As it is, many barriers already prevent people from getting tested for HIV, including lack of knowledge, competing priorities during medical visits, and stigma associated with the test on the part of both the patient and provider. But researchers now argue that interventions are urgently needed to also reach older adults and ethnic minorities to address HIV testing and beliefs.
Brandon Brown, an HIV researcher at the University of California, Riverside’s School of Medicine, is the lead author of “Indicators of self-reported human immunodeficiency virus risk and differences in willingness to get tested by age and ethnicity: An observational study”, which was published in the journal Medicine.
The researchers argued that “not much is known, however, about what impact age and ethnicity have on HIV testing.”
Brown and colleagues explored data on self-reported HIV risk and willingness to be tested. They focused on age and ethnicity in the Coachella Valley in the US using the 2014 Get Tested Coachella Valley Community Survey. The team collected data from nearly 1,000 participants related to demographics, sexual history, HIV testing history, thoughts on who should get tested, and future preferences for HIV testing.
“We found stigma, education, provider recommendations, risk perceptions, and cost are among major factors contributing to accepting HIV testing and intention to receive HIV testing,” Brown said.
The study also found:
- Most untested participants did not believe they are at risk.
- Men were more likely than women to have been tested.
- Significantly fewer participants aged 50 or older said they are at risk of HIV compared to participants younger than 50.
- Participants aged 50 or older were less likely to be tested for HIV compared to participants between the ages of 25 to 49.
- Compared to younger participants, significantly fewer participants aged 50 years or older accepted HIV testing when it was offered by a health care provider.
- Older adults tend to underestimate their HIV risk and severely delay HIV testing or forgo testing altogether.
- Older adults are more likely than younger adults to be diagnosed with HIV later in the disease course.
- Many participants claimed they would get tested if their health care provider offered testing.
“Our recommendations to health care providers are that they talk directly with their patients during clinical visits about HIV prevention and HIV risk, and that they routinely offer HIV screening as part of primary care,” Brown said.
Brown added that interventions are needed to “debunk beliefs among physicians that older adults are not sexually active, and beliefs among older adults that only others are at risk of HIV.”