HIV patients face discrimination from doctors

October 18, 2005

SANTA MONICA , Calif. - Oct. 18, 2005 - Research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reveals that 26% of HIV-infected individuals reported that they felt discriminated against by physicians and other health care providers. Despite demographic variations, all subgroups reported discrimination of some type.

Over a period of one year, nearly 2500 HIV-infected adults receiving health care in the US were interviewed. Twenty-six percent of these patients reported experiencing at least one of four types of perceived discrimination since becoming infected, including eight percent who had been refused health care service.

Most reported that a provider had been uncomfortable with them (20%), treated them as an inferior (17%), or preferred to avoid them (18%). According to the study, the discrimination was attributed to physicians (54%), nurses and other clinical staff (39%), dentists (32%), hospital staff (31%) and case managers and social workers (8%).

"It's illegal to discriminate on the basis of HIV infection. And patients who perceive discrimination may avoid care and ignore treatment recommendations," states lead researcher Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD, a UCLA professor and RAND health researcher. "We need to focus on what leads patients to perceive discrimination, whether real or misunderstood, and address it."

Among those reporting perceived discrimination, they tended to report less access to care and less trust in their care providers, as well as lower ratings for the quality of past medical and hospital care.
This study is published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine . Media wishing to receive a PDF of the study please contact

Mark Schuster, MD, PhD was a researcher in the HIV Costs and Services Utilization Study, the first and only nationally representative study of HIV-positive individuals. He has published extensively on the topic of quality of care in America. He is a Professor of Pediatrics and Health Services at UCLA and a Senior Natural Scientist at RAND, the Santa Monica thinktank. Dr. Schuster can be reached for questions and interviews at

About the Journal of General Internal Medicine
Published on behalf of the Society of General Internal Medicine, the Journal of General Internal Medicine promotes improved patient care, research, and education in primary care. Its articles focus on topics such as epidemiology, prevention, the health care system, curriculum development, and numerous other non-traditional themes, in addition to classic clinical research on problems in internal medicine.

About the Society of General Internal Medicine
The Society of General Internal Medicine is an international organization of physicians and others who combine caring for patients with educating and/or doing research. The society is dedicated to improving patient care, education, and research in primary care and general internal medicine. Visit for more information.

About Blackwell Publishing
Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with more than 600 academic and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 750 journals annually and, to date has published close to 6,000 text and reference books, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.

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