Many HIV patients feel healthcare prejudice

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Almost 40 percent of transitional housing residents with HIV infection report that they have experienced discrimination in their dealings with the healthcare system, researchers report in the journal Public Health Reports.

“Providers taking care of severely disadvantaged, HIV-infected patients, like those in our sample,” lead researcher Dr. Nancy Sohler told Reuters Health, “should be aware that many of their patients may experience, perceive, and/or fear discrimination from within the healthcare system.”

Sohler of City University of New York and her colleagues surveyed 523 New York City area residents of temporary housing facilities for people with HIV.

Perceived discrimination was determined by asking participants if someone in the healthcare system had ever shown hostility or lack of respect toward them, ever paid less attention to them than others, or had ever refused them service.

Forty percent believed they had experienced discrimination. Of this group, 60 percent concluded that an underlying reason was their HIV infection, 50 percent cited drug use, 35 percent said it was because of homelessness, and race and ethnicity were implicated by 35 percent.

Perceived discrimination was significantly associated with the longer time since testing positive, the use of non-prescription opioids (such as heroin, oxycodone and codeine), white race, female gender, and younger age.

Those who perceived discrimination were significantly more likely to give lower ratings for quality of healthcare and trust in HIV care providers.

“Our data,” concluded Sohler, “show that perceived discrimination is a strong and consistent predictor of poor ratings of the healthcare system, which may negatively influence health behaviors. Thus, it is crucial for providers to address discrimination with their patients.”

SOURCE: Public Health Reports, May-June 2007.