Articles tagged as "Eliminate stigma and discrimination"

Violence and educational outcomes among young children in South Africa and Malawi

Exposure to violence predicts poor educational outcomes in young children in South Africa and Malawi.

Sherr L, Hensels IS, Skeen S, Tomlinson M, Roberts KJ, Macedo A. Int Health. 2015 Dec 17. pii: ihv070. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Violence during childhood may affect short and long-term educational factors. There is scant literature on younger children from resource poor settings.

Methods: This study assessed child violence experiences (harsh punishment and exposure to domestic or community violence) and school enrolment, progress and attendance in children attending community-based organisations in South Africa and Malawi (n=989) at baseline and at 15 months' follow-up, examining differential experience of HIV positive, HIV affected and HIV unaffected children.

Results: Violence exposure was high: 45.4% experienced some form of psychological violence, 47.8% physical violence, 46.7% domestic violence and 41.8% community violence. Primary school enrolment was 96%. Violence was not associated with school enrolment at baseline but, controlling for baseline, children exposed to psychological violence for discipline were more than ten times less likely to be enrolled at follow-up (OR 0.09; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.57). Harsh discipline was associated with poor school progress. For children HIV positive a detrimental effect of harsh physical discipline was found on school performance (OR 0.10; 95% CI 0.02 to 0.61).

Conclusion: Violence experiences were associated with a number of educational outcomes, which may have long-term consequences. Community-based organisations may be well placed to address such violence, with a particular emphasis on the challenges faced by children who are HIV positive.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: There is substantial evidence that demonstrates the negative effects of the experience of violence in childhood on child mental health. However, there is little evidence on the impact of violence on educational outcomes. This is due to measurement and study design, such as data being primarily cross-sectional and studies being confined to adolescents, where younger children are excluded. This study reports data from a longitudinal study of young children aged 4–13 years affected by HIV enrolled at community-based organisations (CBOs) in South Africa and Malawi. The study examined the relationship between exposure to violence at home or in the community on educational outcomes at baseline and follow-up (12–15 months later). In particular, attention was given to HIV positive and HIV affected children in order to explore the effects of HIV as a factor of either violence experience or educational risk in this age group. HIV affected children are children who may not be HIV positive themselves, but living in a household with a HIV positive member.

In this sample of young children (n=989), close to 14% were HIV positive. School enrolment and attendance was high, although HIV positive children had slightly lower attendance and enrolment in the correct grade for their age, compared to HIV affected children. At baseline, overall exposure to violence at home and in the community was very high. Over half of the sample had been exposed to two or more types of violence, whereas less than one in six reported no violence exposure at all. At both baseline and at follow-up, there was no association found between community violence and school enrolment and attendance or grade progression. In terms of violence experienced at home (domestic violence), at baseline there was an association with grade progression for children in households with no HIV. At follow-up, in particular for children living with HIV, use of physical violence to discipline the child had a detrimental effect on grade progression. Furthermore, at follow-up, the use of psychological violence to discipline children had an effect on school enrolment. Hence, children of caregivers using psychological violence for discipline were significantly less likely to be enrolled in school at follow-up, if they were not enrolled at baseline. Thus, findings from this study highlight that despite high rates of violence exposure in this population, children who are HIV positive, in particular, appear to be most at risk of poor educational outcomes. This is likely to be due to a range of inter-related risk factors that affect educational outcomes: parental death, shifting care arrangements, change in school, illness-induced poverty and increased care-giving responsibilities.  All these factors might affect a child’s ability to access schooling and perform well in the context of HIV. As shown, educational outcomes were specifically linked to harsh punishment, as opposed to community or domestic violence. Thus, CBOs that provide services for children affected by HIV might be key to intervening on this issue. Furthermore, younger children in HIV endemic countries are particularly vulnerable and educational achievement in the early years is an important pre-requisite for ongoing educational milestones.  

Malawi, South Africa
  • share

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.  

  • share

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. 

  • share

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. 

  • share

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.

