HIV/AIDS: a minority health issue

Med Clin North Am. 2005 Jul;89(4):895-912. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2005.03.005.


HIV infection among racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing health crisis. The disproportionate impact of HIV infection on racial and ethnic minorities has affected communities already struggling with many social and economic challenges, such as poverty, substance abuse, homelessness,unequal access to health care, and unequal treatment once in the health care system. Superimposed on these challenges is HIV infection, the transmission of which is facilitated by many of these factors. Although the epidemic is disproportionately affecting all racial and ethnic minorities, within these minority populations women are particularly affected. The care and management of racial and ethnic minorities who have HIV infection has been complicated by the unequal access to health care and the unequal treatment once enrolled in health care. Health insurance status, lack of concordance between the race of the patient and the provider, and satisfaction with the quality of their care all impact on treatment outcomes in this population. In addition, the provider must be aware of the many comorbid conditions that may affect the delivery of care to minority patients living with HIV infection: depression, substance and alcohol abuse, and posttraumatic stress disorders. The impact of these comorbid conditions on the therapeutic relationship, including treatment and adherence, warrants screening for these disorders and treating them when identified. Because the patient provider relationship has been repeatedly identified as a predictor of higher adherence, developing and maintaining a strong therapeutic alliance is critical. Participation of racial and ethnic minorities in HIV clinical trials, as in other disease states, has been very poor. Racial and ethnic minorities have been chronically underrepresented in HIV clinical trials, despite their overrepresentation in the HIV epidemiology. This underrepresentation seems to be the result of a combination of factors including (1) provider bias in referring to clinical trials, (2) mistrust of clinical research, (3) past poor experience with the health care system, and (4) the conspiracy theories of HIV disease. The paucity of minority health care professionals and minority investigators in HIV research further affects minority participation in clinical research. To improve racial and ethnic minority participation in clinical trials a sustained effort is necessary at multiple levels. Increased recruitment and retention is an ongoing need, and one that will not be satisfactorily addressed until there are better community-academic and research partner-ships, and the research questions posed also address issues of concern and significance to the affected community. Reduction in barriers to participation in clinical trials, especially given the many competing needs of racial and ethnic minority patients, is also needed. Multidisciplinary HIV care teams and research staff with training in cultural competency and cultural sensitivity may also be helpful. Prevention of HIV infection remains essential, especially among those seeking care for HIV infection. Despite several published recommendations for the inclusion of HIV prevention in the clinical care setting, studies have documented how few providers actually achieve this goal, especially those who care for disadvantaged patients. Although there are many barriers to discussing HIV risk behaviors and prevention strategies in an office visit,including time constraints and potential provider discomfort in discussing these matters, clinical visits represent an important opportunity to reinforce HIV prevention and possibly decrease further HIV transmission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Continental Population Groups
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Research
  • United States / epidemiology