Those living with HIV continue to have challenges that extend well beyond their medical needs Public misconceptions surrounding HIV transmission and treatment have resulted in systemic and pervasive discrimination against those living with the disease. Common misconceptions include overly optimistic perceptions of the modern state of medical treatment, leading the uninformed to conclude that people living with HIV are minimally impacted by the disease, and misunderstandings regarding how the disease is transmitted from person-to-person, leading to stigma and social prejudice. Because of these misconceptions, three professors from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth formed a community partnership to determine the unmet needs of individuals living with HIV in the Southcoast region of Massachusetts. The team used the social determinants of health as its framework for conducting a community assessment. The goal of the study was to uncover factors preventing individuals living with HIV from attaining optimal health outcomes. The study addressed the concerns of those living with HIV in Southcoast, Massachusetts. However, the barriers faced by those living with HIV in Southcoast mirror difficulties faced by those in other areas of the country in fundamental ways. This study and others reveal that the social determinants of health influence the quality of life experienced by those living with HIV as much as the condition itself. Out of this study developed the University of Massachusetts School of Law Human Rights at Home Clinic which provides services to low income residents of Southcoast Massachusetts with an interest in serving people living with HIV or AIDS and others experiencing stigma. The implementation of the clinic and its work is not the subject of this article, but its ongoing community activism informs the article’s discussion. Part I describes the study partnerships as well as the study processes. Part II addresses legal and other stressors on those living with HIV that impact many HIV positive individuals locally and across the country. Part III includes a discussion of the study results and the ongoing needs of those living with HIV with a focus on transportation.
Margaret B. Drew, Jason Potter, & Caitlin Stover, Complicated Lives: A Look Into the Experience of Individuals Living with HIV, Legal Impediments, and Other Social Determinants of Health, Quinnipiac Health Law (2020).