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Stanford study shows lack of support, services for rural HIV women in California

A Stanford study sheds light on the problems facing rural women in California with HIV. The research is among the first to examine the lives of these women, and the results, as described yesterday by my colleague Ruthann Richter, are discouraging:

“Yet again in this epidemic, women are disenfranchised,” said Yvonne Maldonado, MD, professor of pediatric infectious disease and the principal investigator of the study. “There are populations of women who have no support and are not getting the care that they need.”

Maldonado and colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with 64 HIV-positive women in rural areas of the state and found 62 percent had trouble finding a doctor for ongoing medical care and many lacked support for a range of services:

About a half said they needed help with basic chores, such as cleaning and grocery shopping, but couldn’t find available services. Some 44 percent said they needed help finding housing, and while they were not homeless, their living situations weren’t stable. That is worrisome, [first author Clea Sarnquist, DrPH] said, because HIV-infected individuals who lack stable housing tend to have poorer health and social outcomes.

Some 44 percent of the women said they had no access to local volunteer support services specially designed for people with HIV. Some also had difficulty getting to doctor’s appointments, with 23 percent saying they needed help with transportation, but couldn’t find any assistance.

In general, there were few support groups available where these women could share their myriad concerns, Maldonado said.

The work, which the researchers say highlights the need to better serve this "often-looked population," was presented at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last week.

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