Influence of trust on HIV diagnosis and care practices
ABSTRACT Many factors have been studied as potential correlates in delayed HIV diagnosis and delayed linkage to HIV healthcare. Few studies have analyzed the association of trust as a correlate in HIV diagnosis and HIV medical treatment delays. This study sought to assess the effect of patient trust in physicians and trust in the healthcare system, and whether diminished levels of trust affect delays in HIV diagnosis and/or linking to HIV healthcare, among a cohort of newly diagnosed HIV-infected persons, in Harris County, Texas. This study is a secondary data analysis from the Attitude and Beliefs and the Steps of HIV Care Study, also known as the Steps Study, a prospective observational cohort study. From January 2006 to October 2007 patients newly diagnosed with HIV infection and not yet in HIV primary care were recruited from publically funded HIV testing sites in Houston, Texas. Two outcomes were assessed in this study. The first outcome sought to determine the influence of trust and whether decreased levels of trust predicted delays in HIV diagnosis. Trust in physicians and trust in the healthcare system were measured via 2 validated trust scales. Trust scores of those with late diagnosis (CD4 counts <200 cells/mm 3 ) were compared statistically with those with early diagnosis (CD4 counts ≥ 200 cells/mm 3 ) in a cross sectional study design. Trust was not found to be predictive of delays in HIV diagnosis. The second outcome utilized the same trust scales and a prospective cohort study design to assess whether there were differences in trust scores between those who successfully linked to HIV healthcare, compared to those who failed to link to HIV healthcare, within 6 months of diagnosis. Patients with higher trust in physicians and trust in the healthcare system were significantly more likely to be linked to HIV healthcare than those with lower trust. Overall, this study showed that among low-income persons with undiagnosed HIV infection, low trust is not a barrier to timely diagnosis of HIV infection. Trust may be a factor in promoting a prompt linkage to HIV healthcare among those who are newly diagnosed.