Articles tagged as "Structural determinants and vulnerability"

More rigorous evidence necessary on role of peers in adolescent sexual behaviour

Is the sexual behaviour of young people in sub-Saharan Africa influenced by their peers? A systematic review.

Fearon E, Wiggins RD, Pettifor AE, Hargreaves JR. Soc Sci Med. 2015 Oct 9;146:62-74. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.09.039. [Epub ahead of print]

Adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa are highly vulnerable to HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. Evidence for the effectiveness of individual behaviour change interventions in reducing incidence of HIV and other biological outcomes is limited, and the need to address the social conditions in which young people become sexually active is clear. Adolescents' peers are a key aspect of this social environment and could have important influences on sexual behaviour. There has not yet been a systematic review on the topic in sub-Saharan Africa. We searched 4 databases to find studies set in sub-Saharan Africa that included an adjusted analysis of the association between at least one peer exposure and a sexual behaviour outcome among a sample where at least 50% of the study participants were aged between 13 and 20 years. We classified peer exposures using a framework to distinguish different mechanisms by which influence might occur. We found 30 studies and retained 11 that met quality criteria. There were 3 cohort studies, 1 time to event and 7 cross-sectional. The 11 studies investigated 37 different peer exposure-outcome associations. No studies used a biological outcome and all asked about peers in general rather than about specific relationships. Studies were heterogeneous in their use of theoretical frameworks and means of operationalizing peer influence concepts. All studies found evidence for an association between peers and sexual behaviour for at least one peer exposure/outcome/sub-group association. Of all 37 outcome/exposure/sub-group associations tested, there was evidence for 19 (51%). There were no clear patterns by type of peer exposure, outcome or adolescent sub-group. There is a lack of conclusive evidence about the role of peers in adolescent sexual behaviour in sub-Saharan Africa. We argue that longitudinal designs, use of biological outcomes and approaches from social network analysis are priorities for future studies.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This is the first quantitative systematic review of the role of peers in shaping young people’s sexual behaviour in sub-Saharan Africa. Each of the 11 higher-quality studies included found evidence for at least one association between a peer exposure and a sexual behaviour outcome. But overall, no clear patterns were found for the conditions in which peer exposures might, or might not, impact sexual behaviour. The mixed findings may highlight inherent difficulties with assessing such associations, such as reverse causation in cross-sectional studies (e.g. selection of peers based on established sexual behaviour), and reliance on self-reported sexual behaviour (likely to be a particular problem among adolescents). One interesting aspect of the paper was the classification of peer exposures into one of six types (including peer approval, peer connectedness, and status within peer networks). Given the likely importance of peers in adolescent behaviour, methods that collect information about specific peers and relationships such as social network analysis, rather than asking about peers in general, could help to identify peer effects.

Africa
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Harm reduction under fire – people who inject drugs in Kabul, Afghanistan

Hepatitis C and HIV incidence and harm reduction program use in a conflict setting: an observational cohort of injecting drug users in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Todd CS, Nasir A, Stanekzai MR, Fiekert K, Sipsma HL, Vlahov D, Strathdee SA. Harm Reduct J. 2015 Oct 16;12:22. doi: 10.1186/s12954-015-0056-z.

Background: Armed conflict may increase the risk of HIV and other pathogens among injecting drug users (IDUs); however, there are few prospective studies. This study aimed to measure incidence and potential predictors, including environmental events and needle and syringe distribution and collection program (NSP) use, of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV among IDUs in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Methods: Consenting adult IDUs completed interviews quarterly in year 1 and semi-annually in year 2 and HCV and HIV antibody testing semi-annually through the cohort period (November 2007-December 2009). Interviews detailed injecting and sexual risk behaviors, NSP service use, and conflict-associated displacement. Quarters with peak conflict or local displacement were identified based on literature review, and key events, including insurgent attacks and deaths, were reported with simple counts. Incidence and predictors of HCV and HIV were measured with Cox proportional hazards models.

