• Extending HIV Prevention: People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) Strategize to Reduce Stigma and Promote HIV Testing

      Aholou, Tiffiany M. Cummings; Hou, Su-I; Grimes, Tanisha S.; University of Georgia; University of Georgia; University of Georgia (Georgia Public Health Association, 2009)
      Strategies to reduce acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)‐related stigma are paramount to promoting effective HIV prevention. As in the case of HIV antibody testing, despite the benefits of early detection, links to care, and risk behavior modification, nearly 250,000 people are unaware of their HIV status. AIDS‐related stigma has impeded such efforts due to discrimination, ignorance and other forms of stigma. These issues related to stigma and HIV testing are magnified when placed in the context of the rural Deep South region of the United States, where the incidence of HIV/AIDS are growing at alarming rates. The purpose of this paper was to examine strategies to reduce AIDS‐related stigma that in turn promotes HIV testing as proposed by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) who reside in the Deep South. An exploratory descriptive qualitative research design was utilized. The sample consisted of 18 PLWHA. Data was collected using a focus group and individual, semi‐structured interviews. The analysis revealed the importance of ongoing education as a mediator between reducing stigma and promoting HIV testing. Other salient findings were related to reframing HIV/AIDS‐related health messages to reflect a sense of empowerment; the need to normalize testing; the use of less stigmatizing testing sites; and the continuance of anonymous HIV testing. This article is significant because it illuminates the challenges of HIV prevention in the Deep South, while also generating culturally‐sensitive strategies to counter these barriers.