Docs' 'Cultural Competence' May Boost HIV Care

Study finds that a physician's awareness of needs of diverse patient population is key

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THURSDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Minority patients with HIV receive better care if their doctors and other health care providers are "culturally competent," according to a new study.

The researchers explained that cultural competence refers to a combination of awareness, attitudes, skills and behaviors related to health care providers' ability to care for diverse groups of patients.

The study was published online Jan. 10 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study included 45 health care providers and 437 patients at four HIV clinics in Baltimore, Detroit, New York and Portland, Ore. The medical professionals were asked to rate their cultural competence and the researchers assessed the patients' level of care, including whether or not they were taking antiretroviral drugs, how well they adhered to their antiretroviral therapy, and their HIV levels (viral load).

The investigators found that when minority patients were treated by health care providers with medium or high cultural competence, they were more likely to be on antiretroviral drugs, to adhere to their prescription and better self-manage their condition, according to a journal news release.

The researchers also found that non-white patients treated by less culturally competent providers were less likely than white patients to be on antiretroviral therapy, to be managing their medications well, or to have a suppressed viral load.

Non-white and white patients treated by more culturally competent health care providers had similar treatment and outcomes, the study found.

"Our findings suggest that, through either training interventions or through efforts to diversify the health care workforce, increasing health care provider cultural competence holds the potential to reduce racial disparities in both the quality of health care, and the health of diverse patient populations," concluded Somnath Saha from Portland VA Medical Center and the Oregon Health & Science University, and colleagues.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about HIV treatment.

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