HIV Clinics Give Patients Information on Safe Sex, HIV Status Disclosure Inconsistently, Study Says
Health care providers at HIV clinics do not consistently provide information to HIV-positive patients about how to avoid transmitting the virus or about when patients should disclose their HIV status, according to a study published in a recent issue of the journal AIDS, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Gary Marks of the CDC and colleagues interviewed 839 HIV-positive patients, including 105 women, 127 heterosexual men and 607 men who have sex with men, each of whom attended one of six public HIV clinics in California. Approximately 29% of the participants indicated that no staff person at an HIV clinic had ever discussed "safer sex" practices with them (Reuters Health, 10/10). Half of the respondents reported that no one at a public health clinic had ever discussed disclosure of HIV status to sex partners (Marks et al., AIDS, 9/27). In addition, the researchers found that health care providers at such clinics were more likely to discuss safe sex and disclosure issues with black or Hispanic patients than with white patients. Providers were also more likely to discuss such information with women or heterosexual men than with men who have sex with men. According to the researchers, the results could indicate that some health care providers "'mistakenly' believe that whites or gays are more educated about safe sex matters and 'do not need additional information'" or that some health care providers may "feel uncomfortable" discussing homosexual sex practices. Some public HIV clinics in California are "more successful than others in integrating prevention into the routine care of HIV patients," but the number of patients seen at a clinic is not related to how successfully providers communicate such information, according to the study. The authors conclude that "providers should assess and overcome barriers to providing prevention messages to patients" (Reuters Health, 10/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.