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HIV patients still stung by stigma from health-care providers
Date:2/19/2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The doctor who wouldnt come into the patients hospital room. The neurologist who avoided eye contact. The ambulance attendant who angrily threw her bloodied gloves into the street after learning the injured patient was HIV-positive.

These are reactions of some health-care personnel when faced with caring for persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) more than 25 years after its discovery.

The experiences are documented in a study headed by Lance S. Rintamaki, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communication and health behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo and published recently in the journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs.

This study reveals the variety of such problematic events, said Rintamaki, as well as the considerable array of health-care personnel listed by participants in this study. Clinicians should have the training and common sense to avoid a lot of these behaviors, but perhaps we shouldnt be surprised when hearing about nonclinical staff caught up in these events. Theyre likely relying on the same stereotypes and misinformation about HIV that are commonplace among the general public, which may lead them to act in fearful and stigmatizing ways toward HIV-positive patients.

Persons infected with HIV must spend considerable time in the presence of health-care personnel in dealing with their disease, and experiencing stigma can be discouraging. They have labeled dealing with stigma the most significant social and psychological challenge of the HIV experience.

Rintamaki said the handful of existing studies of HIV stigma in health-care settings have focused mostly on one type of health-care personnel, such as doctors or nurses, and have documented their self-reported attitudes rather than the actual experiences of patients on the receiving end of those attitudes. Those few that have tried to document the frequency of such events have failed to describe the
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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1417
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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