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Gerontologist. 2013 Dec;53(6):973-84. doi: 10.1093/geront/gns192. Epub 2013 Jan 28.

Belief in AIDS-related conspiracy theories and mistrust in the government: relationship with HIV testing among at-risk older adults.

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*Address correspondence to Chandra L. Ford, MLIS, Department of Community Health Sciences, Box 951772, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, 650 Charles E. Young Dr., South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772. E-mail:



One in 4 persons living with HIV/AIDS is an older adult (age 50 or older); unfortunately, older adults are disproportionately diagnosed in late stages of HIV disease. Psychological barriers, including belief in AIDS-related conspiracy theories (e.g., HIV was created to eliminate certain groups) and mistrust in the government, may influence whether adults undergo HIV testing. We examined relationships between these factors and recent HIV testing among at-risk, older adults.


This was a cross-sectional study among older adults enrolled in a large venue-based study. None had a previous diagnosis of HIV/AIDS; all were seeking care at venues with high HIV prevalence. We used multiple logistic regression to estimate the associations between self-reported belief in AIDS-related conspiracy theories, mistrust in the government, and HIV testing performed within the past 12 months.


Among the 226 participants, 30% reported belief in AIDS conspiracy theories, 72% reported government mistrust, and 45% reported not undergoing HIV testing within the past 12 months. Belief in conspiracy theories was positively associated with recent HIV testing (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.94, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.05-3.60), whereas mistrust in the government was negatively associated with testing (OR = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.26-0.73).


Psychological barriers are prevalent among at-risk older adults seeking services at venues with high HIV prevalences and may influence HIV testing. Identifying particular sources of misinformation and mistrust would appear useful for appropriate targeting of HIV testing strategies.


AIDS serodiagnosis; Age groups; Community health services; Prevention and control; Vulnerable populations

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