HIV Patients Need Friendly Health Care

HIV patients more likely to stick to treatment plans with talkative healthcare providers

(RxWiki News) Sticking to a prescribed treatment plan is key for HIV maintenance, but many patients find it hard to get into the swing of things. Doctors and pharmacists may be able to help with the transition.

A recent study worked with in-depth focus groups of patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to look at barriers to sticking with treatment plans.

Researchers found healthcare providers' lack of interest in their patients and lack of communication between provider and patient were factors that kept patients from sticking to treatment plans.

The authors recommended healthcare providers develop strategies to engage newly diagnosed HIV patients as they adjusted to lifestyle changes.

"Talk to your doctor about improving communication."

M. Barton Laws, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Policy and Practice at Brown University in Rhode Island, led an investigation into what can keep HIV patients from sticking to treatment plans.

While HIV is a lifelong illness, sticking to a treatment plan of prescribed medications can make living with HIV quite manageable. As HIV is a major public health concern, researchers continue to look for ways to keep HIV patients on track with their treatment plans.

Previous studies have shown that patients have been more likely to stick to treatment plans if they have high quality communication with their doctors.

For this study, eight focus groups of HIV patients from two different US cities went through intense questioning. The groups even participated in role play of patient/physician scenarios to provide researchers with a better understanding of relationships between HIV patients and their healthcare providers.

A total of 82 patients with diverse gender, age and ethnic backgrounds, who had been living with HIV for many years, participated in the focus groups.

Participants said they genuinely appreciated healthcare providers who knew and cared about their personal lives. Participants praised healthcare providers who were clear and direct about HIV treatment plan instructions and were accessible for questions.

Most of the participants reported histories of addiction, emotional trouble and denial of the realities associated with having HIV before accepting the reality of the illness, taking medications and sticking to treatment plans.

Researchers found that the process patients had gone through, which led them to finally take care of themselves and stick to treatment plans, had come from self-motivation rather than healthcare intervention.

Due to the social stigma associated with having HIV, the authors suggested healthcare providers develop effective methods to support the transition process HIV patients go through to accept the lifestyle changes and treatment plans involved with successful management of the illness.

“Many people do not engage effectively in treatment for some time, but ultimately reform their identity so that they can,” the authors said.

They recommended healthcare providers view HIV care as a long-term issue when patients aren’t following treatment plans that may take a lengthy, but necessary, transition process.

This study was published in December in Patient Preference and Adherence.

The Lifespan/Tufts/Brown Center for AIDS Research and the National Institute of Mental Health supported funding for this research. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
February 10, 2013