Results: Of 483 IDUs enrolled, 385 completed one or more follow-up visits (483.8 person-years (p-y)). All participants were male with a median age of 28 years and a median duration of injecting of 2 years. Reported NSP use among the participants ranged from 59.9 to 70.5 % in the first year and was 48.4 and 55.4 % at 18 and 24 months, respectively. There were 41 confirmed deaths, with a crude death rate of 93.4/1000 p-y (95 % confidence interval (CI) 67.9-125) and overdose as the most common cause. HCV and HIV incidence were 35.6/100 p-y (95 % CI 28.3-44.6) and 1.5/100 p-y (95 % CI 0.6-3.3), respectively. Changing from injecting to smoking was protective for HCV acquisition (adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) = 0.53, 95 % CI 0.31-0.92), while duration of injecting (AHR = 1.09, 95 % CI 1.01-1.18/year) and sharing syringes (AHR = 10.09, 95 % CI 1.01-100.3) independently predicted HIV infection.

Conclusion: There is high HCV incidence and high numbers of reported deaths among male Kabul IDUs despite relatively consistent levels of harm reduction program use; peak violence periods did not independently predict HCV and HIV risk. Programming should increase awareness of HCV transmission and overdose risks, prepare clients for harm reduction needs during conflict or other causes of displacement, and continue efforts to engage community and police force support.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This is a relatively rare study, documenting HIV and Hepatitis C infection (HCV) among people who inject drugs in Kabul in Afghanistan.  By combining survey data with information on conflict events from literature/media, the authors can look not only at levels of infection but also how these levels are affected by the conflict. In line with findings from other places experiencing conflict, the authors illustrate that violence did not increase the risk of infection. However, the findings do illustrate the value of needle-syringe distribution and collection programmes in reducing HCV incidence, as the men moved from injecting to smoking. Relatively low levels of HIV prevalence in the Kabul area resulted in low HIV-incidence among the study population. If HIV-prevalence were to rise this could change, as reflected in the high levels of Hepatitis C infection. The authors point to the many challenges of providing services for key populations, such as the men they worked with who injected drugs, in many parts of the world. Growing instability and the displacement of a number of the study population because of the closure of the shelter that housed them, made the research challenging.  A shortage of resources for harm reduction in places like Afghanistan, compounds the problems programmes to support people who inject drugs, face.

Asia
Afghanistan
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Peer support benefits MSM in Malawi

Feasibility of a combination HIV prevention program for men who have sex with men in Blantyre, Malawi.

Wirtz AL, Trapence G, Jumbe V, Umar E, Ketende S, Kamba D, Berry M, Stromdahl S, Beyrer C, Muula AS, Baral S. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Oct 1;70(2):155-62. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000693.

Introduction: The use of combination HIV prevention interventions (CHPI) now represent the standard of care to minimize HIV acquisition risks among men who have sex with men (MSM). There has been limited evaluation of these approaches in generalized HIV epidemics and/or where MSM are stigmatized. A peer-based CHPI program to target individual, social, and structural risks for HIV was developed for MSM in Blantyre, Malawi.

Methods: To test the feasibility of CHPI, adult MSM were followed prospectively from January 2012 to May 2013. Participants (N = 103) completed sociobehavioral surveys and HIV testing at each of the 3 follow-up study visits.

Results: Approximately 90% of participants attended each study visit and 93.2% (n = 96) completed the final visit. Participants met with peer educators a median of 3 times (range: 1-10) in the follow-up visits 2 and 3. Condom use at last sex improved from baseline through follow-up visit 3 with main (baseline: 62.5%, follow-up 3: 77.0%; P = 0.02) and casual male partners (baseline: 70.7%, follow-up 3: 86.3%; P = 0.01). Disclosure of sexual behaviors/orientation to family increased from 25% in follow-up 1 to 55% in follow-up 3 (P < 0.01).

