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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: Older People With HIV/Aids Can Experience “Intersectional Stigma,” or Multiple Stigmatized Identities

Research by Dr. Thurka Sanaramoorthy, a cultural and medical anthropologist at the University of Maryland, was cited in a report advocating to include human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) as an aging issue. 

The report explains several barriers to getting optimal care for HIV/AIDS, including “intersectional stigma” — a research focus of Dr. Sanaramoorthy’s. Already facing stigma and discrimination from HIV/AIDS, older people often experience additional stigma from agism. This “double stigma” can create feelings of shame, guilt and self-loathing. 

“People don’t experience HIV stigma on its own; there are lots of other things going on,” Dr. Sanaramoorthy was quoted in the report. “How they feel about themselves, how they’ll be treated, based on who they are, what they look like, what color their skin is, whether they are men or women.”

One 56-year-old participant in Dr. Sanaramoorthy’s research told her, “I had stigma before I was diagnosed. Just being Black is a problem. Being a Black woman with HIV, that’s another.” 

Dr. Sanaramoorthy is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and an affiliate professor in the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the experience of underserved populations living with HIV. 

Those living with HIV often don’t have access to proper care for both HIV/AIDS and their geriatric needs. 

“Despite the growing need, the HIV and aging services networks are often worlds apart,” the report says. 

Because half of the 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV/AIDS are over the age of 50 — and it’s anticipated that this number will rise to 75 percent by the year 2030 — the report suggests developing better services, education and social support for diverse subpopulations of people living with HIV.

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