University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Mistrust and Endorsement of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Conspiracy Theories Among Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected African American Veterans

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Military and Veterans Studies


INTRODUCTION: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has taken a disproportionate toll on the lives of African Americans, and many previous studies suggest HIV conspiracy beliefs and physician mistrust play important roles in this racial disparity. Because many HIV conspiracy theories tie government involvement with the origin and potential cure for HIV, an area for further examination is HIV+ African American veterans in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care. In addition to HIV conspiracy beliefs, veterans may already be mistrustful of the VHA as a government healthcare provider. This mistrust is significantly associated with poor health outcomes, among both minority and nonminority persons living with HIV.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted interviews with 32 African American veterans at three VHA hospitals to assess HIV conspiracy beliefs and mistrust in physicians providing HIV care. A semistructured interview format allowed respondents to talk freely about their personal history with HIV, their perceptions about living with HIV, and their views on HIV conspiracy beliefs.

RESULTS: Five major themes arose from these interviews, including that the government uses HIV to control minority populations; the Veterans Affairs healthcare providers may play a role in withholding HIV treatment, and many HIV-infected veterans are suspicious of HIV treatment regimens. Additionally, several HIV-infected veterans in our study disclosed that they did not follow the prescribed treatment recommendations to ensure adherence.

CONCLUSION: A veteran's beliefs drive views of the healthcare system and trust of HIV-infected veterans' healthcare providers, and impact HIV-infected veterans' willingness to accept treatment for their medical conditions. Further research should continue to examine the impact of mistrust and endorsement of conspiracy beliefs among veterans receiving care in VHA.

DOI of Published Version



Mil Med. 2017 Nov;182(11):e2073-e2079. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-17-00078. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Military medicine

PubMed ID