Maryland HIV Support Group Opens New Office, Seeks To Combat Stigma in Rural Areas
An HIV support group in Western Maryland is gaining more visibility after holding an open house at its new office in Frederick, Md., last month in an effort to combat the stigma surrounding HIV, especially in rural areas, the Baltimore Sun reports. For the past two years, Positive Influence has been organizing HIV support group sessions, screening callers before disclosing its meeting time and place to determine whether they are legitimately seeking an HIV support group. HIV-positive people in rural areas have little access to support outside of their county health department, according to the Sun. David Seal, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin who has studied the burden of HIV/AIDS on rural residents, said the organization's new visibility is more attributable to the way it has evolved than to a shift in national trends, the Sun reports. "As more and more people become public and more and more agencies do their work publicly, it certainly helps to make communities more open and decreases the stigma," Seal said. At the end of 2003, there were 27,504 people in Maryland living with HIV/AIDS, according to the state Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (Dishneau, Baltimore Sun, 6/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.