Globally, HIV-related stigma is prevalent in healthcare settings and is a major barrier to HIV prevention and treatment adherence. Some intervention studies have showed encouraging outcomes, but a gap continues to exist between what is known and what is actually delivered in medical settings to reduce HIV-related stigma.
This article describes the process of implementing a stigma reduction intervention trial that involved 1760 service providers in 40 hospitals in China. Guided by Diffusion of Innovation theory, the intervention identified and trained about 15–20% providers as popular opinion leaders (POLs) to disseminate stigma reduction messages in each intervention hospital. The intervention also engaged governmental support in the provision of universal precaution supplies to all participating hospitals in the trial. The frequency of message diffusion and reception, perceived improvement in universal precaution practices and reduction in the level of stigma in hospitals were measured at 6- and 12-month follow-up assessments.
Within the intervention hospitals, POL providers reported more frequent discussions with their co-workers regarding universal precaution principles, equal treatment of patients, provider-patient relationships and reducing HIV-related stigma. Service providers in the intervention hospitals reported more desirable intervention outcomes than providers in the control hospitals. Our evaluation revealed that the POL model is compatible with the target population, and that the unique intervention entry point of enhancing universal precaution and occupational safety was the key to improved acceptance by service providers. The involvement of health authorities in supporting occupational safety was an important element for sustainability.
This report focuses on explaining the elements of our intervention rather than its outcomes. Lessons learned from the intervention implementation will enrich the development of future programs that integrate this or other intervention models into routine medical practice, with the aim of reducing HIV-related stigma and improving HIV testing, treatment and care in medical settings.