Physicians might want to be extra careful about how they treat HIV-infected patients not just in the clinical sense but in the way they behave toward them.
Even the perception that physicians are stigmatizing patients for carrying the virus that causes AIDS can discourage these individuals from seeking proper medical care, according to a new UCLA study.
The study, published in the August issue of the peer-reviewed journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs, found that up to one-fourth of patients surveyed in the Los Angeles area reported feeling stigmatized by their health care providers. This perception was also linked to low access to care among these patients, a large proportion of whom are low-income and minorities.
Whether or not it is actual stigmatization is hard to measure, because its coming from the patients that we interviewed, said UCLA researcher Janni J. Kinsler, the studys project director and lead researcher. The point is that these people feel that way, and thats bad enough, because theyre less likely to seek the care they need.
The study results were based on surveys of 223 HIV-positive individuals in Los Angeles County, with initial baseline interviews taking place between May 2004 and June 2005 and follow-up interviews conducted six months later, from November 2004 to December 2005. Of the respondents, 80 percent were male, 46 percent were African American and 40 percent were Latino. Nearly three-quarters had a high school education or less, half had annual incomes below $8,000 and 46 percent did not have insurance. In addition, 54 percent of the patients reported that they became infected through homosexual contact, 30 percent through heterosexual contact and 16 percent through intravenous drug use.
There are two types of stigma: external, or public, stigma and personal, or perceived, stigma. The latter refers to individuals anticipated fears of societal attitudes or discrimination because their
|Contact: Enrique Rivero|
University of California - Los Angeles