Disparities in healthcare access and utilization among people living with HIV in China: A scoping review and meta-analysis

Wei Ai, Chengxin Fan, Gifty Marley, Rayner K.J. Tan, Dan Wu, Jason J. Ong, Joseph D. Tucker, Gengfeng Fu, Weiming Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: This review aims to assess the status of healthcare disparities among people living with HIV (PLWH) in China and summarize the factors that drive them. Methods: We searched PubMed, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, Scopus, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) and China Wanfang for studies published in English or Chinese. Studies focusing on any disparities in healthcare services among PLWH in China and published between January 2000 and July 2022 were included. Results: In all, 51 articles met the inclusion criteria, with 37 studies reporting HIV-focused care, and 14 reporting non-HIV-focused care. PLWH aged ≥45 years (vs. <45 years), female (vs. male), ethnic minority (vs. Han), and cases attributed to sexual transmission (vs. injecting drug use) were more likely to receive ART. Females living with HIV have higher ART adherence than males. Notably, 20% [95% confidence interval (CI): 9–43%, I2 = 96%] of PLWH reported any illness in the previous 2 weeks without medical consultation, and 30% (95% CI: 12–74%, I2 = 90%) refused hospitalization when needed in the previous year. Barriers to HIV-focused care included inadequate HIV/ART knowledge and treatment side effects at the individual level; and social discrimination and physician–patient relationships at the community/social level. Structural barriers included medical costs and transportation issues. The most frequently reported barriers to non-HIV-focused care were financial constraints and the perceived need for medical services at individual-level factors; and discrimination from physicians, and medical distrust at the community/social level. Conclusion: This review suggests disparities in access and utilization of healthcare among PLWH. Financial issues and social discrimination were prominent reasons. Creating a supportive social environment and expanding insurance policies could be considered to promote healthcare equity.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalHIV Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2023


  • antiretroviral therapy
  • healthcare disparities
  • healthcare utilization
  • HIV care
  • non-HIV care
  • PLWH

Cite this