Summary: Researchers created a virtual village to combat stigma among older people living with HIV (OPLH) during the Covid-19 pandemic. This online environment provides health, community and personal resources for OPLH age 50 and older.

The platform enables the creation of support groups to alleviate the negative effects of social isolation. Initial findings show that such a virtual village provides a model for future research by connecting this vulnerable group to services and to each other.

Key facts:

  1. The study demonstrated the potential of a virtual village to address the stigma faced by older people living with HIV during the epidemic.
  2. The researchers identified three key lessons for future research: the need to consider the challenges of technology use among older adults, the need for highly participatory and interactive social events, and the fact that shared HIV status alone is not enough to connect individuals.
  3. Among the six interventions deployed, social networking was the most frequent, contributing to the creation of interpersonal relationships and a sense of community among participants.

Source: UCR

New psychosocial stressors and widespread lifestyle changes have led to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to depression, isolation and stress.

Several studies have explored the impact of the epidemic on the mental health of the general population. But what about the impact of the growing number of older people living with HIV (OPLH) on stigma?

To explore this question, a team led by scientists in Riverside, California, designed a virtual village—an online space that facilitates positive interactions between people—to provide a health, community-based, and community-based setting for OPLH for people at least 50 years old. years old.

The village provides a safe place for participants to create support groups and reduce the negative effects of social isolation.

This shows a virtual village.
According to Brown, virtual villages have been slowly gaining popularity, especially with the rise of internet access through mobile and other devices over the past decade. Credit: Neuroscience News

“We found using a virtual village to be a viable method for connecting vulnerable groups to services and to each other, and it provides guidance on how to expand future research using similar concepts,” said Jasmine Lucero Lopez, first author of the book. The paper shown in Journal of the International AIDS Society.

We have identified three key lessons for how to improve future studies.

The three lessons are:

  • It is important to remember that some older people may have significant difficulty using new technology.
  • Interactive social events are frequently attended and requested by participants.
  • Living with HIV is not enough to connect individuals.

The study had 24 participants from the Coachella Valley area, the Los Angeles metro area, and the Tampa Bay region. The researchers were invited to present their study results to the National Academy of Medicine last month.

“Covid-19 has led to a rapid resurgence of research that addresses specific issues,” said Lopez, an undergraduate student in the Department of Psychology and a leader in HIV and aging research. group.

“Our study reports on a virtual village pilot and provides insight into the needs of people living with HIV during a global pandemic.”

The researchers introduced six interventions – social mixing, a buddy system, professional approaches, resources, guided discussions and mindfulness meditation – into a virtual village during the trial period. Held every two weeks, they found the social mixers most engaged in the intervention.

During the social mixer, many participants told the researchers that they looked forward to these social events because they encouraged the establishment of interpersonal relationships. Some have reported that these types of interventions have increased their sense of community.

“Both our buddy system and bingo nights, these interventions have made it easier for participants to encourage each other,” Lopez said. “Our social interventions not only created a virtual village, but also facilitated friendships that extended to physical gatherings.

Brandon Brown, who advises Lopez, explained that older people living with HIV are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, due to age factors and a weakened immune system.

“This population adds more stringent isolation guidelines,” said Brown, a professor of social medicine, population and population health at the medical school.

“This social stigma has a negative impact on psychological well-being, which directly affects the overall health of the individual. Mental health co-morbidities and the AIDS survivor syndrome compound the harmful effects of stigma during the epidemic.”

“For these reasons, it is important to find new ways to improve the quality of life of vulnerable populations as a priority. We hope that our research will lead to the expansion of networks and allow this community to connect more widely.”

According to Brown, virtual villages have been slowly gaining popularity, especially with the rise of internet access through mobile and other devices over the past decade.

“We chose the topic of HIV for this particular virtual village project because of our team’s research and support, but our process of creating a virtual community can be replicated for any health and social topic,” he said.

“As long as there is evidence of shared identity and community cohesion, we believe a virtual village can be useful in bringing people together and complementing or facilitating physical activities.”

Brown and Lopez were joined by UC Merced researchers in the study; UC San Diego; University of South Florida; Northeastern University, Mass. and HIV+ Aging Research Project – Palm Springs, Calif.

Financial support The research was supported in part by grants from Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp. and the National Institutes of Health.

So psychological research news

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
Source: UCR
Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala – UCR
Image: Image credited to Neuroscience News.

Preliminary study: Open Access.
Lessons learned in co-creating a virtual village for people living with HIV” by Brandon Brown et al Journal of the International AIDS Society


Lessons learned in co-creating a virtual village for people living with HIV

In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic emerged as a global threat, leading to new psychological concerns and lifestyle changes. These stressors contribute to depression, isolation, anxiety and, in some cases, worsening of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many studies have examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population, but there is limited research examining the impact on the growing population of older adults with HIV (OPLH) in the United States.

Long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS face trauma from the significant loss of their social circle, which young people living with HIV may face as a result of advances in treatment.

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