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Professor receives UA peace award for AIDS stigma research

Caroline Collins

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Bronwen Lichtenstein, an associate professor and graduate director in the Department of Criminal Justice, said winning the 2012 Lahoma Adams Buford Peace Award brings to light certain issues that may not have been obvious to people without her research.

“I am really pleased that my work on social justice issues have been recognized by the University,” Lichtenstein said.

Communications specialist David Miller said the award was established in 2002 by social work alumnus Tony D. Walker to honor Lahoma Adams Buford. He said it is given annually to a faculty member at UA who, in his or her teaching, research, professional practice and personal life, has demonstrated exceptional levels of involvement in mediating human disputes, helping overcome prejudice, promoting justice and establishing peace.

“She was nominated for the Lahoma Adams Buford Peace Award because of her commitment to justice and to the rights of neglected and underserved people in the United States,” Miller said.

Lichtenstein said she was thrilled and honored to receive the award. Her research focuses on HIV and AIDS discrimination, disparities and stigma. Her career-long focus is stigma, in particular, and what it means to single out a specific disease. She said the stigma associated with these sexually transmitted infections is based on stereotypes and involves discriminatory attitudes or actions.

She was living in Australia when the HIV epidemic hit the United States, and said she thought it was going to kill everyone. This was the moment her interest in the specific study of HIV and AIDS peaked. She said she wanted to focus on the effects of these diseases based on race and ethnicity, gender and poverty.

Lichtenstein said there are two main effects that people need to realize about HIV and AIDS stigma. First, people are frightened of being tested. Second, people fear being socially isolated. She said she hopes her research can make a difference and change this perception.

She said many people in the field encouraged and mentored her throughout her research.

Laurie Dill of Montgomery AIDS Outreach, Inc., inspired Lichtenstein to focus on the effects of domestic violence on HIV risks. Dill told her that many women coming to the clinic had a history of violence. Lichtenstein is one of the only people to study the effects of domestic violence in HIV patients.

Edward Hawk of the University of Alabama at Birmingham encouraged her to look at stigma for precursor of HIV risk. This was her driving force to focus her interest on stigma and has continued until present day.

Lichtenstein said she would like her research to be evident in studies at UA. She said she would like to see comprehensive sex education and money going into prevention rather than treatment.

“Treatment is more expensive than prevention,” Lichtenstein said.

She hopes to stop or reduce the epidemic. She said she hopes to make evident the social injustice in disease risk.

“We should work hard to overcome these injustices to work for a better and healthier place,” Lichtenstein said.

 

 

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Professor receives UA peace award for AIDS stigma research