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AIDS Care. 2011 Jul;23(7):792-6. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2010.516345.

Rural HIV-infected women's access to medical care: ongoing needs in California.

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Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA, USA.


HIV-infected women living in rural areas often have considerably less access to care than their urban and suburban counterparts. In much of the USA, little is known about HIV care among rural populations. This study elucidated barriers to care for rural women in California. Methods included retrospective structured interviews conducted with 64 women living in rural areas and receiving HIV care at 11 California healthcare facilities. Facilities were randomly sampled and all HIV-infected female patients seeking care at those facilities during a specified time period were eligible. The most commonly cited barriers to accessing care included physical health problems that prevented travel to care (32.8%), lack of transportation (31.2%), and lack of ability to navigate the healthcare system (25.0%). Being divorced/separated/widowed (compared to being either married or single) was associated with reporting physical health as a barrier to care (p=0.03); being unemployed (p=0.003) or having to travel 31-90 minutes (p=0.007, compared to less than 31 or greater than 90) were both associated with transportation as a barrier; and speaking English rather than Spanish was associated with reporting "difficulty navigating the system" (p=0.04). Twenty-nine women (45.3%) reported difficulty in traveling to appointments. Overall, 24 (37.5%) women missed an HIV medical appointment in the previous 12-month period, primarily due to their physical health and transportation limitations. Physical health and transportation problems were both the major barriers to accessing health services and the primary reasons for missing HIV care appointments among this population of HIV-infected women living in rural areas. Providing transportation programs and/or mobile clinics, as well as providing support for patients with physical limitations, may be essential to improving access to HIV care in rural areas.

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