Despite accounting for nearly half of all new HIV infections last year, a new study by Janssen Therapeutics and the National Medical Association found that overall Black physicians recommended that only a third of their patients got tested for the disease last year.
So what’s stopping Black doctors from talking to their patients about HIV? The social stigma attached to the disease.
Apparently, physicians are worried their patients may view a suggestion to get tested as accusatory or judgmental. Moreover, doctors are concerned their patients “would not want to be identified as HIV positive and would worry about people finding out; and would be offended due to the stigma associated with HIV.” Another barrier to testing is the lack of time patients spend with their physicians.
The results of the survey are alarming, not only because African-Americans are being infected at higher rates than their White counterparts, but also because many patients, approximately 70%, get tested for the virus because their doctor suggested it.
“The survey findings tell us that despite HIV education efforts, the stigma surrounding the disease is still very strong and is a significant barrier to routine testing among African-American doctors,” said Wilbert C. Jordan, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the OASIS Clinic of King/Drew Medical Center and member of the NMA
The study indicates a need for patients AND doctors to be educated on how to discuss prevention of the virus.
Dr. Jordan continued:
“With African Americans more likely to contract HIV than any other ethnic group, this is particularly concerning as the study uncovered that most patients decide to get tested based on their physician’s recommendation. It’s crucial that we educate doctors and patients by providing the resources they need to make HIV testing a routine practice.”
With African-American getting infected with HIV at alarming rates, doctors can’t let their patients go untested just so they won’t offend them. I’m sure many would rather walk around with hurt feelings instead of an HIV diagnosis.