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Nursing intervention helps mentally ill people with HIV

Having trained nurses follow up on medication use with mentally ill patients who are HIV positive was effective both at improving the patients’ quality of life and biological markers for the human immunodeficiency virus, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

The study is thought to be the first to simultaneously measure psychosocial and biological outcomes in people with serious mental illness and HIV.

The study of 238 Philadelphia patients, published in AIDS and Behavior in September, found significant improvements in the health-related quality of life for the patients, who were treated with a regimen that entailed weekly monitoring by community-based advanced practice nurses. The nurses worked for one year with the patients on taking their psychiatric and HIV medications.

The study pointed out that people with serious mental illness are at a heightened risk to contract and transmit HIV.  Among people with serious mental illness, the estimated prevalence of HIV ranges from 4 to 23 percent, compared with 0.4 to 0.6 percent in the general population.

The study suggested that it was possible to alter the behavior of these seriously ill patients toward taking their medication, and found the benefits continuing a year after the trial ended.

“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.

“A fragmented health care delivery system does not provide optimal therapy for patients with combined HIV infection and serious mental illness,” said Michael Hennessy, a senior research analyst at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and a co-author of the study. “The study highlights an opportunity for change in the way dually diagnosed patients are treated.”

For the full news release, click here.

The study is available here.