What is it about?

People often conflate the diverse experiences and drivers of medical mistrust, particularly regarding COVID-19. We describe the nuances of these phenomena, highlight the importance of distinguishing mistrust fueled by misinformation or disinformation and mistrust fueled by historical and ongoing experiences of racism and other inequities. Drawing comparisons to the AIDS pandemic, we describe how disinformation, misinformation, and mistrust can have significant negative health impacts, and outline ways that public health professions must address disinformation- and inequality-driven mistrust in distinct ways to most effectively communicate science and deliver care.

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Why is it important?

While our work was originally published in May 2020, and thus only spoke to disinformation, misinformation and mistrust related to COVID-19 broadly, our writing and recommendations apply to the COVID-19 vaccine. Much like people painted all mistrust of and misinformation regarding COVID as a monolith, people are painting all people who are not yet vaccinated as anti-vaxxers with intent to do harm. This ignores those whose hesitancy or opposition to vaccination is grounded in inequality-driven mistrust. These nuanced beliefs about vaccination, which are not all grounded in disinformation or misinformation, must be understood as separate and unique constructs in order to better address the diverse reasons motivations people have for delaying or denying COVID vaccination.


As HIV researchers and clinicians, my co-authors and I sought to draw on our experiences with HIV/AIDS and apply those lessons to the then-emerging COVID-19 pandemic. We are now 40 years into the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and must look to the lessons from previous pandemics to move through our current pandemic without repeating the mistakes and harms done in that past.

Caleb LoSchiavo
Rutgers School of Public Health

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Disinformation, Misinformation and Inequality-Driven Mistrust in the Time of COVID-19: Lessons Unlearned from AIDS Denialism, AIDS and Behavior, May 2020, Springer Science + Business Media,
DOI: 10.1007/s10461-020-02925-y.
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