Project THANKS: Examining HIV/AIDS-Related Barriers and Facilitators to Care in African American Women: A Community Perspective

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Abstract

Project THANKS, (Turning HIV/AIDS into Knowledge for Sisters), is an evidence-based intervention that utilizes a community-based participatory and empowerment building approach for African American female substance abusers living with HIV and other chronic diseases. This qualitative study sought to gain insight from women living with HIV on how to improve Project THANKS. African American women living with substance abuse disorders, HIV, and other comorbidities were recruited from three community based health centers in New Jersey (N = 31). Ninety minute focus group sessions were implemented in each health center. The focus group sessions were designed to understand the perceived factors influencing the participants’ ability to selfmanage their health conditions and challenges they are currently facing regarding their diagnoses. The barriers and suggestions presented by participants included addressing stigmatization, managing mental health symptoms, improving physician-patient trust, accessing health education, educating community members, and proper nutrition. In addition, an engaged and trusting relationship with their healthcare provider and having positive sources of support were cited as motivators to adhering to their HIV treatment regimen. Participants living with HIV/AIDS also expressed more concern with difficulty treating their comorbidities than participants with only HIV/AIDS. Receiving input from African American women living with HIV related comorbidities was essential in improving the intervention to include a behavioral and primary health approach. Future programmatic interventions of Project THANKS will include a targeted focus on addressing mental health needs in women by offering meditation services and mental health referrals. In addition, Project THANKS will incorporate activities to improve communication with physicians, families, and media outlets to empower women to take an active role in their primary and social support needs.

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