Happy HIV Patients Take Meds

HIV patients satisfied with clinical care more likely to take their meds

(RxWiki News) Living with HIV means sticking to a pretty strict regimen of meds. Skipping those meds can be dangerous. Making HIV patients happier with their health care may help them stick with that regimen in the long run.

A recent study surveyed patients from two clinics in Texas who had been diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to see if they were satisfied with their healthcare experience.

Results of the study showed that patients who were not satisfied with their visits to the clinic were less likely to take vital HIV prescriptions.

The authors said sticking to HIV care is a critical step to achieving long-term health with HIV infections. 

"Stick with regular HAART treatments."

Bich N. Dang, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in Health Services Research and Development at the Michael E. DeBakery VA Medical Center and a professor in the Department of Medicine in the Section of Infectious Diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, led an investigation into HIV patient satisfaction and sticking to HIV care.

In the background of the study, the authors noted that over 1.1 million people in the US live with HIV infections. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), also called the “cocktail,” is the standard and a very effective treatment regimen for HIV/AIDS patients. But only around 60 percent of people who know they have HIV keep up with regular HAART treatments.

HAART treatments lower the count of HIV RNA in the blood plasma. It is vital for people with HIV to stick to their prescribed HAART treatments to reduce symptoms, stay functional in society and lower rates of HIV transmission.

In this study, researchers surveyed 489 HIV patients from one of two different treatment facilities in Houston, Texas with the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey. Results of the study were compared to the rates of patients keeping up with their HAART treatment regimen.

Questions from the survey included:

  • Overall, how do you feel about the care you got at this clinic in the past 12 months?
  • Would you recommend this clinic to other patients with HIV?

Questions were also asked about how well each patient felt they followed doctor prescribed medication instructions on a 6-point scale.

Patient satisfaction was an average of 8.5 on a 10 point scale. “Excellent” adherence to HAART treatment was found in only 46 percent of patients. Only 76 percent were keeping up with treatments at an adequate rate. Only 70 percent of patients tested with an HIV RNA of less than 48 copies/mL of plasma, the level of successful HIV suppression in the body. 

Researchers found that patients with lower levels of satisfaction with care were less likely to follow the HAART regimen.

The authors concluded, “Patient satisfaction may have direct effects on retention in HIV care and adherence to HAART. Interventions to improve the care experience, without necessarily targeting objective performance measures, could serve as an innovative method for optimizing HIV outcomes.”

The authors recommended that improving the patient experience could be an effective strategy to boost HAART retention rates.

Successful management of HIV requires following prescribed medications and regular healthcare visits. The better the experience for the patient, the more likely they may be to stick to their treatment plan.

This study was published in January in PLOS ONE.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Harris Health System provided funding for this study. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
January 30, 2013