Health services use by urban women with or at risk for HIV-1 infection: the HIV Epidemiology Research Study (HERS)

L Solomon, M Stein, C Flynn, P Schuman, E Schoenbaum, J Moore, S Holmberg, N M Graham
Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes and Human Retrovirology 1998 March 1, 17 (3): 253-61

OBJECTIVE: To characterize health services use by urban women with or at risk for HIV-1 infection enrolled in a prospective multicenter study.

METHODS: 1310 women 16 to 55 years of age who were at risk for HIV-1 infection were recruited between April 1993 and January 1995 at four urban centers (Baltimore, Maryland; The Bronx, New York; Detroit, Michigan; and Providence, Rhode Island). HIV-1-seropositive women without AIDS-defining illness were oversampled in a ratio of 2:1 in comparison with HIV-1-seronegative women. At a baseline study visit, the women received physical and laboratory examinations, including CD4+ counts, and were interviewed regarding HIV risk behavior, health services use, and clinical data.

RESULTS: 863 women were HIV-1-seropositive and 430 were HIV-1-seronegative. Fifty-two percent of the women reported injection drug use (IDU) since 1985, and 48% acquired HIV through sexual contact. Seventy-seven percent were African American, 23% were white, and 16% were Hispanic. The median age was 35 years. HIV-seronegative women were significantly less likely to have health insurance (19%) than were HIV-seropositive women (30%; p < .001). Among the HIV-seropositive women, 68% had CD4+ cell counts of <500/microl, and 64% were asymptomatic. Sixty-four percent of the HIV-seronegative women had had an outpatient hospital visit in the past 6 months, as had 86% of HIV-seropositive women (p < 0.001). Hospitalization in the past 6 months was also higher in HIV-seropositive women (22% vs. 12%; p < .001). Despite heavy use of health services, only 49% of women with CD4+ counts of <200/microl reported current use of antiretroviral therapy, and only 58% reported current use of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) prophylaxis. Among HIV-seropositive women, and after adjusting for CD4+ count, HIV symptoms, race, and study site, IDUs were significantly less likely to have a regular doctor and a recent outpatient visit and more likely to be hospitalized and use the emergency department (ED) than were non-IDUs. In multivariate analyses of HIV-seropositive persons, African American women had similar access to care and use of antiretroviral therapy and PCP prophylaxis than did white women but were less likely to have an outpatient department visit in the previous 6 months and to be taking PCP and opportunistic infection (OI) prophylaxis. Health services access and use of HIV-related therapies did not significantly differ between Hispanic and white women with HIV infection.

CONCLUSION: Although both HIV-seropositive and HIV-seronegative women had high levels of use of medical services, current use of antiretrovirals and OI prophylaxis was low throughout, and IDUs used HIV-related primary health services less and were more likely to receive emergency or episodic care. IDU and African American race were independently associated with decreased use of medical services.

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