom use among PLHIV in Hong Kong. Two-hundred and ninety-one PLHIV were recruited to complete a self-report questionnaire. More than one-quarter of the sample experienced two or more psychosocial syndemic problems, and 74.1% of the participants who had sex with steady partners reported inconsistent condom use over the past three months. The results indicated that HIV-related discrimination was positively predictive of the number of psychosocial syndemic problems. HIV-related discrimination and psychosocial syndemics were associated with increased odds of inconsistent condom use with steady partners (AOR = 5.40 and AOR = 3.09 respectively). Findings from structural equation modeling showed that psychosocial syndemics mediated the effect of HIV-related discrimination on condom use consistency with steady partners. PLHIV in Hong Kong suffered from the syndemic effects of stigma, social isolation, and poor mental health, which rendered them vulnerable to condomless sex. In order to curb the rapidly increasing incidence of HIV, multi-level strategies should be adopted to concurrently address the structural inequities and psychosocial syndemics faced by PLHIV. Copyright © 2020 by the authors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1924
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020



Chan, R. C. H., Operario, D., & Mak, W. W. S. (2020). Effects of HIV-related discrimination on psychosocial syndemics and sexual risk behavior among people living with HIV. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(6). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17061924


  • Stigma
  • Discrimination
  • Psychosocial syndemics
  • Condom use
  • People living with HIV