One in two people only disclose their HIV status to their doctor, survey captures self-stigma

One in two HIV-positive people does not reveal their seropositivity to the virus until the health team following them. And it is the most clinically vulnerable people who find it difficult to talk about their HIV status outside of the health care context, highlighting how self-stigma, a consequence of discrimination, is a cross-cutting issue that needs to be addressed. investigated by those around them. people living with HIV, mainly doctors and nurses. This is what emerges from the results of a survey presented at the Italian Conference on AIDS and Antiviral Research (Icar) 2022, underway in Bergamo.

Self-stigma is a major risk factor linked to negative health outcomes. Specifically, not disclosing one’s HIV status can be a good proxy indicator of self-stigma. The results presented this year, relating to a sample of 531 people living with HIV, are part of the national survey which involved the centers of the “Icona” cohort, with the support of patient associations and the support of ViiV Healthcare. Some preliminary findings were illustrated last year, and the evidence that has emerged this year highlights how important it is not to ignore all aspects of the health and sociality of the person living with HIV, as they are related to the state of well-being or ill-being.

The survey – reports a joint note by the Icona Foundation and ViiV Healthcare – therefore highlighted that 48% (257 people) revealed to someone (therefore in addition to the health team that takes care of them ) HIV status, compared to 52% (324) who did not. There was no statistically significant difference between these two groups regarding the burden of treatment and disease, however recent diagnosis, greater immunological deficit and the initial phase of the therapeutic path seem to be characteristics more related to the fear of tell others about his condition. . In particular, we have seen that these are also the people who ask to speak to the health team about health topics other than HIV and who also want information on new treatment options.

There is no particular difference in self-reported health status between those who are discharged for HIV and those who are not. While it is striking – continues the note – to note the extent to which the non-disclosure of HIV infection outside the health sector particularly affects the most fragile HIV-positive people, as shown by the independent association with a low Cd4 levels, highlighting how self-stigma, a consequence of discrimination, is a cross-cutting issue that needs to be brought to the attention of those around (health and non-health) of people living with HIV; moreover, immunocompromised people are more likely to feel the burden of infection, which in their condition can lead to serious illness.

“The care of people living with HIV can no longer ignore the person’s experience of the disease itself to define the interventions”, underlines Antonella Cingolani, Catholic University of S. Cuore, Fondazione Policlinico Gemelli, Irccs, from Rome. “Aspects of sociality, therefore whether or not seropositivity is revealed, constitute a good indicator for alerting the clinician and the health team to the care and the proposals for specific interventions”.

“These are data that, despite the limitations of the investigation that we have always made explicit, offer an important starting point for the construction of other research projects aimed at photographing and promoting new health interventions that are increasingly targeted,” says Alessandro Tavelli, Fondazione Icona study coordinator and survey data manager, from Milan. “The Icona network and the collaboration with patient organizations – concludes Antonella D’Arminio Monforte, Asst Santi Paolo e Carlo, Milan and President of the Icona Foundation – allow us a privileged observatory: try to mitigate as much as possible the context already difficult of clinical frailty is a duty for the network of clinicians and associations”.

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