September 27, 2011
Posted by Laura Nyblade and Zoya Aleem
ROME—Every two years, the International AIDS Society (IAS) organizes the Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention, which focuses on the biomedical aspects of HIV and AIDS. During the off-years of the much larger, International AIDS Conferences, the IAS conferences provide an opportunity to bring together experts and organizations to focus on HIV clinical and prevention issues. It is described as the world’s largest “open scientific conference” on HIV.
Stigma and discrimination are consistently recognized as a major barrier to effective HIV programs. Thus, it is essential that stigma and discrimination research and best practices inform clinical and prevention planning, implementation, and monitoring. This year, at the 6th IAS Conference held in Rome, Italy, in July, the Health Policy Project (HPP) and its implementing partner, Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International, organized a professional development workshop on Strengthening Client and Patient Care: How to Reduce Stigma and Discrimination in Health Settings. The workshop asked participants to “name” examples of stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings. It also shared principles, approaches, and tools for stigma reduction and included a presentation on the impact of stigma and discrimination in health facilities in the host country, Italy. The workshop was filled to capacity, highlighting strong interest in the topic. Among the participants was a Kenyan doctor who remarked, “This workshop was extremely useful to me as it has made me better at handling stigma and discrimination at the workplace.”
Yet, despite the importance of addressing stigma and discrimination for improving treatment and prevention outcomes, there was no plenary talk or oral panel devoted to the topic and only one oral presentation focused specifically on stigma and discrimination (Kerrigan, et al., MOAC0102), presented in a panel on structural risks and interventions. Out of more than 2,600 abstracts, 170 mentioned stigma and, of those, only about one-third focused on the issue in substantive manner. These abstracts can be divided into the following themes:
In about two-thirds of the abstracts, stigma is mentioned briefly, without being substantively integrated into research or program design from the outset. For example, within abstracts regarding project/program evaluation, authors often cited stigma reduction as a general aim of the project or as an outcome of the project without reference to how stigma is defined, addressed, or measured within the study. At times, stigma appeared exclusively in conclusions in the form of a future goal or recommendation for further research. References to the stigma and discrimination sometimes appeared in discussions as a probable cause or one determinant of poor utilization of healthcare services, without any data presented to substantiate this claim.
The studies and workshop presented at the 6th IAS Conference have helped further our understanding of the continuing presence of stigma and discrimination and their detrimental effects on people’s lives and on prevention and treatment services. However, several gaps in evidence remain, especially regarding:
The Health Policy Project is working at the global and country levels to help fill some of these gaps. This past week, the project hosted a meeting of researchers, program implementers, and other key stakeholders to build consensus on indicators for measuring stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings. Once finalized, these indicators will help to inform the design of stigma-reduction programs, monitor their effectiveness, and enhance accountability for eliminating stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings—which should be safe spaces for seeking HIV prevention, treatment, and care.
To learn more about what you can do to combat stigma and discrimination, please visit the Stigma Action Network.
|The Health Policy Project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Cooperative Agreement No.AID-OAA-A-10-00067, beginning September 30, 2010.It is implemented by the Futures Group, in collaboration with the Centre for Development||and Population Activities (CEDPA), Futures Institute, Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO), Population Reference Bureau (PRB), Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International, and the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA).||The information provided on this Web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.|