Interventions must address HIV testing and beliefs among both patients and providers in order to reach underserved populations.
Health care providers recommend routine HIV testing to individuals who are at risk of contracting the virus. However, misperceptions about HIV testing and risk remain a barrier to uptake in certain populations.
A recent study published in Medicine aimed to determine how age and ethnicity influence HIV testing. According to the findings, older adults and Hispanics are less likely to receive HIV testing, indicating an urgent need for improved interventions.
For the study, the researchers examined data on self-reported HIV risk and willingness to be tested. Using the 2014 Get Tested Coachella Valley Community Survey, the team collected data from nearly 1000 participants related to demographics, sexual history, HIV testing history, thoughts on who should get tested, and future preferences for HIV testing. Approximately 24% of adults living with HIV in Coachella Valley are 60 years or older.
Study participants included mostly women (62.5%), Hispanic (55.8%), and adults older than 50 years (51%).
Participants aged 50 years or older were less likely to be tested and more likely to underestimate their risk compared with younger adults, according to the findings. They were also more likely to severely delay testing, the researchers noted.
Of those who did not receive HIV testing, 51.8% reported they did not perceive themselves as being at risk of contracting HIV. Twenty-four percent of participants stated that they did not receive testing because their health care provider never offered it to them.
Many of the participants responded that they would accept testing if their health care provider offered; however, the findings indicated that significantly fewer participants aged 50 years or older accepted HIV testing when it was offered. Additionally, older adults were more likely than younger adults to be diagnosed with HIV later in the disease course.
The study also found that Hispanic participants were less likely to receive HIV testing than non-Hispanic participants.
“We found stigma, education, provider recommendations, risk perceptions and cost are among major factors contributing to accepting HIV testing,” lead author Brandon Brown, PhD, MPH, said in a press release.
According to a recent CDC report, provider-initiated HIV testing is an important, yet underused strategy for increasing screenings across underserved populations. Offering HIV tests encourages patients to integrate preventive HIV screenings into their health care routines. To improve uptake among older adults and Hispanic populations, interventions must work to address incorrect perceptions among both patients and providers, according to the researchers.
“These interventions must debunk beliefs among physicians that older adults are not sexually active, and beliefs among older adults that only others are at risk of HIV,” Dr Brown said in the press release.
Dr Brown recommended that health care providers speak directly with patients during clinical visits about HIV prevention and risk, and routinely offer HIV screening as part of primary care.
Brown B, Marg L, LeComte-Hinley J, et al. Indicators of self-reported human immunodeficiency virus risk and differences in willingness to get tested by age and ethnicity: An observational study. Medicine. 2018. Doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000011690
Study Examines How Age and Ethnicity Impact HIV Testing [news release]. University of California’s website. https://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/54751. Accessed August 6, 2018.