Building Trust and Relationships Between Patients and Providers: An Essential Complement to Health Literacy in HIV Care

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Abstract

Health literacy is important for access to and quality of HIV care. While most models of health literacy acknowledge the importance of the patient–provider relationship to disease management, a more nuanced understanding of this relationship is needed. Thematic analysis from 28 focus groups with HIV-experienced patients (n = 135) and providers (n = 71) identified a long-term and trusting relationship as an essential part of HIV treatment over the continuum of HIV care. We found that trust and relationship building over time were important for patients with HIV as well as for their providers. An expanded definition of health literacy that includes gaining a patient's trust and engaging in a process of health education and information sharing over time could improve HIV care. Expanding clinical perspectives to include trust and the importance of the patient–provider relationship to a shared understanding of health literacy may improve patient experiences and engagement in care.

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