HIV Patients Face Discrimination from Doctors

SANTA MONICA , Calif. -- Research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reveals that 26 percent of HIV-infected individuals reported that they felt discriminated against by physicians and other healthcare providers. Despite demographic variations, all subgroups reported discrimination of some type.

Over a period of one year, nearly 2,500 HIV-infected adults receiving healthcare in the United States were interviewed. Twenty-six percent of these patients reported experiencing at least one of four types of perceived discrimination since becoming infected, including eight percent who had been refused healthcare service.

Most reported that a provider had been uncomfortable with them (20 percent), treated them as an inferior (17 percent), or preferred to avoid them (18 percent).  According to the study, the discrimination was attributed to physicians (54 percent), nurses and other clinical staff (39 percent), dentists (32 percent), hospital staff (31 percent), and case managers and social workers (8 percent).

Its illegal to discriminate on the basis of HIV infection. And patients who perceive discrimination may avoid care and ignore treatment recommendations, states lead researcher Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD, a UCLA professor and RAND health researcher.  We need to focus on what leads patients to perceive discrimination, whether real or misunderstood, and address it.

Among those reporting perceived discrimination, they tended to report less access to care and less trust in their care providers, as well as lower ratings for the quality of past medical and hospital care.

Schuster was a researcher in the HIV Costs and Services Utilization Study, the first and only nationally representative study of HIV-positive individuals. He has published extensively on the topic of quality of care in America.  He is a professor of pediatrics and health services at UCLA and a senior natural scientist at RAND, the Santa Monica thinktank. 

Source: Society of General Internal Medicine