HIV medical providers need to talk about sex with their patients

From the the AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) Website:

Taking responsibility for preventing HIV transmission is an important concern for most people with HIV, as well as for their health care providers. Multiple studies have shown that one third to three fourths of HIV medical providers do not ask their patients about sexual behavior or drug use. However, many HIV-infected individuals report that they want to discuss prevention with their health care providers. Each patient visit presents an opportunity to provide effective prevention interventions, even in busy clinical settings.

It is clear that information alone, especially on subjects such as sexual activity and drug use, cannot be expected to change patients’ behavior. However, health care providers can help patients understand the transmission risk of certain types of behavior and help patients establish personal prevention strategies (sometimes based on a harm-reduction approach) for themselves and their partners. Some patients may have difficulty adhering to their safer sex goals. In these cases, referrals to mental health clinicians or other professional resources such as prevention case management may be helpful.

Patient-education needs are variable and must be customized. Providers must assess the individual patient’s current level of knowledge as part of developing a prevention plan. All the information that a patient needs cannot be covered during a single visit. A patient’s prevention strategy should be reinforced and refined at each visit with the clinician. Clinicians also should ask patients questions to determine life changes (e.g., a new relationship, a breakup, or loss of a job) that may affect the patient’s sexual or substance use practices. If the patient can read well, printed material can be given to reinforce education in key areas, but it cannot replace a direct conversation with the clinician.

Find out more on the AETC Website.

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