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Stigma is one of the greatest barriers to treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. It also creates obstacles to prevention. People may not want family, friends, and neighbors to know that they are visiting an HIV/AIDS provider for testing or treatment. In rural communities with limited anonymity, people may not seek care at all. There is also stigma associated with working in an HIV/AIDS clinic.

Rural HIV/AIDS programs have addressed stigma in different ways, including by offering HIV services in health departments or community-based organizations that provide many different types of services and are not “branded with HIV/AIDS.” Many rural HIV/AIDS programs also conduct community education about HIV to reduce the stigma associated with the disease and increase the likelihood that people will seek care. Additionally, rural HIV/AIDS programs have helped people to obtain medications through the mail in nondescript packages. Social workers can also play an important role in providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services, increasing awareness, and providing education about HIV/AIDS.

Resources to Learn More

Psychology and AIDS Exchange Newsletter
Presents articles and resources focused on challenges people face in rural communities. Several articles address challenges and needs of people living with HIV in rural communities.
Organizations(s): American Psychological Association

Strategies for Addressing HIV/AIDS-Related Stigma
A literature review highlighting strategies that can help to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Main findings are summarized and the original research is cited. Review included studies of interventions in the U.S., as well as other countries. Primary discussion revolves around direct intervention through education and further research.
Author(s): Carnochan, T., Etcheverry, E., Roddy, P., Rogers, K., & Sullivan, T.
Organization(s): University of Manitoba
Date: 2014

Understanding HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination
A brief specifically designed to help social workers and others working with HIV/AIDS patients understand the individual and cultural stigmas surrounding AIDS. Includes suggestions about how social workers can address those stigmas in their community.
Author(s): Tomaszewski, E.
Organization(s): National Association of Social Workers, Human Rights and International Affairs Division
Date: 3/2012