HIV testing practices among black primary care physicians in the United States
A national random-sample survey of 4011 primary care physicians was conducted to determine the extent to which they are providing HIV prevention and clinical services, and to learn what characteristics and attitudes might impede the provision of such services. Physicians were asked about their history-taking practices for new adult and adolescent patients, including asking about the use of illicit drugs (injection and noninjection), the number of sexual partners, use of condoms and contraceptives, past episodes of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexual orientation, and sexual contact with partner(s) at high risk for HIV. A preliminary analysis was conducted and reported earlier by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), focusing on the HIV-prevention services being provided by primary care physicians. This report provides additional analyses from this study, focusing on characteristics and attitudes that may prevent physicians from providing these services. Male physicians and the physicians' belief that patients would be offended if asked questions about their sex behaviors were strongly predictive of not asking new patients about their sex and drug behaviors. The physician's specialty was also a strong predictor-OB/GYNs were predictive of asking these questions and GP/FPs were predictive of not asking the questions. Physicians who indicated that a majority of their patients were white were less likely to report asking patients about their sex and drug behaviors. The authors conclude that a substantial number of primary care physicians are missing important opportunities to prevent HIV transmission by not adequately assessing patients' risks and not providing necessary risk-reduction counseling during their physician-patient encounters. Physician's attitudes and beliefs about their patients, as well as their level of experience with HIV, may help to explain these observations.