‘Cultural competence’ helps providers treat HIV

Gina Gaston, assistant professor of social work

Gina Gaston, assistant professor of social work

Health professionals should consider the effect of culture on health beliefs and behaviors when treating black patients with HIV, according to new research from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Cultural competence allows healthcare providers to take into account the social influences on a patient’s attitudes and behaviors. The goal is to help break down compliance barriers created by mistrust or perceptions that may be related to a patient’s ethnicity.

Gina Gaston, assistant professor in UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work, surveyed 202 HIV-positive, predominately low-income, black patients during visits at one Chicago area clinic.

Participants were asked to evaluate their providers’ cultural competence on a survey. Investigators then examined the patients’ quality of life based on their ability to manage their condition (such as following provider advice and keeping appointments), and on whether or not they were taking their regimen of antiretroviral drugs.

Patients who reported good to excellent health “also believed that integrating culture was important in their care,” Gaston said.

The study, published online in the journal AIDS Care: Psychological and Socio-medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV, is at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09540121.2012.752783.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world. More information about UIC.