The Health Care Experiences of Women with HIV/AIDS: Insights from a Focus Group (October 2003), Henry Kaiser Family Foundation

White Papers and Reports

The Kaiser Family Foundation commissioned a racially diverse group study of lower-income women with HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami and Savannah to hear directly from them about their lives and the challenges they face in obtaining a full-range of health care services. The specific issues addressed were barriers to receiving care, interactions with the health care system, relationships with providers, challenges unique to women, knowledge level about their illness, effects of HIV/AIDS on other aspects of their lives and the information they need and sources they trust. Ideas for improving access to quality health care were distilled from the womens insights. First, time of diagnosis is a critical moment to inform, support and connect women with HIV/AIDS services. How women were told about their status affected when and if they sought treatment. Second, gender specific services should be available to women such as mental health support, child care assistance, transportation and access to female providers. Third, women who were connected to local AIDS services organizations, services and networks of information had better health care experiences. Fourth, making Medicaid available to more women with HIV/AIDS and continuing to support ADAP. Fifth, use providers, peers, internet, TV/radio to inform women about HIV/AIDS and especially to reach out to Latinas with HIV/AIDS. Although not mentioned in the conclusions, a persistent problem for women with HIV is the stigma and prejudice they face from health care professionals who are not HIV specialists. Women still experience denial of services from dentists, gynecologists and general practitioners after disclosing their status. Stigma, and perception of social risk, affects when and whether women disclose their status or pursue and receive care for a multitude of health issues. This study highlights the imperative that all health care professionals be trained and educated about HIV/AIDS issues.