Health Workers Must Address HIV/AIDS Conspiracy Theories in African-American Communities To Fight Disease, Editorial Says
Recent survey results that show African Americans believe HIV/AIDS conspiracy theories are "dismaying," and the myths pose a "real risk" of harming efforts to provide HIV/AIDS education and treatment in African-American communities, according to an editorial in the Feb. 5 issue of the journal Lancet (Lancet, 2/5). A significant proportion of African Americans who participated in a telephone survey conducted by RAND Corporation and Oregon State University said they believe that U.S. government scientists created HIV to eradicate or control African-American populations, according to a study published in the Feb. 1 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. Nearly half of respondents said they believe that HIV is manmade, with approximately 12% saying they believe HIV was created and spread by the CIA, and nearly 27% saying that "AIDS was produced in a government laboratory" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31). However, the results are not "surprising," the editorial says, adding that African Americans have "many reasons to mistrust their government and the health profession," including the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which African-American men with the disease were denied treatment so researchers could understand disease progression. But conspiracy theories might "frustrate efforts to halt the epidemic" in African-American communities, where HIV/AIDS is "taking a terrible toll," the editorial says. Public health officials need to recognize and address the myths and "mistrust" among African Americans in order to combat the spread of HIV, the editorial says, adding that the government and health officials also must examine the "very real discrimination that continues to exist within the U.S. health care system." Finally, African-American community leaders and media outlets must make challenging these conspiracy theories a "priority," the editorial concludes (Lancet, 2/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.