Health Care Workers, like all other community members are affected by HIV stigma. But Health Workers have a special role in providing services to clients and so addressing stigma is especially important.
These were some of the conclusions made by Tila Mainga, Study Manager at ZAMBART, when she presented on “Results from the Stigma Ancillary Study” during the CIDRZ weekly research meeting.
The study’s objectives were to ascertain how stigma among health care workers impacted on linkage to care with specific focus on health care workers attitude towards key populations and clients living with HIV, their perceptions of experiences of clients living with HIV in the health facility physical spaces and internalized stigma among health care workers living with HIV.
On attitudes towards key populations, the study found that health Care Workers talk badly to pregnant adolescent girl as they believe that pregnant adolescents are promiscuous and engage in high risk sexual behaviors.
The study also revealed that sex workers face a lot of stigma in the clinic and in the community and lose interest in accessing health care services due to long queues and waiting times is perceived as a risk of them being identified.
Tila explained “however, there is a contrast in the nature of the relationship between People Living with HIV and Health Care Workers. On one hand some described it as friendly and supportive while on the other, it was described it as rude and unaccommodating”.
She pointed out that “some health facilities have no privacy ,as a result there is information leakage as to who is HIV positive and who is not. Some communication materials found in health facilities are too obvious that they are symbols of an HIV positive person, hence chances of being stigmatized are high”
The study concluded that there was still more that could be done to reduce stigma levels by health care workers especially towards populations at high risk of HIV.