Discussion: Participants maintained a high level of retention in the study highlighting the feasibility of leveraging community-based organizations to recruit and retain MSM in HIV prevention and treatment interventions in stigmatizing settings. Group-level changes in sexual behavior and disclosure in safe settings for MSM were noted. CHPI may represent a useful model to providing access to other HIV prevention for MSM and aiding retention in care and treatment services for MSM living with HIV in challenging environments.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Gay men and other men who have sex with men are a key, difficult-to-reach population in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Stigma and criminalization of same-sex practices cause many challenges in improving access to HIV prevention and treatment services. This study tested the feasibility of a combination HIV prevention programme for gay men and other men who have sex with men in Malawi. The programme worked at three levels. At the individual level peer educators provided outreach to increase use of condoms, lubricants and other prevention methods. The health sector level provided training for doctors and nurses, to improve access to services. The community level built capacity to advocate in national HIV strategies and support decriminalisation of homosexuality. Study participants were identified by respondent-driven sampling. Retention was very high in the cohort, and over 16 months, participants reported improved behaviour-associated outcomes. This study was implemented by a community-based organisation and peer educators, and used several methods to protect participant confidentiality and privacy which can be adopted by others working in stigmatising settings. Overall, the study demonstrates that HIV prevention programmes for gay men and other men who have sex with men can be implemented if security measures and awareness of the social and political situation are well maintained.  

Africa
Malawi
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Condoms or PrEP? Women’s decision-making for the prevention of HIV-transmission in Kenya and South Africa

Motivations for reducing other HIV risk-reduction practices if taking pre-exposure prophylaxis: findings from a qualitative study among women in Kenya and South Africa.

Corneli A, Namey E, Ahmed K, Agot K, Skhosana J, Odhiambo J, Guest G. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2015 Sep;29(9):503-9. doi: 10.1089/apc.2015.0038. Epub 2015 Jul 21.

Findings from a survey conducted among women at high risk for HIV in Bondo, Kenya, and Pretoria, South Africa, demonstrated that a substantial proportion would be inclined to reduce their use of other HIV risk-reduction practices if they were taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). To explore the motivations for their anticipated behavior change, we conducted qualitative interviews with 60 women whose survey responses suggested they would be more likely to reduce condom use or have sex with a new partner if they were taking PrEP compared to if they were not taking PrEP. Three interrelated themes were identified: (1) "PrEP protects"-PrEP was perceived as an effective HIV prevention method that replaced the need for condoms; (2) condoms were a source of conflict in relationships, and PrEP would provide an opportunity to resolve or avoid this conflict; and (3) having sex without a condom or having sex with a new partner was necessary for receiving material goods and financial assistance-PrEP would provide reassurance in these situations. Many believed that PrEP alone would be a sufficient HIV risk-reduction strategy. These findings suggest that participants' HIV risk-reduction intentions, if they were to use PrEP, were based predominately on their understanding of the high efficacy of PrEP and their experiences with the limitations of condoms. Enhanced counseling is needed to promote informed decision making and to ensure overall sexual health for women using PrEP for HIV prevention, particularly with respect to the prevention of pregnancy and other sexually transmitted infections when PrEP is used alone.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: New HIV-prevention methods and messages may be understood differently by different people. For example, the protection from HIV infection for men ‘at about 60%’ that is afforded by medical male circumcision is not always well understood. Some men assume higher protection levels. The authors of this paper describe women’s HIV-prevention method intentions, should pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) be available.  The study is of women’s intention, not actual behaviour, but the findings provide useful insights into the way in which prevention messages are interpreted. In this case, the new method is seen to offer an alternative to using condoms. The authors describe the reasons women give for not using condoms based on their belief that PrEP would protect them from infection. The authors suggest that counselling to inform women of the other benefits of condoms, beyond HIV-infection, is necessary where PrEP is introduced as a HIV-prevention method. This may be so, but underlying the reasons the women gave for not wanting to use condoms was inequitable relationships with their partners. The decision to use condoms often rests mainly with the man. While some women actively disliked condoms because of a reduction in sexual pleasure, many saw not using condoms as a way to sustain their relationship. The authors note that prevention strategies not only need to support women’s choices; but they also need to engage with women who lack choice.  

Africa
Kenya, South Africa
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Intimate partner violence and uptake and adherence of HIV treatment

Intimate partner violence and engagement in HIV care and treatment among women: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Hatcher AM, Smout EM, Turan JM, Christofides N, Stockl H. AIDS. 2015 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: We aimed to estimate the odds of engagement in HIV care and treatment among HIV-positive women reporting intimate partner violence (IPV).

Design: We systematically reviewed the literature on the association between IPV and engagement in care. Data sources included searches of electronic databases (PubMed, Web of Science, CINAHL and PsychoInfo), hand searches and citation tracking.

