Enduring Stigma: Historical Perspectives on Disease Meanings and Their Impact


ACLS Fellowship Program


History of Science, and Global Health and Social Medicine


Despite concerted efforts to reduce stigmas associated with disease over the last century—and especially in recent decades—stigma continues to cast a wide shadow over patients, and is a major obstacle to medical and public health efforts to improve both individual care and population health. Stigmatized diseases augment fundamental inequalities that center on class, ethnic, racial, and gender disparities; in this sense stigma and discrimination are closely connected. Those affected by stigma often suffer a double jeopardy of disease and prejudice. Some of these disease stigmas have been deep and lasting—for example, mental illness, addiction, obesity, and disability—while others, such as cancer and AIDS, have been modified by a range of forces, including targeted efforts for destigmatization. This project centers attention on rethinking the social, cultural, and political production of stigma as well as interventions and public policies for its reduction.