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#AskTheHIVDoc: Video Series Educates Patients, Encourages Communication Between Patient and Physician

Jaime Rosenberg
The #AskTheHIVDoc series, launched by Greater Than AIDS in 2015, tackles frequently asked questions that patients at risk for or living with HIV want to know, should know, or are nervous to ask their doctors about. The series has also found usefulness among physicians and health groups. 
Empowering patients at risk for or living with HIV and encouraging conversation between them and their doctors, the #AskTheHIVDoc campaign has released its fourth video series. The series, launched in 2015, tackles frequently asked questions that patients at risk for or living with HIV want to know, should know, or are nervous to ask their doctors about.

Greater Than AIDS, a public information campaign created by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2009, launched the #AskTheHIVDoc video series after hosting an event with some of their clinical experts to speak with a group of young, black men at risk for HIV to strategize how to communicate with their peer group and how to get out information.

“As we were watching this unfold, we realized that, unfortunately, not everyone has the experience with their doctor of really being able to talk and ask questions the way we were doing in the room,” said Tina Hoff, senior vice president and director of health communication and media partnerships, Kaiser Family Foundation, and co-founding partner of Greater Than Aids, in an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care®. “We wanted to capture that and make it available to a larger audience.”

Now in its third year, the series has 4 participating doctors: David Malebranche, MD, MPH, associate professor, Morehouse School of Medicine; Demetre Daskalakis, MD, MPH, NYC deputy commissioner, division of disease control, New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene; Leandro Mena, MD, MPH chair of population health science, John D. Bower School of Population Health; and most recently, Charlene Flash, assistant professor of infectious disease, Baylor College of medicine.

Through their social media forums, Greater Than AIDS collects questions and identifies the most common ones. In each video, the user comes face to face with one of the doctors addressing a question in a relaxed setting. “We wanted that kind of sense of you’re hearing what you need to hear, but it’s relaxed and is the way you should be able to get information from your clinician,” said Hoff.

The first and third series focus on a myriad of topics and questions, such as: what are the symptoms, how often should someone be getting tested and what to expect, and misconceptions about different prevention methods. Dedicated to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the second series had doctors give a deep dive on the pill, answering questions related to how it works, who it's for, and how it relates to HIV medicine. The most recent series, released earlier this month, highlights different questions women might have, including if PrEP is an option for women, how HIV is spread, and symptoms.

While answering questions and dispelling misconceptions for patients, the videos have found usefulness among physicians as well, according to Hoff. “We know that a lot of people are reluctant to talk about HIV with their doctor or think that if there was something they needed to know, their doctor would tell them,” she explained. “Meanwhile, you have a lot of doctors who think the same thing, that if their patient wanted to know, they would ask. So, I think a lot of topics don’t get talked about, especially related to HIV, because of those miscommunications.”

Health groups have used the videos and shared them with their healthcare providers to show them that they can talk in a less formal way to connect with their patients and better address the questions their patients want answered. Some health groups have used a DVD package of the videos to run on their monitors in the waiting room. 

“It’s empowering in general to be able to break down those walls between clinicians and patients and show what’s possible” said Hoff. “It gives patients more confidence to be able to go to their own doctors and speak frankly, which is critical, and hopefully on the flip side for any clinicians that see it, it also helps them recognize the power of just real talk.”

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