Do HIV Conspiracy Theories Prevent Us From Being in Clinical Trials?

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07:  Community Health Educator Nanah Fofanah guides a young woman through an oral HIV test inside the Whitman-Walker Health mobile testing vehicle as part of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day near the Anacostia Metro station February 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. The HIV prevalence rate in the District of Columbia is at an epidemic level at nearly 3 percent, among the highest for any U.S. city, with nearly 15,000 adults in the district living with HIV or AIDS.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Do HIV Conspiracy Theories Prevent Us From Being in Clinical Trials?

New study says Blacks are more willing to participate in AIDS research.

Published August 29, 2013

When the AIDS epidemic hit in the early ‘80s, conspiracy theories and myths began swirling around almost instantly. Ideas at the time included:

AIDS is made by the government to kill “undesirable” populations.

There is a cure for AIDS, but they don’t want us to have it.

AIDS meds will kill you.

Obviously, the Black community wasn’t exempt from perpetuating these myths, and this comes historical reasons. One need only to look at our tumultuous past with the medical establishment: The 1932-1972 Tuskegee study, for example, forced sterilizations of Black women for generations, and the theft of Henrietta Lacks’ cervical cells for research, to name a few atrocities.

Clearly, we didn’t need AIDS to make us wary of approaching and trusting doctors.

But we live in very different times now. We are 30 years into the epidemic, we have better resources to teach us the truth about the virus and most importantly, the face of AIDS has morphed from a gay white male disease to a Black one. And so in order for us to win the battle against AIDS in America, it means we must participate in AIDS research, especially around an HIV vaccine.

But given our baggage, are we really ready to do that? A new study says, absolutely.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that even though Blacks were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, we were still more willing to participate in research compared to our white and Latino counterparts.

According to Health Canal, researchers also found the following:

—59 percent of African-Americans believed in conspiracy theories compared to 58.6 percent of Mexican Americans and 38.9 percent of whites in the study.

—58 percent of African-Americans surveyed said they were willing to participate in HIV vaccine research, compared to 49 percent of Mexican-Americans and 38 percent of whites.

—81 percent of Mexican-Americans surveyed said they already agreed to participate in a HIV study, compared to 70 percent of African-Americans and 51 percent of whites.

So if mistrust isn’t this crucial obstacle, then why are Blacks lagging behind in clinical trial research?

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, one of the study’s main authors believes that the medical community doesn’t work to reach out enough. He says, "Our study suggests that historically low levels of minority participation in medical research may be more a reflection of inadequate or inappropriately targeted recruitment efforts than a widespread endorsement of conspiracy theories and distrust in the medical establishment.” 

Currently, African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but account for more almost half of all HIV infections that are diagnosed each year. And to make matters worse, we are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same time than any other racial group, meaning we wait to get tested until we are already really sick.

Would you participate in an HIV vaccine trial? Sound off in the comments section!

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 (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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