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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Stigma Working Group

Stigma Working Group

Colleagues in the Global Health and Infection Department have formed an interdisciplinary Stigma Working Group. The group has an open invite policy and welcomes anyone whose work includes stigma or is interested in learning more about stigma.

The group aims to become a forum to exchange ideas and perspectives on stigma; develop synergies and links to foster collaboration; and develop approaches to researching and speaking about stigma across disciplines, diseases, and contexts.  

We welcome speakers from the Universities of Brighton and Sussex as well as the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust. We have also hosted talks from international colleagues and would like to continue our global exchange of knowledge. 

The Stigma Working Group meets on every third Wednesday of the month from 12-1 pm. You can sign up to the mailing list below.

Sign up to the mailing list here >


About the team

Dr Papreen Nahar

Dr Papreen Nahar, is a medical anthropologist at BSMS (pls insert my profile link here). She is involved in a stigma focused NIHR funded project titled ‘Social Science Capacity Development for Server Stigmatising Conditions’ (5S) Foundation. Nahar’s book on Childlessness has addressed the issue of stigma from both perspectives; suffering and resilience (Nahar P.,  2022, Childlessness in Bangladesh: Intersectionality, Suffering and Resilience. Routledge, UK). Three of her PhD students are also exploring stigma in relation to Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) in Sudan and Rwanda.

Dr Papreen Nahar's full profile >

Dr Caroline Ackley

Dr Caroline Ackley holds a PhD in Medical Anthropology from UCL and has worked in the Greater Horn of Africa since 2009.  Her PhD examined Somaliland women's life course as an entanglement of moralities, time, and selves.  She explored stigma associated with female genital mutilation, female sexuality, and class.  Caroline was based in Harar, Ethiopia from 2017-2019 as a Research Fellow in Anthropology with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  While in Ethiopia her Gates and Wellcome Trust funded researched touched on stigma associated with child death, stillbirth, and poverty.  Most recently her research explores stigma associated with NTDs, mycetoma in particular, through the NIHR Research Unit.  She also studies HIV related stigma through the PEDAL study funded by ViiV Healthcare.

Dr Caroline Ackley's full profile >

Dr Maya Semrau

Dr Maya Semrau is a senior research fellow in implementation research. She has a background in global mental health research, following on from her PhD in International Public Mental Health obtained at King’s College London in 2012. Since 2017, Maya works at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School (BSMS) on the NIHR Global Health Research Unit for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – she is particularly interested in the mental wellbeing and stigma aspects of NTDs. Maya also co-convenes the Working Group on Mental Wellbeing and Stigma of the NTD NGO Network’s (NNN’s) Disease Management, Disability and Inclusion (DMDI) cross-cutting group, and she is involved in the Indigo mental health stigma reduction programme led by King’s College London as well as the 5S Foundation at BSMS.

Dr Maya Semrau's full profile >

Dr Kiersten Simmons

Dr Kiersten Simmons is a HIV and Sexual Health Physician, currently undertaking a PhD which investigates how to improve access to sexual health and sexual wellbeing research and services for midlife women (aged 40-65 years) in deprived coastal communities in East Sussex. She completed her clinical training at Cambridge University, worked in general medicine for a few years, and then in Uganda and Zimbabwe for Medicins Sans Frontieres, and chose to specialize in HIV and Sexual Health in 2014, initially at King's, and then moved back to Brighton in 2016. Kiersten has always been interested in the impact of research on improving clinical outcomes and population health, particularly for the most disadvantaged communities. She has taken the opportunity to be involved in research projects that improve care for marginalized populations throughout her career. After completing her clinical specialty exams, she embarked on her PhD in February 2023, and felt very fortunate to be able to design a project that she is extremely passionate about. Creating equal opportunities for everybody to be involved in the healthcare research which affects them, and designing healthcare services which are accessible to everybody, are cornerstones of her work. She is particularly interested in deprived coastal communities and women from marginalized populations. As a HIV/GUM physician, the importance of the patient's ideas and expectations, and collaboration with multidisciplinary researchers and clinicians will always be at the forefront of her research. Tackling stigma is an essential part of her work, both as a researcher and as a physician, and she feels very honored to be part of this exciting and dynamic group.


