Disparities in HIV knowledge and attitudes toward biomedical interventions among the non-medical HIV workforce in the United States
Non-medical, community-based workers play a critical role in supporting people living with (or at risk of acquiring) HIV along the care continuum. The biomedical nature of promising advances in HIV prevention, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis and treatment-as-prevention, requires frontline workers to be knowledgeable about HIV science and treatment. This study was developed to: measure knowledge of HIV science and treatment within the HIV non-medical workforce, evaluate workers’ familiarity with and attitudes toward recent biomedical interventions, and identify factors that may affect HIV knowledge and attitudes. A 62-question, web-based survey was completed in English or Spanish between 2012 and 2014 by 3663 US-based employees, contractors, and volunteers working in AIDS service organizations, state/local health departments, and other community-based organizations in a non-medical capacity. Survey items captured the following: respondent demographics, HIV science and treatment knowledge, and familiarity with and attitudes toward biomedical interventions. An average of 61% of HIV knowledge questions were answered correctly. Higher knowledge scores were associated with higher education levels, work at organizations that serve people living with HIV/AIDS or who are at a high risk of acquiring HIV, and longer tenure in the field. Lower knowledge scores were associated with non-Hispanic Black or Black race/ethnicity and taking the survey in Spanish. Similarly, subgroup analyses showed that respondents who were non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic (versus non-Hispanic white), as well as those located in the South (versus other regions) scored significantly lower. These subpopulations were also less familiar with and had less positive attitudes toward newer biomedical prevention interventions. Respondents who took the survey in Spanish (versus English) had lower knowledge scores and higher familiarity with, but generally less positive attitudes toward, biomedical interventions. In summary, low knowledge scores suggest the need for additional capacity-building efforts and training for non-medical HIV workers, particularly those who provide services in the communities most affected by HIV.