Maintaining proper medical treatment and adhering to a specialized protocol is essential for people who live with AIDS/HIV (PLWH). According to many studies, barely half of individuals diagnosed with AIDS/HIV get treatment in the first several months after diagnosis. Of those who do, less than 65% actually adhere to their prescribed treatment. People who are infected with AIDS/HIV and left untreated increase the health risks to themselves and pose a potential health threat to the community at large. Treatment advocacy (TA) is a program that has been utilized by AIDS organizations for decades and has shown positive outcomes in several communities. The focus of TA is to help individuals with AIDS/HIV successfully work through the confusing medical maze they are confronted with and to educate them about the illness and treatment options. People who enroll in TA are also provided with other services they may require that address a broad range of issues, such as psychological needs, housing needs, nutritional guidance, career counseling, substance dependency, and job placement.
There are few studies that have attempted to validate the effectiveness of TA; therefore, Laura M. Bogart, Ph.D., of the Division of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston, led a study evaluating how well TA increased treatment adherence in 121 individuals with AIDS/HIV, 36 of whom enrolled in TA; the remainder served as controls. The participants were part of the AIDS Project Los Angeles and were of diverse cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. After analyzing the treatment maintenance, Bogart found that the participants in TA had higher levels of medication adherence and were much more likely to use the social service resources available to them. Specifically, the participants in TA were more likely to be referred to mental health services that could positively influence their treatment outcome. In addition, the social needs of housing, career counseling, and nutritional planning were accessed more by the TA participants than the non-TA participants. These factors all increase one’s well-being, which is a predictor of positive treatment outcome. Bogart believes that these results demonstrate the importance of expanding TA programs to the AIDS/HIV community. She said, “In sum, our results suggest that TA is a promising community-based intervention to support adherence to treatment.”
Bogart, L. M., Wagner, G. J., Muttchler, M. C., Risley, B., McDavitt, B. W., McKay, T., et al. (2012). Community HIV treatment advocacy programs may support treatment adherence. AIDS Education & Prevention 24.1, 1-14.
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