HIV Stigma May Still Impact Medical Care Negatively

Study provides information on the link between stigma and treatment access and adherence
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- A stigma felt by HIV/AIDS patients may negatively impact their access to medical care and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART), according to a study in the October issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Jennifer N. Sayles, M.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues administered a survey to 202 people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County. The anonymous survey assessed HIV stigma, access to medical care, source of HIV care, and adherence to ART therapy. In addition, the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form was used to assess mental status.

The researchers found that one-third of participants reported stigma related to HIV. Seventy-seven percent said they had poor access to care, 10.5 percent had no regular source of HIV care, and 42.5 percent had suboptimal ART therapy adherence. There were strong associations between high levels of stigma and poor access to care, lack of a regular source of HIV care, and suboptimal ART therapy adherence in unadjusted analyses. In adjusted analyses, stigma remained associated with poor access to care, but not with lack of a regular source of HIV care or therapy adherence. Mental health status played a role in the association between stigma on ART therapy adherence, but not access to care.

"The association of stigma with self-reported access to care and adherence suggests that efforts to improve these components of HIV care will require a better understanding of the possible effects of stigma and its mediators," the authors conclude.

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