Methods: Participants were recruited from our local HIV clinic in a county population of 184,000 people. The clinic serves the HIV/AIDS population of Peoria proper as well as the 14 surrounding, more rural counties. Twenty participants were invited for a one hour recorded interview speaking of their experiences with HIV stigma. Using a qualitative approach in grounded theory, two researchers independently coded the transcripts and then came to a consensus. Core themes were then summarized.
Results: Sources of stigma included the general community in central Illinois, other outpatient medical clinics, medical testing facilities such as ancillary laboratories, and the LGBT community. Major sources of support included family and loved ones, the HIV medical clinic, and the HIV patient community. Many patients reported HIV education to be assuring, and though facing many social obstacles, ultimately feeling strengthened by adversity. In order to address HIV stigma in the community patients suggested greater networking among HIV infected patients and increased education for the general public.
Conclusion: HIV stigma is still a distressing social force to HIV infected patients in the heart of Illinois. Though medical management of HIV has advanced significantly in recent years, the stigma that accompanies a diagnosis of HIV infection remains to be effectively addressed in a comprehensive and conscientious manner. Our study points to the need for tailored interventions in outpatient medical settings, as well as throughout the general community in central Illinois.
J. Farrell, None