CHWs reported helping HIV patients cope with stigma from their own healthcare providers, who were unequipped to work with the LGBTQ+ community. One community health worker, stated that there were “doctors who would refuse to see certain HIV-positive patients simply because they were members of the LGBTQ+ community.” Unfortunately, these health care providers did not want to “take the time to understand certain patients like transgender people” (Interviewed 3/26/2020). More than one CHW can agree that this discrimination has occurred to their clients. Even within the medical, healthcare, and human services community there is still so much stigma against HIV. Even though it is a virus that people can still live happy, healthy, and successful lives with as long as they are coherent to their medical care.
In order to combat issues going on within HIV patients and those around them, there are several support systems in place. For example, one agency that employs CHWs offers “mental health therapy, pastoral counseling,” (Interviewed 3/10/2020) and so much more. They cannot fight this battle with HIV if they cannot think highly of themselves. These patients must know that they are valued even though they have this lifelong virus. Sometimes, it does have an effect on people’s mental health, self esteem or behaviors. When telling a newly diagnosed patient their status on HIV, oftentimes people will cry, “pass out in your [Community Health Worker] arms or take flight and never come back” (Interviewed 3/10/2020). In order to have a much smoother time, community health workers at one particular location will always have a second opinion of a doctor to ensure that the test results are accurate and true. If a patient is having a hard time with a particular health care provider or even coming to terms that they really have HIV, several HIV organizations and clinics have established relationships with one another to refer their patients to a place more accepting, open, and non judgmental of who they are. One CHW devotedly stated, “This is not just an individual, this is a life…I identify myself as human. Everything else is irrelevant” (Interviewed 3/10/2020).
In many cases people with HIV face barriers that do not allow them to receive the best care possible. In our interviews with CHWs, certain structural barriers were frequently brought up as major impediments to HIV-related care. Community Health Workers serve the purpose of meeting the needs of their clients whatever they may be. Some typical barriers that many patients face is: transportation to appointments, having a safe place to live, and language barriers if they are limited English speakers or do not know English at all.