  • share

Regressive laws on same sex relationships increases stigma and reduces health service use

The immediate effect of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act on stigma, discrimination, and engagement on HIV prevention and treatment services in men who have sex with men in Nigeria: analysis of prospective data from the TRUST cohort.

Schwartz SR, Nowak RG, Orazulike I, Keshinro B, Ake J, Kennedy S, Njoku O, Blattner WA, Charurat ME, Baral SD, TRUST Study Group. Lancet HIV. 2015 Jul 1;2(7):e299-e306.

Background: In January, 2014, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was signed into law in Nigeria, further criminalising same-sex sexual relationships. We aimed to assess the immediate effect of this prohibition act on stigma, discrimination, and engagement in HIV prevention and treatment services in men who have sex with men (MSM) in Nigeria.

Methods: The TRUST cohort study uses respondent-driven sampling to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of engagement of MSM in HIV prevention and treatment services at a clinical site located with a community-based organisation trusted by the MSM community. TRUST is a prospective implementation research cohort of MSM (≥16 years) in Abuja, Nigeria. We compared HIV clinical outcomes and stigma, including fear and avoidance of health care, across baseline and quarterly visits before and after implementation of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Outcomes assessed were measures of stigma and discrimination, loss to follow-up, antiretroviral therapy status, and viral load. We compared outcomes before and after the legislation with chi2 statistics, and estimated incident stigma-related events and loss to follow-up with Poisson regression.

Findings: Between March 19, 2013, and Aug 7, 2014, 707 MSM participated in baseline study procedures, contributing to 756 before legislation (prelaw) and 420 after legislation (postlaw) visits. Reported history of fear of seeking health care was significantly higher in postlaw visits than in prelaw visits (n=161 [38%] vs n=187 [25%]; p<0.0001), as was avoidance of health care (n=118 [28%] vs n=151 [20%]; p=0.001). In incidence analyses, of 192 MSM with follow-up data and no history of an event at baseline, reported fear of seeking health care was higher in the postlaw than the prelaw period (n=144; incidence rate ratio 2.57, 95% CI 1.29-5.10; p=0.007); loss to follow-up and incident healthcare avoidance were similar across periods. Of the 161 (89%) of 181 HIV-infected MSM with HIV viral loads available, those who had disclosed sexual behaviour with a health-care provider were more often virally suppressed at baseline than those with no previous disclosure (18 [29%] of 62 vs 13 [13%] of 99 men; p=0.013).

Interpretation: These analyses represent individual-level, quantitative, real-time prospective data for the health-related effects resulting from the enactment of legislation further criminalising same-sex practices. The negative effects of HIV treatment and care in MSM reinforce the unintended consequences of such legislation on global goals of HIV eradication. Strategies to reach MSM less likely to engage in HIV testing and care in highly stigmatised environments are needed to reduce time to HIV diagnosis and treatment.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Despite the recent implementation of progressive laws on same-sex relationships and marriage in several settings, other countries – including Nigeria – have moved to criminalise same sex practises. As well as broader human rights concerns, there is the risk that policies that criminalise same-sex practices, or the community groups addressing the health-related needs of these populations, might restrict the coverage of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes. However, despite these concerns, there is extremely limited quantitative evidence on the impact of such policies. In Nigeria, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was passed in 2011, coming into law in 2014. Before this legislation, consensual sex between male same-sex couples was already prohibited. The new law further criminalised same sex practices, including prohibiting participation in organisations and service provision. This study opportunistically analysed data from an on-going prospective cohort study of gay men and other men who have sex with men in Abuja, which had started prior to the law’s implementation, and continued after its introduction. The study assessed the degree to which this legislation impacted on gay men and other men who have sex with men’s fear and health service use. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the study illustrates that the law did impact negatively on gay men and other men who have sex with men – significantly increasing their fear of and avoidance of health services, as well as increasing their levels of harassment and experience of blackmail. Prior to the new legislation, levels were already high, with the new law seeming to exacerbate existing barriers and stigma. The findings are important, illustrating how regressive laws can increase the stigmatisation of already marginalised groups, and undermine the gay men and other men who have sex with men’s access to health associated services. Supportive policy environments, along with HIV programmes for marginalised populations, form an essential part of an effective HIV response.