Methods: Two reviewers screened 757 full-text articles, extracted data and independently appraised study quality. Included studies were peer-reviewed and assessed IPV alongside engagement in care outcomes: antiretroviral treatment (ART) use; self-reported ART adherence; viral suppression; retention in HIV care. Odds ratios (ORs) were pooled using random effects meta-analysis.

Results: Thirteen cross-sectional studies among HIV-positive women were included. Measurement of IPV varied, with most studies defining a 'case' as any history of physical and/or sexual IPV. Meta-analysis of five studies showed IPV to be significantly associated with lower ART use [OR 0.79, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.64-0.97]. IPV was associated with poorer self-reported ART adherence in seven studies (OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.30-0.75) and lower odds of viral load suppression in seven studies (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.46-0.90). Lack of longitudinal data and measurement considerations should temper interpretation of these results.

Conclusion: IPV is associated with lower ART use, half the odds of self-reported ART adherence and significantly worsened viral suppression among women. To ensure the health of HIV-positive women, it is essential for clinical programmes to address conditions that impact engagement in care and treatment. IPV is one such condition, and its association with declines in ART use and adherence requires urgent attention.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is prevalent globally (30%). It has been associated with HIV infection and also with progression to AIDS among women living with HIV. However it is unclear how intimate partner violence may impact on HIV-associated health. This study examined associations between violence exposure and uptake of HIV treatment and care services. The authors conducted a systematic review and meta-analyses. From an initial search of 621 studies, 13 were included in these analyses: 12 were conducted in the United States of America and one in Haiti. All were cross-sectional. Measurement of intimate partner violence varied from a single question to validated scales. Some 11 measured lifetime IPV and two measured recent intimate partner violence, in the past 12 months.

Meta-analysis suggests intimate partner violence is associated with significantly lower odds of (i) current ART use (ii) self-reported adherence and (iii) worsened viral load suppression. There was insufficient data to measure retention in HIV care. These analyses suggest that uptake and adherence to ART is a key pathway through which intimate partner violence may negatively influence HIV-associated health of women. Further research is necessary, in low and middle income settings, and among key populations. Future studies should develop and test programmes to address intimate partner violence within HIV clinical care. 

Latin America, Northern America
Haiti, United States of America
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Food insecurity among people living with HIV in the United States: time for structural level policy changes?

Food insecurity, chronic illness, and gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area: an example of structural violence in United States public policy.

Whittle HJ, Palar K, Hufstedler LL, Seligman HK, Frongillo EA, Weiser SD. Soc Sci Med. 2015 Aug 20;143:154-161. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.08.027. [Epub ahead of print]

