Conspiracy beliefs about HIV infection are common but not associated with delayed diagnosis or adherence to care

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2008 Sep;22(9):753-9. doi: 10.1089/apc.2007.0249.


We sought to determine the prevalence of HIV conspiracy beliefs in patients with HIV and how those beliefs correlate with access and adherence to HIV care and health outcomes. From March to December 2005, 113 patients at four public facilities in Houston, Texas, diagnosed with HIV for 3 years or less, participated in a cross-sectional survey. Conspiracy beliefs were assessed with five items that dealt with HIV origin, cure, and vaccine. Medical records were reviewed for CD4 cell counts, HAART use, and appointment dates. Statistical analyses (including analysis of variance [ANOVA], chi(2) testing, and regression) determined the predictors of conspiracy beliefs and correlated them with outcomes. Sixty-three percent of the participants endorsed 1 or more conspiracy beliefs. African American patients more often held HIV conspiracy beliefs than white and other/mixed race patients (73%, 52%, 47%; p = 0.045). Persons holding 1 or more conspiracy beliefs had higher CD4 cell counts at diagnosis (254 cells/mm(3) versus 92, p = 0.03); and similar rates of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) use (73% versus 71%), 100% adherence to HAART by self-report (53% versus 45%,), mean adherence by pharmacy refill (83% versus 87%), and gaps in care greater than 120 days (49% versus 53%), compared to subjects who did not hold any conspiracy beliefs (all p > 0.40). Since recruitment focused on patients in care, patients with extreme conspiracy beliefs may be underrepresented. Despite this, more than 50% of the study population endorsed 1 or more conspiracy belief. However, these beliefs did not negatively impact access or adherence to HIV care. Efforts to improve adherence to HIV care may not need to focus on eliminating conspiracy beliefs.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active
  • Attitude to Health*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity / psychology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Homosexuality
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Quality of Life
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Social Class
  • Texas
  • Trust / psychology