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Fatalistic Doctors Deter HIV-Thwarting Efforts

Many think their patients won't change risky behavior

FRIDAY, July 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- HIV prevention efforts are being hindered by doctors' despair over changing people's sexual behavior, say researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

Their study found that some physicians express a sense of fatalism about HIV prevention, figuring that changes in sexually risky behavior by HIV-positive patients are unlikely.

More than 600 HIV-positive patients were surveyed as they left medical appointments in one of 16 publicly funded clinics in nine states. Researchers also conducted interviews with service providers and administrators at the clinics.

Each statement reflecting a belief that behavior change was unlikely was coded as "fatalism." One example was, "I think it's like almost hopeless to try and change people's sexual behavior. I shouldn't say that, but you know, that's basically what my feeling is."

Patients in clinics where such fatalism was high were less likely to receive prevention counseling within the last six months.

"We also found that patients in clinics with high provider fatalism were more likely to be gay men than patients in clinics with low provider fatalism," said study co-author Stephen F. Morin, director of the UCSF AIDS Policy Research Center.

The team's findings were presented at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 15.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about HIV prevention.

SOURCES: University of California, San Francisco, news release, July 2004
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