Medical mistrust, a result of systemic racism, is prevalent among Black Americans and may play a role in COVID-19 inequities. In a convenience sample of HIV-positive Black Americans, we examined associations of COVID-19-related medical mistrust with COVID-19 vaccine and COVID-19 treatment hesitancy and negative impacts of COVID-19 on antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence.
Participants were 101 HIV-positive Black Americans (age: M = 50.3 years; SD = 11.5; 86% cisgender men; 77% sexual minority) enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of a community-based ART adherence intervention in Los Angeles County, CA. From May to July 2020, participants completed telephone interviews on negative COVID-19 impacts, general COVID-19 mistrust (eg, about the government withholding information), COVID-19 vaccine and treatment hesitancy, and trust in COVID-19 information sources. Adherence was monitored electronically with the Medication Event Monitoring System.
Nearly all participants (97%) endorsed at least one general COVID-19 mistrust belief, and more than half endorsed at least one COVID-19 vaccine or treatment hesitancy belief. Social service and health care providers were the most trusted sources. Greater COVID-19 mistrust was related to greater vaccine and treatment hesitancy [b (SE) = 0.85 (0.14), P < 0.0001 and b (SE) = 0.88 (0.14), P < 0.0001, respectively]. Participants experiencing more negative COVID-19 impacts showed lower ART adherence, assessed among a subset of 49 participants [b (SE) = −5.19 (2.08), P = 0.02].
To prevent widening health inequities, health care providers should engage with communities to tailor strategies to overcome mistrust and deliver evidence-based information, to encourage COVID-19 vaccine and treatment uptake.