A study by researchers in the college’s Department of Public Health shows that rural residents in Oregon who have HIV/AIDS experience stigma and discrimination in day-to-day living and when accessing health care services. Ann Zukoski and Sheryl Thorburn conducted the exploratory study with 16 people living with HIV/AIDS. Their findings are published in the April issue of the journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs.
“Stigma and discrimination may be intensified in rural areas because of less tolerance of diverse lifestyles, greater fear of HIV, and less anonymity, in combination with poor access to transportation, limited access to health professionals and a lack of social support services,” says Zukoski. The types and depth of stigma and discrimination experienced by the interviewees was profound, the researchers said. Of the 16 participants, 11 reported feeling stigmatized or having one or more instances of being judged unfairly, treated with disrespect, or discriminated against when interacting with health care providers. For many participants the stigma they experienced in their communities made them feel discouraged or angry, hesitant to tell others about their HIV status, or prone to isolate themselves.
The majority of this type of research has focused on urban populations, according to Thorburn. “While community interventions to address HIV-related stigma have occurred in urban settings, little work has bee done in rural areas. As of 2005, more than 48,000 people in the US diagnosed with AIDS were living in communities with 50,000 or fewer inhabitants.
Zukoski says there should be more training to educate communities and empower those affected by the disease. “How we treat each other can and will impact each other’s well being. People who have HIV/AIDS are acutely aware when they are being treated differently.”