FRIDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- Approximately one in four HIV patients in the United States doesn't remain in care consistently, and more than half have long gaps between medical appointments, a new study finds.
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University of Pennsylvania researchers analyzed data from more than 17,000 adult patients treated between 2001 and 2008 at 12 clinics within the HIV Research Network, which cares for HIV/AIDS patients across the nation.
Less than half (42 percent) of patients had no gaps in their treatment (no more than six months between outpatient visits); 31 percent had one or more seven- to 12-month gaps in care, and about 28 percent went without care for more than a year on one or more occasions, according to the study published online this week in the journal AIDS.
"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," study author Dr. Baligh Yehia, a fellow in the division of infectious disease and the health policy research program at Penn Medicine, said in a university news release. "Our findings show that too many patients are falling through the cracks."
"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," Yehia added.
Those most likely to remain in care consistently were women, white patients, older patients, male patients who were infected via sex with men, patients who began treatment on Medicare and patients whose CD4 counts (the measure of disease advancement) have fallen to a point associated with AIDS.
The researchers said their findings may help health professionals assess which patients are more likely to follow their prescribed visit schedule, and develop ways to improve the likelihood that patients will follow their care program.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, news release, March 6, 2012