Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Mayur M. Desai


Objective: Stigma endorsed by healthcare providers has been found to be a barrier to care for vulnerable populations, including HIV-infected, people who inject drugs (PWID), and men who have sex with men (MSM) in multiple clinical contexts. We therefore sought to better understand the extent to which stigma is levied toward these three populations by medical and dental students.

Design: This cross-sectional study assessed the attitudes of 1,296 medical and dental students towards HIV-infected, PWID, and MSM patients.

Methods: Students were asked to score their attitudes towards these patient groups using a feeling thermometer, indicating their attitudes on a sliding scale from 0, meaning very negative, to 100, meaning very positive.

Results: The mean attitude score towards the general patient population (M = 76.50, SD = 20.35) was significantly higher than the scores for HIV-infected patients (M = 54.04, SD = 20.99), PWID patients (M = 37.50, SD = 24.41), and MSM patients (M = 32.13, SD = 29.33).Further, certain demographic variables, most notably religion, ethnicity, and personally knowing someone of these populations, were associated with significant differences in attitudes.

Conclusion: Healthcare students represent the next generation of clinicians who will be responsible for HIV prevention and treatment efforts in the future. Our findings suggest that negative attitudes towards these patients is extremely high, and it is therefore crucial to design interventions to ameliorate the negative attitudes of medical students towards vulnerable populations.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access