White physicians slower to prescribe HIV medications for African-Americans than for whites

A new UCLA study shows that African-American HIV patients treated by white doctors receive life-saving HIV medication less than those who have an African-American doctor.

"Does Racial Concordance Between HIV-Positive Patients and Their Physicians Affect the Time to Receipt of Protease Inhibitors?" is published in the November issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The clinical implications of the findings are that delay in effective treatment could result in more deaths for African-American patients. The researchers conclude that policy changes boosting the number of African-American physicians are "imperative."

"This is an important study because so many African-American people have HIV infection and African-Americans die more frequently from the disease than any other group," said Dr. William Cunningham, professor of medicine and public health and a study co-author. "We need to improve the relationship between African-Americans with HIV and their (mostly white) doctors. We need to teach doctors to communicate effectively with patients of all races, particularly with African-Americans who may feel they have reasons to mistrust doctors (most of whom are white). Better training would help doctors to follow published treatment guidelines for all patients. And ultimately, we need to increase the number of African-American physicians who can treat African-American patients with HIV."

In this study, the researchers found that African-American patients treated by white doctors receive their HIV medications nearly four months later than African-American patients being treated by African-American doctors. Furthermore, the study confirms these startling differences are not because of patient's income levels, years of education, or insurance coverage. On the doctor's part, the knowledge, specialty, degree of training and years of experience did not affect the results. The fact remained that African-American patients seen by Afri

Contact: Enrique Rivero
University of California - Los Angeles

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