Food insecurity continues to be a major challenge in the United States, affecting 49 million individuals. Quantitative studies show that food insecurity has serious negative health impacts among individuals suffering from chronic illnesses, including people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). Formulating effective interventions and policies to combat these health effects requires an in-depth understanding of the lived experience and structural drivers of food insecurity. Few studies, however, have elucidated these phenomena among people living with chronic illnesses in resource-rich settings, including in the United States. Here we sought to explore the experiences and structural determinants of food insecurity among a group of low-income PLHIV in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thirty-four semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with low-income PLHIV receiving food assistance from a local non-profit in San Francisco and Alameda County, California, between April and June 2014. Interview transcripts were coded and analysed according to content analysis methods following an inductive-deductive approach. The lived experience of food insecurity among participants included periods of insufficient quantity of food and resultant hunger, as well as long-term struggles with quality of food that led to concerns about the poor health effects of a cheap diet. Participants also reported procuring food using personally and socially unacceptable strategies, including long-term dependence on friends, family, and charity; stealing food; exchanging sex for food; and selling controlled substances. Food insecurity often arose from the need to pay high rents exacerbated by gentrification while receiving limited disability income-a situation resulting in large part from the convergence of long-standing urban policies amenable to gentrification and an outdated disability policy that constrains financial viability. The experiences of food insecurity described by participants in this study can be understood as a form of structural violence, motivating the need for structural interventions at the policy level that extend beyond food-specific solutions.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Studies in the United States of America have demonstrated a high prevalence of food insecurity among low-income people living with HIV. Despite this high prevalence, little is known about the precise structural mechanisms by which food insecurity is distributed across low and high income participants, particularly among people living with HIV. This paper begins to fill that knowledge gap.  Using in-depth interviews among a group of low-income people living with HIV residing in the San Francisco Bay area, this study sought to investigate questions around how food insecurity manifests among certain groups in the population. Three themes relevant to the lived experience of food insecurity emerged from the interviews. The first being periods of significant food shortage where hunger or the anticipation of hunger was a serious source of anxiety for participants. The second was around the perceived poor quality of food where participants were unable to afford a diet that they believed to be sufficiently healthy. They considered this to be detrimental to both their general and HIV-associated health. This led to a third theme: participants using a multitude of resourceful strategies in order to procure food. Some of the strategies they found personally uncomfortable or they perceived as socially unacceptable. A relevant theme around structural determinants of food security that also emerged was the disparity between rent payments and the disability income which participants received. In particular, rising rents due to an influx of people who benefited from the technology boom, alongside gentrification taking place in the San Francisco area made it particularly difficult for low income people living with HIV to afford to live in the city. In order to be able to purchase food which they considered as high priority they would have to ration their money and avoid buying items they considered as less of a necessity (for example, entertainment, travel or toiletries). This is particularly exacerbated by the issue of monthly disability payments being low relative to the cost of living. The findings presented in this paper suggest certain structural activities in order to prevent the adverse effects of food insecurity such as sexual risk, sub-optimal ART adherence and poor clinical outcomes for people living with HIV. There were two suggested measures. The first was protecting vulnerable populations from the market effects of urban regeneration through better state subsidies in housing. The second was helping state-dependent individuals afford an adequate and sufficiently healthy diet by reassessing the amount disbursed through the disability income.

In summary, the authors describe low-income people living with HIV participants who often found themselves pushed into situations of indignity, shame and poor health by large-scale economic forces beyond their control. Without funds to purchase food with adequate nutritional content, they often fell into absolute hunger or had poor diets that prompted concerns about their physical health. Despite the United States of America being a high income country with one of the highest GDP per capita, food insecurity continues to be a challenge. Only broad structural approaches with policy changes can help chronically ill and vulnerable individuals escape both indignities and negative health consequences of food insecurity in the 21st century. 

Northern America
United States of America
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HIV and the relative perception of risk in a fishing site in Uganda

Risk denial and socio-economic factors related to high HIV transmission in a fishing community in Rakai, Uganda: a qualitative study.

Lubega M, Nakyaanjo N, Nansubuga S, Hiire E, Kigozi G, Nakigozi G, Lutalo T, Nalugoda F, Serwadda D, Gray R, Wawer M, Kennedy C, Reynolds SJ. PLoS One. 2015 Aug 26;10(8):e0132740. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132740. eCollection 2015.

Background: In Kasensero fishing community, home of the first recorded case of HIV in Uganda, HIV transmission is still very high with an incidence of 4.3 and 3.1 per 100 person-years in women and men, respectively, and an HIV prevalence of 44%, reaching up to 74% among female sex workers. We explored drivers for the high HIV transmission at Kasensero from the perspective of fishermen and other community members to inform future policy and preventive interventions.

Methods: 20 in-depth interviews including both HIV positive and HIV negative respondents, and 12 focus-group discussions involving a total of 92 respondents from the Kasensero fishing community were conducted during April-September 2014. Content analysis was performed to identify recurrent themes.

Results: The socio-economic risk factors for high HIV transmission in Kasensero fishing community cited were multiple and cross-cutting and categorized into the following themes: power of money, risk denial, environmental triggers and a predisposing lifestyle and alcoholism and drug abuse. Others were: peer pressure, poor housing and the search for financial support for both the men and women which made them vulnerable to HIV exposure and or risk behavior.

