Cultural competence is a term that has been increasingly used over the past decade to outline a certain principle of care often deemed as lacking in the American system of medical care. Although there is no agreed upon definition, the American Medical Association defines cultural competence as: Knowledge and interpersonal skills that allow providers to understand, appreciate, and work with individuals from cultures other than their own. It involves an awareness and acceptance of cultural differences; self-awareness; knowledge of patient's culture; and adaptation of skills.1 The principles of culturally competent care have been derived from a vast body of knowledge in medical anthropology outlining the relationship between illness, culture, and the individual. Some experts in this field have expressed concern about the medicalization of cultural competence into a set of skills and list of behaviors that need to be memorized to be practiced effectively. Because the topic is complex and unique to each patient, it is not well suited to rote memorization and can be difficult to teach. But within the HIV research community many insightful studies have been performed that outline disparities in care for minority populations and propose mechanisms to help bridge the divide between patient and provider and to inform the discussion of how best to teach cultural competence. © 2009 Springer-Verlag New York.