Perceived social support among HIV patients newly enrolled in care in rural Ethiopia

Abstract

Social support significantly enhances physical and mental health for persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We surveyed 142 rural Ethiopian HIV patients newly enrolled in care for perceived social support and factors associated with low support levels. Using the Social Provisions Scale (SPS), the mean summary score was 19.1 (possible scores = 0–48). On six SPS subscales, mean scores (possible scores = 0–8), were: Reliable Alliance (others can be counted on for tangible assistance) = 2.8, Attachment (emotional closeness providing sense of security) = 2.9, Reassurance of Worth (recognition of competence and value by others) = 3.2, Guidance (provision of advice or information by others) = 3.2, Social Integration (belonging to a group with similar interests and concerns) = 3.5, and Nurturance (belief that others rely on one for their wellbeing) = 3.6. In multivariate analysis, factors significantly associated with lower social support scores were: lower education level (did not complete primary school) (p = .019), lower total score on knowledge items about HIV care/treatment (p = .038), and greater number of external stigma experiences in past three months (p < .001); greater number of chronic disease symptoms was of borderline significance (p = .098). Among rural Ethiopian patients newly entering HIV care, we found moderate and varying levels of perceived social support, with lowest scores for subscales reflecting emotional closeness and reliance on others for tangible assistance. Given that patients who have recently learned their diagnosis and entered care may be an especially vulnerable group, programs to help identify and address social support needs can provide multiple benefits in facilitating the best possible physical, emotional and functional quality of life for people living with HIV.

Perceived social support among HIV patients newly enrolled in care in rural Ethiopia