Conclusions: There is a need for context specific combination prevention interventions in Kasensero that includes the fisher folk and other influential community leaders. Such groups could be empowered with the knowledge and social mobilization skills to fight the negative and risky behaviors, perceptions, beliefs, misconceptions and submission attitudes to fate that exposes the community to high HIV transmission. There is also need for government/partners to ensure effective policy implementation, life jackets for all fishermen, improve the poor housing at the community so as to reduce overcrowding and other housing related predispositions to high HIV rates at the community. Work place AIDS-competence teams have been successfully used to address high HIV transmission in similar settings.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: In recent years policy makers and programme implementers have been urged to ‘know your epidemic’. This paper provides a striking illustration of the complexity of responding to the knowledge of a place with high prevalence and incidence. The authors describe the many factors which contribute to high HIV transmission rates. They illustrate why, for example, providing condoms and instruction on safer sex may have limited impact on a man who expresses concerns about drowning while fishing tomorrow. Drowning is a more immediate risk than dying because of AIDS-associated illnesses in the future. The information in this paper is not new. We have known about the different risk factors in fishing sites in Uganda for some time. There is also a considerable body of work on the relative perception of risk. However, what the authors do offer is a clear and well-grounded overview of the many different reasons why people in the study setting are at risk of HIV. They illustrate the vital importance of understanding the context of HIV-transmission; the value of looking beneath the prevalence and incidence figures.

Africa
Uganda
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HIV-associated stigma may impede HIV medication adherence among people living with HIV

The association of HIV-related stigma to HIV medication adherence: a systematic review and synthesis of the literature.

Sweeney SM, Vanable PA. AIDS Behav. 2015 Aug 25. [Epub ahead of print]

This paper provides a review of the quantitative literature on HIV-related stigma and medication adherence, including: (1) synthesis of the empirical evidence linking stigma to adherence, (2) examination of proposed causal mechanisms of the stigma and adherence relationship, and (3) methodological critique and guidance for future research. We reviewed 38 studies reporting either cross-sectional or prospective analyses of the association of HIV-related stigma to medication adherence since the introduction of antiretroviral therapies (ART). Although there is substantial empirical evidence linking stigma to adherence difficulties, few studies provided data on psychosocial mechanisms that may account for this relationship. Proposed mechanisms include: (a) enhanced vulnerability to mental health difficulties, (b) reduction in self-efficacy, and (c) concerns about inadvertent disclosure of HIV status. Future research should strive to assess the multiple domains of stigma, use standardized measures of adherence, and include prospective analyses to test mediating variables.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: People living with HIV often experience stigma and discrimination including social isolation and negative stereotyping. Recent evidence suggests that stigma may influence adherence to HIV medication among people living with HIV. This paper presents findings from a systematic review of the evidence on the impact of HIV-associated stigma on HIV medication adherence. The authors identified 38 studies which quantitatively assessed the association between stigma and medication adherence. All studies found evidence indicating that stigma contributed to adherence difficulties among people living with HIV. Included studies looked at diverse patient populations sampled from different countries and contexts. While stigma is heavily influenced by the socio-cultural context, the association between stigma and adherence across diverse contexts indicates that there may be commonalities in what causes stigma and how this relates to adherence.

The authors of this review suggest three possible causal mechanisms of HIV-associated stigma and medication adherence: (1) There may be links between stigma and depressive symptoms, and between depressive symptoms and adherence. Internalized stigma may enhance vulnerability to depressive symptoms, and this may influence adherence to HIV medication. (2) Stigma may cause reductions in self-efficacy – a person’s judgment of his or her ability to organize and execute behaviours - which may influence medication adherence. (3) People may fear HIV status disclosure by being seen taking HIV medication. Fear of status disclosure, and associated stigma, may cause people to avoid taking HIV medication.

The studies included in this review indicate a clear link between HIV-associated stigma and HIV medication adherence. There may be commonalities in what causes stigma across multiple populations. Future research should assess the influence of multiple forms of stigma on adherence, and on testing causal mechanisms between stigma and adherence. 

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Global programmes and local discrimination: the inadequate support of women living with HIV in West Papua and its impact on PMTCT

(Not) getting political: indigenous women and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in West Papua.

