Effective management of HIV relies on continuity of care and continued viral suppression, but many patients face interruptions in care at some point in their disease. A new study examines why and what steps physicians can take to help.
The study, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, examined a survey of patients with HIV in Atlanta who had received continuous, uninterrupted care for several years compared to another cohort with recent gaps in care.
Uninterrupted care in HIV patients is associated with better viral suppression, and fewer hospitalizations and complications, according to the report. The reality, however, is that many patients living with HIV face interruptions in care for a variety of reasons, and about 60% of new HIV infections are caused by patients who are out of care.
Jonathan Colasanti, MD, MSPH, assistant professor of medicine at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Medicine and lead author of the report, told Medical Economics the study highlights the numerous factors that affect care retention in patients with HIV.
“It serves as a reminder that our patients often have a host of social determinants that underlie poor retention in care. I hope that it reminds the physician that it is our job to care for the whole patient, not solely treat the disease,” Colasanti said. “In order to do this we have to see the entire picture from our patient’s perspective. HIV remains a highly stigmatized disease and this may vary from one community to the next. It is important that we as the physician understand the support system—or lack thereof—that our patients may have.”