Social services utilization and need among a community sample of persons living with HIV in the rural south

AIDS Care. 2011 Mar;23(3):340-7. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2010.507743.


HIV prevalence has increased faster in the southern USA than in other areas, and persons living with HIV (PLWHIV) in the south are often rural, impoverished, or otherwise under-resourced. Studies of urban PLWHIV and those receiving medical care suggest that use of social services can enhance quality of life and some medical outcomes, but little is known about patterns of social service utilization and need among rural southern PLWHIV. The AIDS Alabama needs assessment survey, conducted in 2007, sampled a diverse community cohort of 476 adult PLWHIV representative of the HIV-positive population in Alabama (66% male, 76% Black, and 26% less than high school education). We developed service utilization/need (SUN) scores for each of 14 social services, and used regression models to determine demographic predictors of those most likely to need each service. We then conducted an exploratory factor analysis to determine whether certain services clustered together for the sample. Case management, assistance obtaining medical care, and financial assistance were most commonly used or needed by respondents. Black respondents were more likely to have higher SUN scores for alcohol treatment and for assistance with employment, housing, food, financial, and pharmacy needs; respondents without spousal or partner relationships had higher SUN scores for substance use treatment. Female respondents were more likely to have higher SUN scores for childcare assistance. Black respondents and unemployed respondents were more likely to have SUN scores in the highest quartile of the overall score distribution. Factor analysis yielded three main factors: basic needs, substance use treatment, and legal/medical needs. These data provide important information about rural southern PLWHIV and their needs for ancillary services. They also suggest clusters of service needs that often occur among PLWHIV, which may help case managers and other service providers work proactively to identify important gaps in care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alabama / epidemiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Work
  • Young Adult