Munro J, McIntyre L. Cult Health Sex. 2015 Aug 25:1-16. [Epub ahead of print]

This paper builds on critiques that call for a more nuanced and contextualised understanding of conditions that affect HIV prevention by looking at West Papuan women's experiences of prevention of mother-to-child transmission services. Drawing on qualitative, ethnographic research with indigenous women and health workers, the paper demonstrates that women experience poor-quality HIV education and counselling, and that indigenous practices and concerns are largely not addressed by HIV services. We attribute this to a combination of national anti-indigenous and anti-separatist political concerns with donor-led interventions that result in limited localisation and reduced effectiveness of HIV prevention measures. In West Papua, services are needed that enhance cooperation and shared commitment, and that acknowledge and work to overcome existing inequalities, ethnic tensions and discrimination in the health system. Beyond Indonesia, donor-led HIV programmes and interventions need to balance avoidance of politically sensitive issues with complicity in perpetuating health inequalities. Translating global health interventions and donor priorities into locally compelling HIV prevention activities involves more than navigating local cultural and religious beliefs. Programme development and implementation strategies that entail confronting structural questions as well as social hierarchies, cleavages and silences are needed to render more effective services; strategies that are inherently political.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: West Papua is witnessing one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world, especially among its indigenous populations (prevalence is 2.9%). Translation of HIV prevention programmes to the local situation is complicated by unequal, discriminatory and racialised relationships between the Indonesian government and indigenous Papuans. This is made worse by the exclusion of indigenous Papuans from health services management and governance. Tensions between Papuan HIV NGO staff and Indonesian healthcare workers create obstacles to delivery of health promotion and HIV testing. International HIV agency funders and representatives ignore these tensions for political reasons.

Indigenous people are stigmatised as ‘hypersexual’ and ‘wild’ which causes poor service design and delivery of prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Because of racial stereotypes, Papuan women receive inadequate education and support in the healthcare system. Many women do not fully understand prevention of mother-to-child transmission, antiretroviral therapy, infant feeding choices, and delivery choices. Women are uncomfortable with healthcare workers and do not trust their advice, which is inadequate and does not consider peoples’ views. Women often drop out of HIV care after testing. Women were very isolated, with their partners often working far away. Women disclose their HIV status to very few people even with their families and usually do not know other positive mothers. International donor agencies need to engage with existing local political tensions that result in poor quality treatment of service users. HIV prevention programmes can exacerbate local inequalities if these are not recognised in HIV policy and service provision. 

Asia
Indonesia
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Risks and experiences of transgender women in Lebanon

Forms of safety and their impact on health: an exploration of HIV/AIDS-related risk and resilience among trans women in Lebanon.

Kaplan RL, Wagner GJ, Nehme S, Aunon F, Khouri D, Mokhbat J. Health Care Women Int. 2015 Aug;36(8):917-35. doi: 10.1080/07399332.2014.896012. Epub 2014 Apr 9.

Using minority stress theory, the authors investigated risk behaviors of transgender women (trans women) in Lebanon. Using semistructured interviews, the authors explored six areas: relationships with family and friends; openness about gender and sexuality; experiences with stigma; sexual behavior; attitudes and behaviors regarding HIV testing; and perceived HIV-related norms among transgender peers. Participants voiced the importance of different forms of safety: social/emotional, physical, sexual, and financial. Strategies for obtaining safety were negotiated differently depending on social, behavioral, and structural factors in the environment. In this article, we provide study findings from the perspectives of trans women, their exposure to stigma, and the necessary navigation of environments characterized by transphobia

Abstract access                     

Editor’s notes: Transgender women have a high risk of HIV acquisition / transmission, due to experiences of stigma, discrimination and transphobia. However there is a dearth of studies on transgender women from North Africa or the Middle East.

Interviews with ten trans-women from Beirut were included in this qualitative study. The study findings highlight the extreme vulnerability of transgender women to stigma, discrimination, violence, mental ill-health, financial insecurity and HIV and STI risk. Social support and emotional security from family, friends, and the transgender community was frequently lacking. Mental ill-health (9/10) and suicide ideation / attempts was high (5/10). Stigma and discrimination by peers and teachers at school, and at the work-place were common. Many also reported verbal, physical and sexual abuse and violence in public spaces. Many participants were selling anal sex to reduce financial insecurity. Money was a key motivator for condom non-use. 

Programmes with transgender women should be multi-component to reflect the complexity of their needs. They should include HIV prevention, advocacy of laws to prevent discrimination, employment opportunities to enable economic independence, and treatment and support for mental ill-health.

Asia
Lebanon
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