Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Miller, Carol


HIV/AIDS is a highly stigmatizing condition that dramatically influences the social relations of those infected with the disease (Herek & Glunt, 1988; Kalichman, 2000). Stigmatized individuals experience interpersonal rejection because of their stigma and this rejection can heighten dispositional sensitivity to rejection (Downey & Feldman, 1996). Increased sensitivity to interpersonal rejection has been shown to decrease relationship satisfaction and lead to relationship dissolution (Downey, Freitas, Michaelis, & Khouri, 1998). Few studies have examined the influence of stigmatization on romantic relationships and little is known about the romantic relationships of people living with HIV/AIDS. The current study examined the role of rejection sensitivity as a mediator in the association between HIV/AIDS stigma and romantic relationship satisfaction. A diverse sample of HIV-positive participants was recruited from Vermont and neighboring states. Participants completed measures of perceived stigma, rejection sensitivity and satisfaction with their current romantic relationship. Disclosure concerns and enacted, or personalized, stigma predicted decreased relationship satisfaction. Rejection sensitivity did not mediate the relationship between stigma and relationship satisfaction. Results suggest that both rejection sensitivity and perceived stigma independently influence relationship satisfaction. The implications of the influence of stigma on romantic relationships are discussed.