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Keywords:

  • adherence;
  • antiretroviral;
  • HIV/AIDS;
  • medication compliance;
  • physicians

CONTEXT:  National guidelines recommend that practitioners assess and reinforce patient adherence when prescribing antiretroviral (ART) medications, but the extent to which physicians do this routinely is unknown.

OBJECTIVE:  To assess the adherence counseling practices of physicians caring for patients with HIV/AIDS in North Carolina and to determine characteristics associated with providing routine adherence counseling.

DESIGN:  A statewide self-administered survey.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS:  All physicians in North Carolina who prescribed a protease inhibitor (PI) during 1999. Among the 589 surveys sent, 369 were returned for a response rate of 63%. The 190 respondents who reported prescribing a PI in the last year comprised the study sample.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:  Physicians reported how often they carried out each of 16 adherence counseling behaviors as well as demographics, practice characteristics, and attitudes.

RESULTS:  On average, physicians reported spending 13 minutes counseling patients when starting a new 3-drug ART regimen. The vast majority performed basic but not more extensive adherence counseling; half reported carrying out 7 or fewer of 16 adherence counseling behaviors “most” or “all of the time.” Physicians who reported conducting more adherence counseling were more likely to be infectious disease specialists, care for more HIV-positive patients, have more time allocated for an HIV visit, and to perceive that they had enough time, reimbursement, skill, and office space to counsel. After also controlling for the amount of reimbursement and availability of space for counseling, physicians who were significantly more likely to perform a greater number of adherence counseling practices were those who 1) cared for a greater number of HIV/AIDS patients; 2) had more time allocated for an HIV physical; 3) felt more adequately skilled; and 4) had more positive attitudes toward ART.

CONCLUSIONS:  This first investigation of adherence counseling practices in HIV/AIDS suggests that physicians caring for patients with HIV/AIDS need more training and time allocated to provide antiretroviral adherence counseling services.