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Study: Post HIV/AIDS care essential for long-term survival

Glenn Townes | 8/29/2013, 11:10 a.m. | Updated on 8/29/2013, 11:10 a.m.
It may seem like a simple oversight, but missing an appointment with a physician after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can ...
HIV ribbon

It may seem like a simple oversight, but missing an appointment with a physician after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can increase the risk of dying from complications from the disease, according to a study released earlier this month by California-based medical provider Kaiser Permanente.

According to the study, failing to attend a scheduled doctor’s appointment in the first year after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can increase a person’s risk of succumbing from the disease by as much as 71 percent. Additionally, each missed appointment increases the risk of death by about 12 percent. The study highlighted that the implication is not that HIV-positive people missing a doctor’s appointment will die in the short-term, but that not implementing and following a carefully crafted drug treatment regimen shortly after being diagnosed could lead to an early demise from the virus. Researchers examined the medical records of nearly 3,000 HIV-positive people in northern California between January 1997 and December 2007. Those people younger than 60 years old were about 70 percent more likely to miss appointments than those older than 60. When compared to whites, African-Americans and Latinos were between 45 percent to 55 percent more likely to skip appointments.

“Care providers who work with patients who are HIV-positive need to be aware of not just getting patients into care, but keeping them there,” said Michael Horberg, a physician and the executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Permanent Research in Rockville, Md. “This is particularly important within the first year after a new HIV diagnosis.”

The study showed that younger African-Americans and Latinos were the most likely to miss scheduled appointments for a number of mundane reasons, such as lethargy, lack of resources or inability to obtain transportation to and from a clinic, to more severe reasons, including drug and alcohol abuse.

“Following a drug regimen that your body will adjust and adhere to must be implemented immediately after being diagnosed with the virus,” said Melvin Weinstein, a professor and infectious disease physician at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J. Weinstein has treated dozens of patients with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

To view a complete abstract of the Kaiser Permanente study, visit http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/apc.2013.0073.