Identity management in HIV-positive prisoners in Russia: A case study

Elina Erzikova, Carol B. Mills, Johnny V. Sparks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Identity management is a salient issue for all human beings. However, identity management is profoundly complicated among multiply stigmatized individuals, such as incarcerated diseased criminals. The current study represents a first to examine stigma management communication (SMC) among HIV-positive prisoners who consider themselves members of the Russian criminal underworld. Twenty-five HIV-positive ‘black’ inmates were interviewed and observed in a Russian prison. Data were interpreted using Goffman’s [1961. Asylums. Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. Chicago, IL: Aldine.] concept of the total institutions and Meisenbach’s [2010. Stigma management communication: A theory and agenda for applied research on how individuals manage moments of stigmatized identity. Journal of Applied Communication, 38(3), 268–292] SMC theory. The study revealed a number of salient communication management strategies in the lives and interactions of HIV-positive Russian inmate population. Adherence to the criminal code represented an SMC strategy for identity regulation. Adherence to the criminal code reduced stigmatization during incarceration, but prevented prisoners from early or conditional release.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalRussian Journal of Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • AIDS
  • HIV
  • Prison
  • Russia
  • Total institution


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