  • share

Police violence and female sex work in south India

Change over time in police interactions and HIV risk behavior among female sex workers in Andhra Pradesh, India.

Erausquin JT, Reed E, Blankenship KM. AIDS Behav. 2015 Jun;19(6):1108-15. doi: 10.1007/s10461-014-0926-5.

Little is known about the effectiveness of intervening to change interactions between female sex workers (FSWs) and police in order to reduce HIV risk. Using data collected in the context of a HIV prevention intervention that included components to change policing practices (n = 1680), we examine the association of FSWs' reports of negative police interactions and HIV risk behaviors and whether these associations varied over time. Results show negative police interactions declined significantly over time. FSWs who had more than one negative police interaction were more likely to experience STI symptoms (AOR 2.97 [95 % CI 2.27-3.89]), inconsistently use condoms with their clients (AOR 1.36 [95 % CI 1.03-1.79]), and accept more money for condomless sex (AOR 2.37 [95 % CI 1.76-3.21]). Over time, these associations were stable or increased. Even where interventions have reduced the number of police incidents experienced by FSWs, stakeholders in HIV prevention must remain vigilant in challenging these incidents.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Laws relating to sex work are frequently ambiguous. This allows considerable police discretion about who to arrest and under what charges. Bribes and arrest both have real monetary costs for female sex workers, who are already usually economically vulnerable. Financial pressure and or poverty can push women into agreeing to riskier sex with riskier clients in riskier places. This paper examined if negative police experience is associated with increased HIV risk behaviours; and if negative police experience changed over time following comprehensive HIV prevention programming.

The study found negative police interactions in the previous six months were frequent. Police raided workplace (36.1%), police arrested respondent (14.5%), police accepted bribe or gift so respondent could avoid trouble (14.8%), police had sex with respondent so she could avoid trouble (11.1%) and police took condoms away (7.6%). Negative police interactions were linked with an increased HIV risk including STI symptoms in the past 12 months; inconsistent condom use with clients in the past seven days and accepting more money for sex without a condom. However, there was a reduction over time in the proportion of women experiencing one or more negative police interactions in the past six months (21.2% versus 16.2%).  Risk behaviours also reduced over time.

This study adds to emerging literature that it is possible to intervene against violence exposure and negative police interaction as part of HIV prevention programming. It also underscores the importance of structural drivers in enhancing HIV risk among female sex worker populations.

  • share

Using storybooks to tell children about their HIV in Namibia: what works

Growing-up just like everyone else: key components of a successful pediatric HIV disclosure intervention in Namibia.

Brandt L, Beima-Sofie K, Hamunime N, Shepard M, Ferris L, Ingo P, John-Stewart G, O'Malley G. AIDS. 2015 Jun;29 Suppl 1:S81-9. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000667.

Objectives: To facilitate replication and adaptation of pediatric HIV disclosure interventions, we identified key components of a child-friendly cartoon book used to guide Namibian caregivers and healthcare workers (HCWs) through a gradual, structured disclosure process.

Design: Qualitative interviews were conducted with caregivers and HCWs from four high-volume pediatric HIV clinics in Namibia.

Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews with 35 HCWs and 64 caregivers of HIV+ children aged 7-15 were analyzed using constant comparative and modified grounded theory analysis. Major barriers to disclosure were compared to accounts of intervention success, and themes related to key components were identified.

Results: The disclosure book overcomes barriers to disclosure by reducing caregiver resistance, increasing HIV and disclosure knowledge, and providing a gradual, structured framework for disclosure. The delayed mention of HIV-specific terminology overcomes caregiver fears associated with HIV stigma, thus encouraging earlier uptake of disclosure initiation. Caregivers value the book's focus on staying healthy, keeping the body strong, and having a future 'like other kids', thus capitalizing on evidence of the positive benefits of resilience and hopefulness rather than the negative consequences of HIV. The book's concepts and images resonate with children who readily adopt the language of 'body soldiers' and 'bad guys' in describing how important it is for them to take their medicine. Discussion cues ease communication between HCWs, caregivers, and pediatric patients.

