Clinton Becomes a Family Affair

People who suffer from HIV/AIDS often end up suffering in silence due to the stigma associated with the illness, as well as the stigma surrounding groups who are typically affected by HIV such as homosexuals, immigrants, African Americans and drug users. This stigma placed on those who contract this illness, cause the people to engage in different types of stigma management techniques.

Clinton Becomes a Family Affair"

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Other times, homeless people will use the management technique of distancing. If they are able to distance themselves from more damaging aspects of homelessness then people might perceive them as separate from those aspects and thus they would be less affected by the stigma. This could be done by disassociating ones self with groups people perceive as reckless or lazy such as gang members or gamblers and attribute your homelessness to something more traumatic and out of their control such as a house-fire or death of a parent. This creates a group ‘other’ that perceived as more innocent and therefore is less stigmatized.

Clinton Becomes a Family Affair"

One strategy homeless people use is covering, in which they try to conceal the more stigmatized aspects associated with homelessness such as their clothing or speech. While going out to a fancy restaurant with a friend who is not homeless or going to a job interview, a homeless person using this strategy would attempt to minimize the things people associate with homelessness and stress habits which fit the societal standard of normal. They may wear their nicest clothes, be more conscious about their choice of language, and present themselves with intentionally improved manners

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In his 1963 work Goffman further categorizes stigma variation by four criteria that can affect the perceived level of deviance or depravity:

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The video below features a few people who were asked what stigma is. They do a great job of not only explaining what it is but also why it is significant, especially in terms of stigma towards mental illness.

Physical representation of how stigma places destructive labels on people.

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Noltensmeyer, Candy J., and Rebecca J. Meisenbach. “Emerging Patterns of Stigma Management Communication Strategies Among Burn Survivors and Relational Partners.” American Behavioral Scientist 60.11 (2016): 1378-397. SAGE Journals. SAGE Publications, 2016.

The three distinct types of stigma outlined by Goffman in the first chapter of his text are:

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To avoid the problematic issues that come with stigma, individuals so labeled, in the process of being labeled or even in fear of it, use various techniques to control the presentation of this aspect of their identity. Goffman writes in the second chapter of his text Stigma that there are the discredited and the discreditable individuals – differentiated by the first two criteria mentioned above: visibility and publicity (). The discredited are individuals whose mark of stigma are already visible and known before any interactions/labeling (think skin color, physical deformity, fashion etc.). The discreditable are those whose stigma is not immediately obvious or known (think sexual preference, tattoos hidden by clothing etc.). These two types of individuals in fear of being stigmatized would employ different techniques in response to the perceived threat. Stigma management techniques include the various ways people can respond before, during and after the moment of stigmatization. For our purposes there are 7 distinguishable techniques, none of which are exclusive to a particular type of stigma or level of visibility but are rather tools stigmatized individuals may combine and deploy as required:

Stigma around mental illness often stops sufferers from be honest about what they’re going through

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HIV/AIDS is an illness that begins to show physical symptoms as it progresses. When people want to conceal the fact that they are infected with HIV but cannot hide their physical symptoms they use the management technique covering. Many people will do so by lying about the illness that they have, claiming that they have illnesses such as cancer, that have fewer negative stigmas associated with them, but have similar severities. Lying in this way enables them to avoid the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. If instead, people believe that their symptoms are too far along to lie about they will sometimes use the isolating management technique. This technique is often very alienating as it causes people to hide the fact that they have HIV by completely hiding themselves, avoiding social interaction, and isolating themselves from the people in their lives.