BMJ Case Reports 2017; doi:10.1136/bcr-2016-218024
  • Global health

Stigma kills! The psychological effects of emotional abuse and discrimination towards a patient with HIV in Uganda

  1. Simon Ruffell
  1. Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Simon Ruffell, s.g.d.ruffell{at}
  • Accepted 16 June 2017
  • Published 14 July 2017


Our patient is a 58-year-old Ugandan woman. After her husband’s death in 1994, the patient was forced to leave her home by her late husband’s family and arrangements were made for her mother to provide care until her inevitable death. The patient suffered from multiple mental health disturbances as a result of discrimination. Socially isolated after years of self-neglect, she prepared to overdose. In 2007, she became open regarding her status after receiving psychosocial support from various sources. She opened her home as an HIV clinic with the help of a local doctor, and subsequently the majority of her psychological symptoms were resolved. This case illustrates the negative impact that stigma and discrimination can have on mental and consequently physical health, both acutely and chronically. It also highlights the importance of social and psychological support in maintaining the well-being of patients with HIV globally.


  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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