Conclusion: Given the urgent need for available pediatric HIV disclosure interventions, easily implementable tools like the Namibian disclosure book should be evaluated for utility in similar settings.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: There is clear guidance from global and national policy that school-aged children should be fully disclosed to about their positive HIV status. However in reality disclosure to children continues to be done at a much later stage and in an incomplete way. Simple activities are necessary to support carers to disclose, equipping them with appropriate ways to tell children what they need to know about their HIV status and the nature of their condition. This paper presents the findings from a qualitative study evaluating a child-friendly storybook activity in Namibia designed to facilitate and ease the challenges carers face in timely and full disclosure to children. 

Both the caregivers and the healthcare workers reported that the book helped them overcome many of the barriers to disclosure. This finding suggests that the activity has considerable potential. The empirical literature focuses heavily on the reasons behind delayed disclosure including guilt, fear, and inadequate knowledge about how to approach and explain the topic. The particular value of this study is the contribution the authors are able to make to our understanding of what works to overcome these barriers to disclosure and why. They focus in particular on the use of metaphor within a narrative and the positive impact of a particular health behaviour (treatment adherence) in helping children to ameliorate the significance of the condition itself in their physical and social lives. What contributes to the success and applicability of the programme is that these books are designed to address common challenges faced by paediatric HIV clinics in resource-stretched settings with relative ease. For example the challenges posed by inconsistent caregivers accompanying the child to the clinic or the pressing demands on a healthcare worker’s time in a busy clinic.

The evidence presented in this paper is based on self-report from the healthcare workers and carers. The study suggests that there would be considerable value in evaluating this programme through larger studies to assess its efficacy. However, in addition to that, asking children themselves, who have been exposed to the book, about their experiences in any future research would further strengthen our understanding of the impact of the programme in this setting.  Involving the children in the research would inform how the programme can be refined and adapted for other settings. 

  • share

Expansions in HIV treatment believed to reduce HIV stigma

HIV treatment scale-up and HIV-related stigma in sub-Saharan Africa: a longitudinal cross-country analysis.

Chan BT, Tsai AC, Siedner MJ. Am J Public Health. 2015 Jun 11:e1-e7. [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302716

Objectives: We estimated the association between antiretroviral therapy (ART) uptake and HIV-related stigma at the population level in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We examined trends in HIV-related stigma and ART coverage in sub-Saharan Africa during 2003 to 2013 using longitudinal, population-based data on ART coverage from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and on HIV-related stigma from the Demographic and Health Surveys and AIDS Indicator Surveys. We fitted 2 linear regression models with country fixed effects, with the percentage of men or women reporting HIV-related stigma as the dependent variable and the percentage of people living with HIV on ART as the explanatory variable.

Results: Eighteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa were included in our analysis. For each 1% increase in ART coverage, we observed a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of women (b = -0.226; P = .007; 95% confidence interval [CI] = -0.383, -0.070) and men (b = -0.281; P = .009; 95% CI = -0.480, -0.082) in the general population reporting HIV-related stigma.

Conclusions: An important benefit of ART scale-up may be the diminution of HIV-related stigma in the general population. .

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Focused on sub-Saharan Africa, this study suggests that a benefit of the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) may have been a reduction in HIV-associated stigma. The authors combine data on HIV-associated stigma from the Demographic and Health Surveys and AIDS Indicator Surveys with data on ART coverage from UNAIDS. The results are presented for each of 18 countries and the authors suggest that increases in ART coverage are correlated with decreasing stigma, especially among countries with high HIV prevalence. The authors hypothesise that by allowing a person with HIV to experience a healthier life, ART reduces the stigma of HIV’s association with moral deviance. The authors also attribute knowledge to decreases in stigma.

