Low Health Literacy
Bethsheba Johnson, G.N.P.-B.C., A.A.H.I.V.S., Associate Medical Director, St. Hope Foundation, Houston
Health literacy is the ability to use written materials to function in health care settings and to maintain one's health and the skills needed to advocate for and request needed clarification. However, a shocking number of Americans, especially those of color, are lacking these skills. Previous research suggests that a low level of health literacy is an underlying factor that explains racial disparities in the prevalence and incidence of HIV/AIDS.Show More
For HIV-positive individuals, it can be extremely difficult to navigate the health care system. For example, there can be difficulty in taking and refilling prescriptions, scheduling a referral, understanding test results and lifestyle modification messages, completion of forms for care, and adherence to medications. Meanwhile, I have had many patients that couldn't read at a level necessary to function. How can you refill a prescription if you can't read it? Or those persons who don't understand how to complete their ADAP or Medicaid Part D forms?
In terms of prevention, the messages we're sending to educate the community on the importance of HIV prevention must be culturally sensitive AND tailored to the health literacy level of the masses. Evidence-based messages on multimedia (Internet, social media groups, written materials, provider-patient interaction) need to be designed to reach those at highest risk for infection.