Theses Doctoral

Medical Provider Habitus, Practice, and Care of People Living with HIV and Substance Use

Shiu-Yee, Karen

Despite significant medical advances in HIV treatment, people living with HIV and substance use (PLWH-SU) remain left behind. Compared to people living with HIV (PLWH) without comorbid substance use, PLWH-SU are less likely to engage in medical care and to achieve viral suppression. As a result, PLWH-SU have more frequent preventable hospitalizations, higher rates of viral transmission, and greater morbidity and mortality. Although there is extensive research that explores ways to enhance PLWH-SU’s engagement in HIV care by improving patient-provider interactions, most have focused on the patient, and none have been effective. Grounded in the sociological theory of habitus, this dissertation attended to the medical provider in the patient-provider dyad and aimed to better understand how medical providers’ perceptions and dispositions towards PLWH-SU are formed, and how these perceptions and dispositions are displayed in the ways medical providers interact with and take care of PLWH-SU.

Before engaging with habitus, I first conducted a systematic review on how the theory has been used to study medical providers’ clinical practices. Results of the review show that while existing literature has been limited and unclear in its usage of habitus, these studies are informative, and they demonstrate that habitus can be a suitable theoretical foundation for expanding present approaches to research on medical providers’ clinical interactions with PLWH-SU. Following the systematic review, I developed my conceptual framework of medical providers’ treatment habitus (i.e., medical providers’ dispositions towards caring for PLWH-SU) and estimated a typology of treatment habitus using survey data from 258 medical providers in Miami, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, and the District of Columbia.

My analyses show that among this sample of medical providers, there are four types of treatment habitus towards caring for PLWH-SU, and treatment habitus is associated with multi-level factors (e.g., providers’ race, study site, receipt of substance use disorder training). To further explore how medical providers came to develop and how they understand their own treatment habitus, I conducted conversational interviews with 36 medical providers who had completed the abovementioned survey. These interviews revealed medical providers exhibit a spectrum of treatment habitus that is distinguishable by their intentions (person-centered vs. provider-centered) and their methods (informative vs. directive). The interviews also revealed that there are discrepancies in how medical providers spoke about PLWH-SU and how they described their practices towards caring for PLWH-SU. Specifically, although most providers used negative terms to refer to PLWH-SU, the stigmatizing language was almost never accompanied by recollections of stigmatizing behaviors during clinical interactions with PLWH-SU. Taken together, this dissertation expanded on current knowledge about not only how medical providers act when caring for PLWH-SU, but also why they act the ways they do. Findings from this study contribute to an understudied area of HIV and substance use research and provide insights for the development of novel provider-based interventions that can improve the health of this vulnerable and marginalized population.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Rosen-Metsch, Lisa
Lekas, Helen-Maria
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 4, 2021