Theo Hodge, an HIV specialist based in Washington, D.C., helped create the PrEP curriculum for His Health. Hodgewho is himself a gay, black doctor told NBC Out that his black patients frequently encounter bias in medical offices. “The typical story among those recently diagnosed with HIV is that they’ve had to return to the clinic on several occasions before the discussion of treatment comes upup to three to four visits,” Hodge said. Typically, a patient with a new HIV diagnosis is asked to come back once for viral identification, and then put on a medication regime immediately. “But my patients have heard doctors saying they didn’t believe they would take their drugs or adhere to the treatment,” Hodge said, “and assuming that the patient needs to come into the office in order to take the medication. So essentially the providers are testing the patient by making them show up for several appointments before starting medication.” That’s not only a biased assumption that black MSM patients are less responsible when it comes to healthcareit’s dangerous. Leaving a large window between a new HIV diagnosis and the launch of medication to suppress the virus means doctors are knowingly sending an active virus back into the community. Besides the prevalent issue of implicit bias among medical providers, said Hodges, there are a number of other obstacles preventing black gay and bisexual men from accessing health careespecially care that relates to sexual behavior and sexually transmitted infections. The nation’s highest rates of new HIV infections occur overwhelmingly in the South.
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