HIV testing; late stage HIV diagnosis; social determinants of health; racial/ ethnic health disparities; social ecological model; structural factors



This critical literature review was conducted to identify both individual- and environmental-level social determinants of health using an ecological framework as a way to contextualize risk for, and distributions of, late HIV diagnosis among African Americans and Latinos in the United States.

Background: Late diagnosis, defined as a diagnosis of AIDS simultaneously with or within one year of an initial HIV diagnosis,1 disproportionately affects African American and Latino communities;2,3 disparities in this health problem thus represent a preventable inequity. Such disparities affect not only late diagnosed individuals but also population levels of HIV incidence, as transmission is unhindered before diagnosis.4,5

Methods: A total of 26 unduplicated studies in 26 peer-reviewed articles were analyzed within a social ecological conceptual framework. Both quantitative and qualitative studies of factors influencing HIV testing were reviewed. To be included, studies had to have been conducted in the United States, published in English within the past 11 years, and to have focused on Latino or African American populations and/or on racial disparities between these and other populations.

Findings: The majority of studies on racial disparities in HIV testing and diagnosis have been either cross-sectional1,2,6–11 or focused on one racial or ethnic group, often in one geographic location.12–18 In all studies that compared racial and ethnic groups (n=17), Latinos and African Americans were more likely to receive a late diagnosis3,19 than non-Hispanic Whites or Asian Americans. 95.8% (n= 23) of the reviewed studies focused on individual level risk factors or investigated structural barriers via measurements at the individual level.

Next Steps: Both more quantitative and qualitative studies are needed that will enhance understanding of the social determinants of HIV testing behavior among at-risk groups by measuring variables at the appropriate rung of the ecological model, and not solely on the individual level. Studies that investigate barriers to and facilitators of HIV testing in partnership with communities will help further interventions that can reduce racial/ethnic disparities in late diagnosed HIV/AIDS.