Many African-American and Latino drug abusers with HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) avoid screening and treatment for their infection because they distrust the health care system and fear discrimination on the part of providers, according to NIDA-funded researcher Dr. Carmen Masson and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco.
This and other barriers to care faced by minorities and the poor were discussed at the National Institutes of Health Summit on the Science of Eliminating Health Disparities, held December 16-18, 2008, in National Harbor, Maryland. The summit brought together more than 4,000 scientists, clinicians, policymakers, educators, and health advocates from the United States and abroad, including a dozen NIDA officials and 15 NIDA-funded researchers. "The summit presented the collective contribution of NIH and NIH-funded researchers to new knowledge related to eliminating health disparities," says Dr. LeShawndra Price, a member of the NIH Planning Committee and the Health Disparities Workgroup in NIDA's Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research. "The meeting highlighted the progress of research aimed at improving prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and services and considered strategies to maximize the research's public health impact."
Dr. Masson reported on a study of 100 men and women infected with either HIV or HCV who took part in syringe exchange and methadone maintenance programs in New York and San Francisco. Dr. Masson and colleagues found that, in addition to distrusting the health care system and expecting to be stigmatized, these patients had misconceptions about HCV transmission, received inadequate HIV post-test counseling, and lacked followup on treatments.
The following NIDA-funded studies were also presented:
- "Always Be Straight With Me": Black Patients' Experiences in Racially Discordant Mental Health Encounters, by Dr. Margarita Alegría, Harvard Medical School and Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research;
- Developing and Sustaining a University-based Research Infrastructure Serving Latinos with Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS, by Dr. Mario De La Rosa, Florida International University;
- Environmental Strategies for Mental Health Promotion, by Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and
- Reducing Substance Use and HIV Health Disparities Among Hispanic Youth: The Familias Unidas Program of Research, by Dr. Guillermo Prado, University of Miami.
Along with the research reports, the meeting showcased best practices, highlighted achievements in minority health care and health disparities research, and provided a forum for networking and future dialogue. The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities planned the meeting in collaboration with other NIH agencies and several private and nonprofit partners.