NUI Galway launches national survey into HIV stigma in healthcare

The study will be the first of its kind in Europe, gathering data at a national level both from people living with HIV and healthcare professionals.

This article is about a national survey on the stigma related to HIV. In the pictures, the crossed arms of a doctor wearing a green shirt.
Image: Via Pexels - Karolina Grabowska

The National University of Ireland in Galway (NUI Galway) launched a national survey to investigate the stigma that people living with HIV have to face when accessing healthcare settings. They are currently looking for participants in both the survey and qualitative interviews.

Funded by the Irish Research Council and supported by HIV Ireland, the study is the first Joint National Survey that seeks to measure the stigma related to HIV that people face when accessing healthcare in Ireland. It will be the first of its kind in Europe for its national-level data and it’s part of a wider study with the goal to develop a strategy to tackle the issue and improve healthcare outcomes for people living with HIV.

Doctor Elena Vaughan, a post-doctoral researcher in the Health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway, is leading the research, which seeks to gather the experiences of both people living with HIV and professionals working in the healthcare sector who provide the treatments.

Nowadays, approximately 7,000 people are living with HIV in Ireland, with data registering an increase in the number of cases of HIV and STIs in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2021. From a medical point of view, there have been massive strides in the treatment of HIV, and people living with it can now live long healthy lives and also cannot pass the virus to sexual partners if they’re on effective treatment.

However, something that still deeply affects their lives is the stigma that living with HIV forces them to face. Dr Vaughan’s PhD research investigated the relationship between such stigma and the media discourse on HIV. Now, her new research with this national survey is looking into measuring the stigma that people living with HIV face specifically when accessing healthcare.

“Stigma in healthcare settings is among the key indicators recommended by UNAIDS to measure and evaluate the HIV response in individual countries. In addition to providing important information to help us reduce stigma in healthcare settings, the data generated from this project will be useful to programme and policy-makers in tracking progress in meeting commitments both to the SDGs and the Fast Track Cities Initiative. Ireland will be the first country in Europe that will have this kind of national-level data.” she said.

Speaking of the relevance of such a study, Vaughan said: “This research will help us to get a sense of what the needs and priorities are – both of people working in healthcare and people living with HIV – so that a collaborative approach may be taken to address stigma in healthcare settings.”

She also added: “Experiences of stigma in healthcare settings can put people off engaging with healthcare services. This can have negative impacts on a person’s health. There is also evidence to suggest that stigma inhibits people from accessing testing and treatment, and so is a driver of the epidemic more broadly.”

If you wish to contribute to the Joint National Survey on stigma related to HIV in healthcare settings, you can access it here.

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