The Stigma Working Group (SWG) and Social Science Forum (SSF) will be commencing this year and will take turns to run every first Monday of the month from 12-1 pm UK time in the MRB meeting room and on Zoom.

The schedule for the talks for the next year is as follows: 

5 Dec 2022 – SWG
January break
6 Feb 2023 – SSF
6 March 2023 – SWG
3 April 2023 – SSF 
May break 
5 June 2023 – SWG
3 July 2023 – SSF
August break
4 Sept 2023 – SWG
2 Oct 2023 – SSF
6 Nov 2023 – SWG
4 Dec 2023 – SSF
January break
5 Feb 2024 – SWG
4 March 2024 – SSF
1 April 2024 – SWG
May break
3 June 2024 – SSF
1 July 2024 – SWG
August break
2 Sept 2024 – SSF
7 Oct 2024 – SWG
4 Nov 2024 – SSF
2 Dec 2024 – SWG

Past talks 

Past talks and discussions at the Stigma Working Group include: 

23 September 2020

COVID-19 in LMICs: the need to place stigma front and centre to its response.  

26 August 2020

Stigma Working Group Film Club with Gem Aellah. This is My Face. Director: Angélica Cabezas Pino (2018). In Chile, people living with HIV fear stigma, and often conceal their condition and remain silent about what they are going through. This is My Face explores what happens when a range of men living with the virus open up about the illness that changed their life trajectories. It follows a creative process whereby they produce photographic portraits that represent their (often painful) memories and feelings, a process which helps them challenge years of silence, shame, and misrepresentation. A lesson in the power of collaborative storytelling.

Find out more here > 

Angélica Cabezas Pino received a PhD in Anthropology, Media and Performance at the University of Manchester. During the last years, she has been experimenting and creating visual methods to explore trauma and illness, in an intersection of medical and public anthropology. “This is my Face” is her first feature film, one of the outcomes of her practice-based PhD research. This project was partially funded by The University of Manchester and the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research, Chile.

Read more about the project here >

Watch a Q&A with the director here > 

22 April 2020

Mycetoma and stigma in Sudan: research presentation by Alaa Maygi

Alaa Maygi is a Global Health Masters student with a Bachelors degree in Biomedical science from the University of Brighton. She has a particular interest in health inequity and how intersectionality can perpetuate diseases cycles. Alongside my masters she is part of Unite Us Enterprise, a social enterprise with aims and initiatives geared at improving healthcare within the UK and abroad. Mycetoma is a destructive inflammatory disease which is often exacerbated by stigma. This presentation will introduce a newly developed method of analysing and quantifying levels of stigma within Mycetoma, with specific information regarding the development of a stigma scale.  This scale was produced for use in a study aimed at analysing the role stigma plays in the perpetuation of the Mycetoma disease cycle. Research objectives involve identifying felt and enacted stigmas, whilst recognising the most vulnerable group of sufferers. This presentation will also introduce intersectionality, recognising the interconnected nature of social categorisations and explaining the confounding effect this has on disease, whilst also communicating how this concept is integrated into the stigma scale. 

Watch the video from this talk here >

22 January 2020

Attitudes towards Dementia: The extent to which past contact with dementia mediates gender effects, with Dr Nicolas Farina ( Nicolas Farina discussed his work at the Centre for Dementia Studies.  He gave a talk titled ‘Attitudes towards Dementia: The extent to which past contact with dementia mediates gender effects’ and he has suggested a complementary reading from the 2019 World Alzheimer Report.

Read the report here > 

Suggested reading

COVID-19 in LMICs: The Need to Place Stigma Front and Centre to Its Response (this is authored by people from the SWG)

Lazy, Crazy, and Disgusting: Stigma and the Undoing of Global Health

Adolescents’ experiences and perceptions of dementia (presented in the SWG and written by a group member)

Receiving Social Assistance in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Negating Shame or Producing Stigma? (written by a SWG member)

‘Management of a spoiled identity’: systematic review of interventions to address self-stigma among people living with and affected by HIV

Learning about COVID-19-related stigma, quarantine and isolation experiences in Finland:

Conceptualising Stigma: Link, B & Phelan, J (2001):