AIDS care 2017 09 29() 1-5 doi 10.1080/09540121.2017.1381329
This study investigates the effect of similarity of health status between counselors and clients on the acceptance of counseling services among women living with HIV (WLWH). We hypothesized that WLWH should be more willing to seek counseling from an HIV-positive counselor as opposed to one living free of HIV or with another stigmatized disease like Hepatitis C, because a counselor with HIV should be perceived as more empathetic and credible. Moreover, the positive effect of similarity on acceptance should be particularly pronounced among WLWH who perceive high levels of HIV-related stigmatization and low levels of social support. Participants were 89 WLWH in Germany. In an online scenario experiment, we varied the similarity of health status between participants and a fictitious female counselor by presenting participants with one of three counselor profiles: The profile either stated that she was living with HIV but not Hepatitis C, with Hepatitis C but not HIV, or with neither HIV nor Hepatitis C. We then measured participants’ perceptions of the counselor’s similarity, empathy, and credibility, and their willingness to accept counseling with her. Results from an ANOVA with planned contrasts supported our assumption that participants presented with an HIV-positive counselor perceived her to be more similar to themselves and were more willing to accept the counseling than participants exposed to a HIV-negative counselor (either with or without Hepatitis C), for all relevant contrasts, η(2)s ≥ .08. Regression analyses corroborated that this effect was mediated by the counselor’s perceived empathy and credibility, total indirect effect = .36, 95%CI [0.22, 0.53]. Moreover, moderated regression analyses revealed that the similarity effect on acceptance was particularly strong when participants experienced high levels of stigmatization and low levels of social support, for both interaction terms, ΔR(2)s( )≥ .04, F(1, 85)s ≥ 5.03, ps ≤ .028.