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How Suspicion, Conspiracy Theory Hinder HIV Testing in Older Patients


(AUDIO) For older as well as young patients, clinicians should be sure to test regularly for HIV as the CDC advises, says a researcher who tells in this interview how suspicions about the origin of AIDS and the involvement of government may discourage older people from being tested.

The need for HIV testing in older patients is too often overlooked, says Chandra Ford PhD, and may be complicated among some people in this age group by their suspicion of government health systems in general, or even because they subscribe to a theory that HIV was created intentionally for malicious purposes.

In this recorded interview, Ford describes the study, published recently in the Gerontologist, that has raised these concerns about testing-and revealed some counterintuitive findings.

Dr. Ford is assistant professor in the department of community health sciences at Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California-Los Angeles.

The questions:

1. Could you briefly describe the study and say why you decided to conduct it?

2. Tell us what you found.

3. That's really interesting! Why do you suppose the last piece is what it is?

4.  What are the implications of your findings for clinicians who see these patients who may be trying to get them tested?

Key quotes:

"About 45% of these older adults had not taken an HIV in the last 12 months, so almost one in two. Mistrust of the government and AIDS conspiracy beliefs were both extremely prevalent in our sample."

"The more strongly a person mistrusted the government, the less likely they were to get a test for HIV infection in the past year. On the other hand, those people who endorsed conspiracy theory ...were actually more likely to obtain an HIV test."

"Our study found that there are many missed opportunities for early diagnosis of HIV infection among older patients ... One thing we would encourage is that providers routinely test their older adults. It's efficient to do so as they are already presenting for services."

How Suspicion, Conspiracy Theory Hinder HIV Testing in Older Patients


For further reference:

Ford CL, Wallace SP, Newman PA et al. Belief in AIDS-Related Conspiracy Theories and Mistrust in the Government: Relationship with HIV Testing Among At-Risk Older Adults. Gerontologist 2013 Jan 28. [Epub ahead of print]


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