Dr. Tania Basta has more than 13 years of experience in the public health realm and devotes much of her time to research of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Basta is working to combat misconceptions about the disease and promote prevention and education within the Appalachian regions of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. Her involvement over the past decade with domestic, community-based research organizations focusing on HIV/AIDS has led her to better understand the multitude of attitudes and misconceptions linked to the disease in these areas.
Basta's engagement in community-based participatory research is highly notable as she has exposed knowledge-based complications associated with HIV/AIDS in this region. According to Basta, very few individuals in Appalachia receive testing for HIV due to a lack of understanding about the disease, a high stigma regarding HIV and lack of access to testing.
"HIV is not something that is discussed as a priority issue for Appalachia. However, many individuals have little knowledge about transmission, have limited resources to get tested and are engaging in behaviors that put themselves at risk (e.g. drug use). I think that we are doing our Appalachian residents a disservice by assuming that we don't need to educate or intervene just because our HIV rates are low. I hope that my research will help rural Appalachian residents prevent the disease before it becomes a problem," says Basta, HIV/AIDS Governing Councilor of the American Public Health Association.
The combination of an increasing number of individuals who engage in high-risk behaviors such as drug abuse and unprotected sex, along with socioeconomic factors that hinder proper prevention methods, create a high-risk population for HIV contraction in Appalachia, Basta adds.
As associate director of the Appalachian Rural Health Institute, an interdisciplinary health services and research institute at Ohio University, Basta is focusing her efforts on misconceptions about the disease.
Much of Basta's previous research focuses on the relationship between low-income individuals diagnosed with the disease and their mental health status. Basta takes community-based approach to her research in Appalachia but pairs it with education and prevention to promote the awareness in rural areas where people know little about HIV.