Starting or Changing Therapy – A Prospective Study Exploring Antiretroviral Decision–Making
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When to start or change antiretroviral treatment against HIV infection is of major importance. Patients’ readiness is considered a major factor influencing such treatment decisions, in particular because no objective, absolute time point when to start antiretroviral therapy exists. We aimed at evaluating patients’ readiness to start or change antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Patients and Methods:
HIV–infected patients starting or changing ART between July 2002 and February 2003, treating physicians and nurses participated in this prospective, observational multicenter study. We assessed shared decision–making including qualitative aspects, expected treatment decisions and treatment status after 3 months.
75 patients were included. Of 34 patients for whom starting ART was considered, 27 (79%) indicated that they were willing to start treatment. After 3 months, 21 of 27 (78%) actually started therapy, six did not. Patients with depression were less likely to be ready for ART (p < 0.05). Of 41 patients for whom changing ART was considered, 35 (85%) indicated that they were willing to change treatment. Of the latter 35 patients, 33 (94%) finally changed ART within 3 months. Physicians and nurses were too optimistic in predicting the start or change of ART. The main reason to start or change ART was the sole recommendation of the physician (52% in those starting, 61% in those changing ART). Patients mainly judged the decision as shared and were very satisfied (71%) with the process. Qualitative findings revealed the importance of a dialectic decisionmaking, described with two categories: “dealing with oneself and others”‚ and “understanding and being understood.”
Patients mainly shared the decision made during consultation. Although physicians have an essential role concerning ART, patients, physicians, and nurses all contribute to the decision. Qualitative findings indicate the importance for health–care providers to include patients’ expertise and contributions.
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