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Abstract

INTRODUCTION The Southeastern United States is disproportionately affected by HIV, and unfavorable attitudes toward HIV among healthcare providers in these communities can negatively impact persons living with HIV (PLWH). Moreover, attitudinal differences between providers impede collaboration in interdisciplinary HIV treatment teams and can have detrimental effects on patient care. Identifying attitudinal differences during health professions training and student characteristics associated with those differences may help narrow these gaps by revealing potential areas for improving education.

METHODS Health professions students in nursing, allied health, medical, mental health, and dental training programs in Georgia (n = 475) completed measures of attitudes toward HIV and patient care for PLWH, and measures of personal and educational characteristics including religiosity, attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients, and clinical and classroom experiences relevant to sexual health.

RESULTS Beliefs about disclosing patients’ HIV status without consent, concerns about the effects of working with PLWH on students’ health, and perceptions of adequacy of HIV education differed across disciplines. Several personal and educational factors were correlated with students’ attitudes (e.g., having positive attitudes toward LGBT patients, more patient contact hours relevant to sexual health).

CONCLUSION Addressing HIV-related concepts in health professions training (e.g., exposure to patients with sexual health concerns or who are LGBT) could improve attitudes about HIV and patient care. Interprofessional clinical and classroom opportunities, where students with varied personal and educational backgrounds can learn from and with each other about HIV, also could improve student attitudes and interdisciplinary collaboration in HIV clinical care.

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