Most Health Care Providers in Los Angeles County Do Not Offer HIV Tests to Latinos, Study Says
Most primary care providers -- including doctors, nurses and physician assistants -- in Los Angeles County do not offer HIV tests to Latino patients, according to a study released Thursday by the University of California-Los Angeles' AIDS Institute, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the study, 41% of 85 providers surveyed in 2004 said that they offered advice about sexually transmitted infections to Latinos during the six-month study period. All survey respondents practiced in areas with a Latino population of at least 50%, and more than half of the respondents said that they spoke Spanish with their patients. The study found that many of the providers offered fewer than 20 HIV tests during the study period, despite CDC recommendations that every person in areas of high risk of HIV transmission be offered a test. AIDS cases among Latinos in Los Angeles County have increased from 20% of all new cases in the 1980s to 43% of all new cases in 2002, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Many Latinos in the county learn they are HIV-positive less than one year before progressing to AIDS, in part because of a lack of testing, researchers said. Rosa Solorio, assistant professor of family medicine at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and a study co-author, said, "There are two issues here: a lack of health care access for Latinos in general and the cultural stigma attached to HIV/AIDS" in the Latino community. She said that patients' concerns about the cost of HIV tests and counseling also might be a reason for the low testing rates. Solorio added that in such cases, providers should refer patients to agencies that offer no-cost testing. According to Solorio, some health care providers also might be uncomfortable asking patients about their sexual histories. "There are still many cultural taboos in Latino culture about sex," she said, adding, "We just don't talk about it publicly." Victor Martinez -- regional director of Bienestar, a not-for-profit that offers bilingual HIV/AIDS services -- said that many Latinos do not access health care services until it is too late, adding that HIV "testing is the most important factor in fighting the epidemic because once we know, we can treat it and protect others from contracting it" (Vara-Orta, Los Angeles Times, 3/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.