Background: Although there is concern that minority groups and women are underrepresented in research involving patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, the available data are inconclusive.
Methods: We used nationally representative data from the HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study to determine the characteristics of the participants and nonparticipants in trials of medications for HIV infection and whether or not patients had access to experimental treatments. A probability sample of 2864 persons, representing all 231,400 adults with known HIV infection who are cared for in the contiguous United States, were interviewed on three occasions between 1996 and 1998. They were asked about participation in clinical research studies of medications and past receipt of experimental medications for HIV.
Results: We estimate that 14 percent of adults receiving care for HIV infection participated in a medication trial or study; 24 percent had received experimental medications; and 8 percent had tried and failed to obtain experimental treatments. According to multivariate models, non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics were less likely to be participating in trials than non-Hispanic whites (odds ratio for participation among non-Hispanic blacks, 0.50 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.28 to 0.91]; odds ratio among Hispanics, 0.58 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.37 to 0.93]) and to have received experimental medications (odds ratios, 0.41 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.32 to 0.54] and 0.56 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.41 to 0.78], respectively). Patients who were cared for in private health maintenance organizations were less likely to participate in trials than those with fee-for-service insurance (odds ratio, 0.43 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.21 to 0.88]). Women were not underrepresented in research trials and had a similar likelihood of receiving experimental treatments.
Conclusions: Among patients with HIV infection, participation in research trials and access to experimental treatment is influenced by race or ethnic group and type of health insurance.