Dr. Janet Turan, professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, worked with other researchers to assess the effect of the UNITY peer support workshop on HIV-related stigma among African American women living with HIV, compared to a time and attention control group.
[Photo: Dr. Janet Turan]
African American women encounter disproportionately high rates of HIV-related morbidity and mortality, which is partially mediated through stigma and its effect on HIV treatment adherence. In the study, African American women living with HIV were randomized to the UNITY workshop or a breast cancer education control group. Interventions took place in HIV clinics in Chicago, IL and Birmingham, AL. Participants self-reported HIV-related stigma and social support at baseline, post-workshop, and four follow-up visits over 12 months.
The 239 participants (UNITY n=124; breast cancer education n=115) were assessed over one year. Both groups experienced decreases in mean stigma scores over time. Our model estimated that allocation to UNITY was not associated with a significant difference in stigma points over time. Post-hoc analysis suggested that preceding increases in perceived social support are associated with decreased HIV-related stigma in this population.
The researchers concluded that although UNITY did not significantly reduce HIV-related stigma in this population, the findings suggest that social support may be key to HIV-related stigma reduction.