Black Women Least Likely Among HIV-Positive People in Palm Beach County, Fla., To Seek Treatment, Study Says
HIV-positive black women are the "least likely" among all HIV-positive people living in Palm Beach County, Fla., to seek medical care and treatment, mostly because of socioeconomic factors, fear, stigma and misconceptions about the disease, according to study results announced on Tuesday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The 18-month-long study -- which is part of a series of three research projects nationwide examining why HIV-positive people do not seek treatment -- was conducted by the Treasure Coast Health Council and the Palm Beach County Health Department, with funding from an HHS grant. Researchers contacted hundreds of women who were not part of the health care system and many of whom lived in rural areas. The study found that about 40% of the 2,000 black women living with HIV/AIDS in Palm Beach County were not seeing a physician or taking antiretroviral medication. Health officials focused on black women for the study because about 75% of new HIV cases among women in the county occur among black women. After announcing the study's findings, local and federal health officials began a two-day workshop in West Palm Beach, Fla., to examine ways to "break down barriers" to health care services, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The study also found that black women face many "obstacles" that "discourage" them from accessing health care services, according to the Sun-Sentinel. These are summarized below.
- Many women reported avoiding doctors, clinics and other treatment programs because they did not want family or friends to know they were HIV-positive.
- Many women did not know where to go to access HIV/AIDS-related services. In addition, many women were deterred by having to fill out forms required by many agencies.
- Some women faced other problems accessing health care, including a lack of public transportation and day care, long waits at clinics and a "scarcity" of local physicians, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
- Some women said they had "no time" for medical care because they were busy with work and caring for their families, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
- Some women experienced denial, saying they did not feel sick and might have been misdiagnosed.
- Some women did not understand that being HIV-positive meant they were infected with HIV. Others said they relied only on "folk remedies or religion" for treatment, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
- Some HIV-positive commercial sex workers and injection drug users said they did not seek treatment because they were "ashamed" of their HIV-positive status or because they believed HIV/AIDS "equals death," according to the Sun-Sentinel.
- No single agency follows up with patients, and doctors, clinics and other health care professionals "struggle" to ensure that patients take their medications, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
- Some treatment programs only provide care to individuals who do not use illegal drugs. In addition, some patients reported "debilitating" side effects from medications and "disrespectful treatment" by program staff, according to the Sun-Sentinel (LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/20).
Richmond Times-Dispatch Profiles HIV/AIDS Advocate
The Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday profiled 29-year-old Deirdre Johnson, a prevention specialist at the Fan Free Clinic and a project facilitator with Sisters Informing Sisters About Topics on AIDS. As a discussion leader with SISTA projects, Johnson provides black women with information and skills to become "equal partners in healthy relationships" to help them avoid putting themselves at risk of contracting HIV, according to the Times-Dispatch (Smith, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/19). The complete article is available online.