Physicians should be careful about how they treat HIVers, not just in the clinic but also in the way they behave toward them. Even a perception that physicians are stigmatizing patients who have the virus, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, can discourage patients from seeking proper medical care.
The study, published in the August issue of the journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs, found that up to a fourth of patients surveyed in the Los Angeles area reported feeling stigmatized by their health care providers. This perception was also linked to low access to care among the patients, a large proportion of whom are low-income and minorities.
"Whether or not it is actual stigmatization is hard to measure because it's coming from the patients that we interviewed," says UCLA researcher Janni J. Kinsler, the study's project director and lead researcher. "The point is that these people feel that way, and that's bad enough because they're less likely to seek the care they need."