Fogging the issue of HIV - Barriers for HIV testing in a migrated population from Ethiopia and Eritrea

Lindkvist, Pille; Johansson, Eva; Hylander, Ingrid
February 2015
BMC Public Health;2015, Vol. 15 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Background: The outcome of HIV treatment has dramatically improved since the introduction of antiretroviral therapy. Studies confirm that if treatment of HIV is initiated when the immune system is not severely affected by the virus the prognosis for the outcome is significantly better. There is also evidence that many immigrants come late for their first HIV test. If found to be HIV positive, and if the immune system is already significantly affected, this will compromise the treatment outcome. This study was performed in an attempt to understand the barriers for early HIV testing in a migrant population from Ethiopia and Eritrea in Stockholm, Sweden. Methods: Participants were theoretically sampled and consisted of individuals who had immigrated from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Data were collected using 14 focus group discussions and seven semi-structured interviews. The analysis was performed according to a Grounded Theory approach using the paradigm model. Results: Denial and fear of knowing one's HIV status dominated all aspects of behavior in relation to HIV. The main strategy was a "fogging" of the issue of HIV. People were said to not want to know because this would bring social isolation and exclusion, and it was often believed that treatment did not help. This attitude had strong roots in their culture and past experiences that were brought along to the new country and maintained within the immigrant community. The length of time spent in Sweden seemed to be an important factor affecting the "fogging of the HIV issue". Conclusions: In bridging the gap between the two cultures, Swedish authorities need to find ways to meet the needs of both earlier and newly arrived immigrants as well as the second generation of immigrants. This will require adjusting and updating the information that is given to these different sub-groups of Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants. Appropriate access to healthcare for a diverse population obviously requires more than simply providing the healthcare services.


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