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Study Finds Nurses Can Help Mentally Ill Patients Take Their HIV Medications

Update Date: Oct 10, 2013 03:54 PM EDT

Even though there is no cure for HIV (human Immunodeficiency virus), antiretroviral therapy has proven to be quite effective in maintaining the virus and preventing it from spreading and becoming AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Despite the effectiveness of this medication, many HIV-infected people do not receive treatment. For HIV patients who are mentally ill, however, simply remembering to take medications poses a challenge. In a new study, researchers reported that trained nurses who were instructed to follow up on mentally ill HIV positive patients improved the patient's life quality by getting them to take their medications.

In this study, the researchers looked at 238 patients from Philadelphia, PA. Some of the patients received nurse intervention, which was a program that had nurses monitor HIV patients' care on a weekly basis. The program is titled PATH+ (Preventing AIDS Through Health for HIV Positive persons). The nurses were community-based advanced practice nurses who received post-bachelor's degree in clinical training, which usually includes a master's degree in nursing science. 128 patients were a part of the program while 110 patients acted as the control group.

The nurses worked with the mentally unstable patients on taking both their psychiatric and HIV medications for up to one year. They followed up on the patients in face-to-face weekly meetings. The patients had to self-report their medication regimen to the nurses who checked their reports by counting the pills. If these patients forgot to take their medications, they had their belongings taken away.  

"We taught people how to adhere to the treatment regimen, and the positive effects of intervention persisted," said Michael B. Blank, lead author of the study and associate professor of psychology in psychiatry at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The researchers found that both groups experienced improvements in their physical health. Even though the PATH+ group had more measurable health improvements, the control group reported more improvements. The researchers explained that the control group could have felt better because they were happy to participate in a trial that allowed them to reflect on their own conditions.

The study as published in AIDS and Behavior.

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