Are HIV care providers talking with patients about safer sex and disclosure?: A multi-clinic assessment

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Objectives:To examine HIV-positive patients’ reports of whether HIV care providers ever talked with them about practicing safer sex and disclosing seropositive status to sex partners.Design:Cross-sectional survey (1998–1999) of HIV-positive men and women sampled randomly at six public HIV clinics in California.Methods:Participants were interviewed and asked whether applicable clinic providers (physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse, social worker, health educator, psychologist, psychiatrist) ever talked with them about safer sex or disclosure. Responses were analyzed by clinic site, HIV medical status (viral load), demographic, and behavioral variables (unprotected intercourse, non-disclosure).Results:The sample (n = 839) included heterosexual men (n = 127), men who have sex with men (MSM; n = 607), and women (n = 105). Thirty-nine percent were white, 36% Hispanic, 17% black, and 8% other/mixed ethnicity. Overall, 71% reported that an applicable provider had talked with them at least once about safer sex (range across clinics, 52–94%); 50% reported discussion of disclosure (range across clinics, 31–78%). Discussion of safer sex was more prevalent with physicians than with other clinic staff. In multivariate analyses, in addition to significant clinic differences, MSM (versus heterosexual men) and whites (versus blacks or Hispanics) were less likely to receive prevention messages on these topics. Patients’ behaviors (unsafe sex, non-disclosure) and HIV medical status were not independently associated with provider communication.Conclusions:HIV clinics differed substantially in the percentage of patients who reported that they received prevention messages from clinic staff. Care providers should assess and overcome barriers to providing prevention messages to patients.

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