The Effect of Perceived Stigma from a Health Care Provider on Access to Care Among a Low-Income HIV-Positive Population
Perceived stigma in clinical settings may discourage HIV-infected individuals from accessing needed health care services. Having good access to care is imperative for maintaining the health, well being, and quality of life of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). The purpose of this prospective study, which took place from January 2004 through June 2006, was to evaluate the relationship between perceived stigma from a health care provider and access to care among 223 low income, HIV-infected individuals in Los Angeles County. Approximately one fourth of the sample reported perceived stigma from a health care provider at baseline, and about one fifth reported provider stigma at follow up. We also found that access to care among this population was low, as more than half of the respondents reported difficulty accessing care at baseline and follow up. Perceived stigma was found to be associated with low access to care both at baseline (odds ratio [OR] = 3.29; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.55, 7.01) and 6-month follow up (2.85; 95% CI = 1.06, 7.65), even after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and most recent CD4 count. These findings are of particular importance because lack of access or delayed access to care may result in clinical presentation at more advanced stages of HIV disease. Interventions are needed to reduce perceived stigma in the health care setting. Educational programs and modeling of nonstigmatizing behavior can teach health care providers to provide unbiased care.
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