Feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of the unity workshop: an internalized stigma reduction intervention for African American women living with HIV

Deepa Rao, Michelle Desmond, Michele Andrasik, Tonya Rasberry, Nina Lambert, Susan E Cohn, Jane Simoni
AIDS Patient Care and STDs 2012, 26 (10): 614-20
Observational studies have examined the prevalence and impact of internalized stigma among African American women living with HIV, but there are no intervention studies investigating stigma reduction strategies in this population. Based on qualitative data previously collected, we adapted the International Center for Research on Women's HIV Stigma Toolkit for a domestic population of African American women to be consistent with Corrigan's principles of strategic stigma change. We implemented the intervention, led by an African American woman living with HIV, as a workshop across two afternoons. The participants discussed issues "triggered" by videos produced specifically for this purpose, learned coping mechanisms from each other, and practiced them in role plays with each other. We pilot tested the intervention with two groups of women (total N=24), measuring change in internalized stigma with the Stigma Scale for Chronic Illness before and after workshop participation. Sixty-two percent of the participants self-reported acquiring HIV through heterosexual sexual contact, 17% through intravenous drug use, 4% in utero, and 13% did not know the route of transmission. The intervention was feasible, enthusiastically accepted by the women, and led to decreased stigma from the start of the workshop to the end (p=0.05) and 1 week after (p=0.07) the last session of workshop. Findings suggest the intervention warrants further investigation.

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