While addressing an interesting and important question, the paper has some limitations. We suggest that participant responses to questions about whether they would be willing to care for someone “sick with AIDS”, and whether they would want a family member to keep an AIDS diagnosis “secret” cannot safely be interpreted as reflecting stigmatising attitudes or anticipated stigma. It would have been interesting to know if the methods used in the analysis could assess the role of ART relative to other factors in being associated with any changes over time in HIV-associated stigma.

  • share

People living with HIV at higher risk of developing disabilities in sub-Saharan Africa

The relationship between HIV and prevalence of disabilities in sub-Saharan Africa: systematic review.

Banks LM, Zuurmond M, Ferrand R, Kuper H. Trop Med Int Health. 2015 Apr;20(4):411-29. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12449. Epub 2015 Jan 14.

Objective: To systematically review evidence on the prevalence and risk of disabilities among children and adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: Articles were identified from 1980 to June 2013 through searching seven electronic databases. Epidemiological studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa that explored the association between HIV status and general disability or specific impairments, with or without an HIV-uninfected comparison group, were eligible for inclusion.

Results: Of 12 867 records initially identified, 61 papers were deemed eligible for inclusion. The prevalence of disability was high across age groups, impairment types and study locations. Furthermore, 73% of studies using an HIV- comparator found significantly lower levels of functioning in people living with HIV (PLHIV). By disability type, the results were as follows: (i) for studies measuring physical impairments (n = 14), median prevalence of limitations in mobility and motor function among PLHIV was 25.0% (95% CI: 21.8-28.2%). Five of eight comparator studies found significantly reduced functioning among PLHIV; for arthritis, two of three studies which used an HIV- comparison group found significantly increased prevalence among PLHIV; (ii) for sensory impairment studies (n = 17), median prevalence of visual impairment was 11.2% (95%CI: 9.5-13.1%) and hearing impairment was 24.1% (95%CI: 19.2-29.0%) in PLHIV. Significantly increased prevalence among PLHIV was found in one of four (vision) and three of three studies (hearing) with comparators; (iii) for cognitive impairment in adults (n = 30), median prevalence for dementia was 25.3% (95% CI: 22.0-28.6%) and 40.9% (95% CI: 37.7-44.1%) for general cognitive impairment. Across all types of cognitive impairment, twelve of fourteen studies found a significant detrimental effect of HIV infection; (iv) for developmental delay in children with HIV (n = 20), median prevalence of motor delay was 67.7% (95% CI: 62.2-73.2%). All nine studies that included a comparator found a significant difference between PLHIV and controls; for cognitive development and global delay, a significant detrimental effect of HIV was found in five of six and one of two studies, respectively. In the nine cohort studies comparing vertically infected and uninfected children, eight showed a significant gap in development over time in children with HIV. Finally, fifteen of thirty-one (48%) studies found a statistically significant dose-response relationship between indicators of disease progression (CD4 or WHO stage) and disability.

Conclusions: HIV is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and the evidence suggests that it is linked to disabilities, affecting a range of body structures and functions. More research is needed to better understand the implications of HIV-related disability for individuals, their families as well as those working in the fields of disability and HIV so that appropriate interventions can be developed.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: As ART is scaled-up, and people living with HIV live longer, an increasing number of people will face challenges of HIV-associated disability. Disability may be partly a direct effect of living with HIV, but may also be an indirect effect, for example due to side effects of treatment. There has been relatively little research on this topic, particularly in low and middle-income countries and this is the first systematic review of the prevalence of disability among people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. The review found a high prevalence of all categories of disability. The majority of studies had an HIV-negative comparison group among whom levels of disability were lower than among people living with HIV. Developmental delay was the impairment most strongly linked to HIV, with prevalence as high as 78% in children living with HIV. To minimize the chance that the observed association was due to reverse causality, the review excluded studies which clearly focused on disability as a risk factor for HIV, although it is likely that some studies still included individuals in whom disability preceded HIV infection. There was also relatively little data on ART status and duration in many studies, which may impact on the association of HIV and disability.  Despite these limitations, this study highlights the need to focus on prevention and management of HIV-associated disability in sub-Saharan Africa and development of effective, low-cost evidence-informed activities.

  • share