While bearing the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDs in the US, African American women also face multi-level stigma at social, community and institutional levels, which is exacerbated by their HIV-positive status.
Fordham University Center for Ethics Education HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) fellow Dr. Faith E. Fletcher, an Assistant Professor in Community Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, recently addressed this issue using her dissertation research in an article titled, “She Told Them, Oh That Bitch Got AIDS”: Experiences of Multi-Level HIV/AIDS- Related Stigma among African American Women Living with HIV/AIDS in the South” published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs.
Dr. Fletcher interviewed 42 African American women with HIV/AIDS living in South Carolina. She found that “HIV/AIDS stigma permeated many dimensions of women’s lives, including the research process.” Using narrative data and the Social Ecological Model, Dr. Fletcher’s findings demonstrate the need for an enhanced understanding of multi-level stigma experienced by HIV-positive African American women to inform innovative and tailored approaches.“Settings that are generally regarded as safe spaces for most individuals are not necessarily safe for HIV-positive African American women due to the intersections of stigma in places where women “live, work, love, play, and pray,” Dr. Fletcher explained.
Although many women in the study identified their homes as safe spaces to complete interviews, several participants completed interviews in Dr. Fletcher’s car to enhance privacy. Dr. Fletcher contends “ethical challenges in the research process emanating from additive, layered stigma can limit the availability of invulnerable research spaces.” Dr. Fletcher shared that her research and training at RETI has offered her a strong foundation to identify and address ethical issues that may arise while engaging communities in the HIV research process.
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Citation: Fletcher FE, Annang L, Kerr J, Buchberg M, Bogdan-Lovis L, Philpott-Jones S. “She Told Them, Oh That Bitch Got AIDS”: Experiences of Multi-Level HIV/AIDS- Related Stigma among African American Women Living with HIV/AIDS in the South. AIDS Patient Care and STDs. 2016 Jul;30(7):349-56. doi: 10.1089/apc.2016.0026. PMID:27410498.