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A cross-sectional description of social capital in an international sample of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH)

Allison Webel1*, J Craig Phillips2, Carol Dawson Rose3, William L Holzemer4, Wei-Ti Chen5, Lynda Tyer-Viola6, Marta Rivero-Méndez7, Patrice Nicholas8, Kathleen Nokes9, Jeanne Kemppainen10, Elizabeth Sefcik11, John Brion12, Lucille Eller4, Scholastika Iipinge13, Kenn Kirksey14, Dean Wantland4, Puangtip Chaiphibalsarisdi15, Mallory O Johnson16, Carmen Portillo17, Inge B Corless6, Joachim Voss18 and Robert A Salata19

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Research Scholar, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-4904, USA

2 University of British Columbia School of Nursing, Vancouver, Canada

3 University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing, San Francisco, USA

4 Rutgers College of Nursing, Newark, USA

5 Yale University, New Haven, USA

6 MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, USA

7 University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico

8 Global Health and Academic Partnerships, Brigham and Women's Hospital and MGH, Institute of Health Professions, Boston, USA

9 Hunter College, CUNY, Hunter Bellevue SON, New York, USA

10 University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, USA

11 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, USA

12 Duke University School of Nursing, Durham, USA

13 University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia

14 Center for Nursing Research, Seton Family of Hospitals, Austin, USA

15 Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Bangkok, Thailand

16 UCSF, San Francisco, USA

17 UCSF School of Nursing - Community Health Systems, San Francisco, USA

18 University of Washington, Saettle, USA

19 Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, USA

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:188  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-188

Published: 13 March 2012



Social capital refers to the resources linked to having a strong social network. This concept plays into health outcomes among People Living with HIV/AIDS because, globally, this is a highly marginalized population. Case studies show that modifying social capital can lead to improvements in HIV transmission and management; however, there remains a lack of description or definition of social capital in international settings. The purpose of our paper was to describe the degree of social capital in an international sample of adults living with HIV/AIDS.


We recruited PLWH at 16 sites from five countries including Canada, China, Namibia, Thailand, and the United States. Participants (n = 1,963) completed a cross-sectional survey and data were collected between August, 2009 and December, 2010. Data analyses included descriptive statistics, factor analysis, and correlational analysis.


Participant's mean age was 45.2 years, most (69%) identified as male, African American/Black (39.9%), and unemployed (69.5%). Total mean social capital was 2.68 points, a higher than average total social capital score. Moderate correlations were observed between self-reported physical (r = 0.25) and psychological condition (r = 0.36), social support (r = 0.31), and total social capital. No relationships between mental health factors, including substance use, and social capital were detected.


This is the first report to describe levels of total social capital in an international sample of PLWH and to describe its relationship to self-reported health in this population.

Social capital; HIV/AIDS; Global health; Social science