Disparities in attention to HIV-prevention information

Allison Earl, Candi Crause, Awais Vaid, Dolores Albarracín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Compared to European-Americans, African-Americans have greater probability of becoming infected with HIV, as well as worse outcomes when they become infected. Therefore, adequate health communications should ensure that they capture the attention of African-Americans and do not perpetuate disadvantages relative to European-Americans. The objective of this report was to examine if racial disparities in attention to health information parallel racial disparities in health outcomes. Participants were clients of a public health clinic (Study 1 n = 64; Study 2 n = 55). Unobtrusive observation in a public health waiting room, message reading times, and response-time on a modified flanker task were used to examine attention to HIV- and flu-information across racial groups. In Study 1, participants were observed for the duration of their time in a public health clinic waiting room (average duration: 31 min). In Study 2, participants completed tasks in a private room at the public health clinic (average duration: 21 min). Across all attention measures, results suggest an interaction between race and information type on attention to health information. In particular, African-Americans differentially attended to information as a function of information type, with decreased attention to HIV- versus flu-information. In contrast, European-Americans attended equally to both HIV- and flu-information. As such, disparities in attention yielded less access to certain health information for African- than European-Americans in a health setting. The identified disparities in attention are particularly problematic because they disadvantage African-Americans at a time of great effort to correct racial disparities. Modifying the framing of health information in ways that ensure attention by all racial groups may be a strategy to increase attention, and thereby reduce disparities in health outcomes. Future research should find solutions that increase attentional access to health communications for all groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016


  • African-Americans
  • HIV-prevention
  • attention to health information
  • health disparities
  • perceived threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology


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