A health care worker discussing a topic with a patient

Using Trauma-Informed Approaches to End the HIV Epidemic

People living with HIV (PLWH) experience trauma at disproportionately high levels, compared to the general population. Given the impact of trauma and stress on PLWH, it is essential to provide trauma-informed and healing-centered care in order to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. HIV care and treatment requires a system that goes above and beyond achieving viral suppression.

In the words of Dr. Nathaniel Currie, “It's not enough to provide healing care and then return them to environments that traumatize them.” 

Trauma can substantially impact a person’s health and well-being and research shows that traumatic experiences can have neurological and psychological effects. Therefore, when providing care, it is essential to use trauma-informed approaches (TIA) which focus on wellness, healing, and centering a person’s experiences. TIA can consist of using language like, “what’s strong in you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?” TIA acknowledge the impact of trauma on a person in order to prevent re-traumatization.  

NASTAD’s Trauma-Informed Approaches (TIA) Toolkit is a resource that discusses how to address trauma and support healing within the HIV care delivery system. It provides foundational TIA information; language; and tools and assessments for all Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) administrators and providers who deliver and fund services for PLWH. The toolkit compiles research, policy briefs, best practices, and interviews with RWHAP providers, clients, and other subject matter experts in TIA, healing, and RWHAP services.  

The TIA Toolkit tools and assessments focus on strategies for workplace wellness, TIA principles, vicarious trauma experienced by public health workers, and more. Additionally, the toolkit discusses the importance of using an intersectional approach to understand trauma in marginalized communities who are disproportionately impacted by HIV. For instance, TIA have become even more responsive to the impacts of racial trauma and, therefore, incorporates anti-racist frameworks

In order to end the HIV epidemic, all aspects of a person must be considered when providing HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. A holistic and individual approach must be utilized when caring for PLWH.

In the words of Dr. Edward Machtinger, “Most people are not dying from HIV and AIDS. Most people are dying from preventable illnesses related to trauma, such as overdose, depression, suicide, heart, lung, and liver disease, and our goal is to awaken the Ryan White System to this reality and help build a better Ryan White system.”