Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Obesity, HIV, Stigma, overweight

Major Advisor

Amy Gorin

Associate Advisor

Seth Kalichman

Associate Advisor

Dean Cruess

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Objective: Both obesity and HIV are highly stigmatized diseases; however, little is known about the psychological experience of individuals at the intersection of these two conditions. This cross-sectional study examined whether PLWH with overweight or obesity endorsed and experienced less anticipated and enacted stigma due to their weight status.

Methods: PLWH (n = 671; 428 male and 196 females) were recruited from a holiday donation center in Atlanta, Georgia. Self-reports of medical history, HIV and weight stigma, body image, perceptions of weight status, and nutritional intake were collected.

Results: 26.8% were overweight (BMI >25-25.9 kg/m2) and 32.4% were obese (BMI >30 kg/m2). No differences were seen in levels of anticipated or enacted stigma across weight categories. Body image across weight categories was also relatively equal. Post hoc analyses displayed a meditational effect of body image on internalized HIV stigma and BMI. BMI also served as a moderator on body image and internalized weight stigma, as body image increased so did internalized stigma. Differences were also seen in perceptions of weight status, with individuals that were overweight or obese perceiving themselves to be slightly underweight or about the right weight.

Conclusion: Results suggests there were no differences in anticipated or experienced HIV stigma as a result of weight status; however, internalized stigma was closely related to body image. Overweight and obesity were the norm in this sample as well as poor dietary quality, emphasizing the need for weight management interventions that are sensitive to the unique challenges of PLWH.