Only about 75 percent of HIV/AIDS patients in the United States remain in care consistently, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania published online this week in AIDS. The study of patients across the United States is the first to provide a comprehensive national estimate of HIV care retention and information about patients who are most likely to continue their treatment over time.
"Helping patients with HIV stay in care is a key way to reduce their chances of getting sick from their disease and prevent the spread of HIV in the community. Our findings show that too many patients are falling through the cracks," says the study's lead author, Baligh R. Yehia, MD, a fellow in the division of Infectious Disease and the Health Policy Research Program at Penn Medicine. "The benefits of keeping patients in care are clear both for patients and the community at large, and it may even result in decreased health care costs by preventing unnecessary hospitalization for an acute illness."
The researchers studied 17,425 adult patients cared for at 12 clinics within the HIV Research Network, a consortium that cares for HIV-infected patients across the nation, between 2001 and 2008. Just 42 percent of patients studied had what researchers defined as "no gap" in treatment — intervals of no more than six months in between outpatient visits — over the timeframe studied, while 31 percent had one or more seven- to 12-month gaps in care. Twenty-eight percent appeared to have gone without care for more than a year on one or more occasions. Since there is no gold standard on the best way to measure retention in care, the team used three different measures of retention to examine each patient’s visit record.
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