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1.  Patient Adherence to Tuberculosis Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Research 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(7):e238.
Background
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major contributor to the global burden of disease and has received considerable attention in recent years, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where it is closely associated with HIV/AIDS. Poor adherence to treatment is common despite various interventions aimed at improving treatment completion. Lack of a comprehensive and holistic understanding of barriers to and facilitators of, treatment adherence is currently a major obstacle to finding effective solutions. The aim of this systematic review of qualitative studies was to understand the factors considered important by patients, caregivers and health care providers in contributing to TB medication adherence.
Methods and Findings
We searched 19 electronic databases (1966–February 2005) for qualitative studies on patients', caregivers', or health care providers' perceptions of adherence to preventive or curative TB treatment with the free text terms “Tuberculosis AND (adherence OR compliance OR concordance)”. We supplemented our search with citation searches and by consulting experts. For included studies, study quality was assessed using a predetermined checklist and data were extracted independently onto a standard form. We then followed Noblit and Hare's method of meta-ethnography to synthesize the findings, using both reciprocal translation and line-of-argument synthesis. We screened 7,814 citations and selected 44 articles that met the prespecified inclusion criteria. The synthesis offers an overview of qualitative evidence derived from these multiple international studies. We identified eight major themes across the studies: organisation of treatment and care; interpretations of illness and wellness; the financial burden of treatment; knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about treatment; law and immigration; personal characteristics and adherence behaviour; side effects; and family, community, and household support. Our interpretation of the themes across all studies produced a line-of-argument synthesis describing how four major factors interact to affect adherence to TB treatment: structural factors, including poverty and gender discrimination; the social context; health service factors; and personal factors. The findings of this study are limited by the quality and foci of the included studies.
Conclusions
Adherence to the long course of TB treatment is a complex, dynamic phenomenon with a wide range of factors impacting on treatment-taking behaviour. Patients' adherence to their medication regimens was influenced by the interaction of a number of these factors. The findings of our review could help inform the development of patient-centred interventions and of interventions to address structural barriers to treatment adherence.
From a systematic review of qualitative research, Munro and coauthors found that a range of interacting factors can lead to patients deciding not to complete their course of tuberculosis treatment.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year nearly nine million people develop tuberculosis—a contagious infection, usually of the lungs—and about two million people die from the disease. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, bacteria that are spread in airborne droplets when people with active tuberculosis sneeze or cough. Tuberculosis can be cured by taking several strong antibiotics daily for at least six months but many patients fail to complete this treatment because the drugs have unpleasant side-effects and the treatment is complicated. In addition, people often feel better soon after starting treatment so they stop taking their tablets before all the bacteria in their body are dead. Poor treatment adherence (poor compliance) means that people remain infectious for longer and are more likely to relapse and die. It also contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant tuberculosis. To help people complete their treatment, the World Health Organization recommends a strategy known as DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course). As part of this strategy, a health worker or a tuberculosis treatment supporter—a person nominated by the health worker and the patient—watches the patient take his/her antibiotics.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although DOTS has contributed to improved tuberculosis control, better patient compliance is needed to halt the global tuberculosis epidemic. Treatment adherence is a complex behavioral issue and improving treatment outcomes for tuberculosis (and for other diseases) requires a full understanding of the factors that prevent people taking medicines correctly and those that help them complete their treatment. In this study, the researchers have done a systematic review (a study in which the medical literature is surveyed and appraised using defined methods to reach a consensus view on a specific question) of qualitative studies that asked patients, carers, and health workers which factors contributed to adherence to tuberculosis treatment. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data so, for example, a qualitative study on tuberculosis treatment might ask people how the treatment made them feel whereas a quantitative study might count bacteria in patient samples.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched electronic databases and reference lists for qualitative studies on adherence to tuberculosis treatments and also consulted experts on tuberculosis treatment. They carefully read the 44 published papers that met their predefined inclusion criteria and then used a method called “meta-ethnography” to compare the factors (themes) associated with good or bad adherence in the different studies and to synthesize (reach) a consensus view of which factors influence adherence to tuberculosis treatment. The researchers identified eight major factors associated with adherence to treatment. These included: health service factors such as the organization of treatment and care; social context (family, community and household influences); and the financial burden of treatment. Finally, the researchers interpreted the themes that emerged from the studies to build a simple model that proposes that adherence to tuberculosis treatment is influenced by four interacting sets of factors—structural factors (including poverty and gender discrimination), social context factors, health service factors, and personal factors (including attitudes towards treatment and illness).
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this systematic review of qualitative research on patient adherence to tuberculosis treatment are inevitably limited by the quality and scope of the original research. Consequently, further studies into patients' understanding of tuberculosis and its treatment are needed. Nevertheless, the findings and the model proposed by the researchers indicate that patients often take their tuberculosis medications under very difficult conditions and that they cannot control many of the factors that prevent them taking their drugs. So, although current efforts to improve adherence to tuberculosis treatments emphasize instilling a willingness to take their medications into patients, this systematic review suggests that more must be done to address how factors such as poverty and gender affect treatment adherence and to tailor support systems to patients' needs. Most importantly, it indicates that future interventions should involve patients more in the decisions made about their treatment.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040238.
MedlinePlus has an encyclopedia page on tuberculosis (in English and Spanish)
See the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease fact sheet on tuberculosis
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide a variety of fact sheets and other information resources on tuberculosis
World Health Organization has produced the 2007 Global Tuberculosis Control report (in English with key findings in French and Spanish), information on DOTS (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and Chinese), and A Guide for Tuberculosis Treatment Supporters
See the brief guide to systematic reviews, published by the British Medical Journal
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040238
PMCID: PMC1925126  PMID: 17676945
2.  Trypanosoma brucei Metacaspase 4 Is a Pseudopeptidase and a Virulence Factor* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(46):39914-39925.
Background: Metacaspases are multifunctional cysteine peptidases.
Results: Trypanosoma brucei metacaspase 4 is a catalytically inactive metacaspase homologue required for parasite virulence, which interacts with an active parasite metacaspase during release from the cell.
Conclusion: Metacaspase 4 is a pseudopeptidase virulence factor.
Significance: Extracellular release and proteolytic processing provide novel insights into metacaspase function.
Metacaspases are caspase family cysteine peptidases found in plants, fungi, and protozoa but not mammals. Trypanosoma brucei is unusual in having five metacaspases (MCA1–MCA5), of which MCA1 and MCA4 have active site substitutions, making them possible non-enzymatic homologues. Here we demonstrate that recombinant MCA4 lacks detectable peptidase activity despite maintaining a functional peptidase structure. MCA4 is expressed primarily in the bloodstream form of the parasite and associates with the flagellar membrane via dual myristoylation/palmitoylation. Loss of function phenotyping revealed critical roles for MCA4; rapid depletion by RNAi caused lethal disruption to the parasite's cell cycle, yet the generation of MCA4 null mutant parasites (Δmca4) was possible. Δmca4 had normal growth in axenic culture but markedly reduced virulence in mice. Further analysis revealed that MCA4 is released from the parasite and is specifically processed by MCA3, the only metacaspase that is both palmitoylated and enzymatically active. Accordingly, we have identified that the multiple metacaspases in T. brucei form a membrane-associated proteolytic cascade to generate a pseudopeptidase virulence factor.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M111.292334
PMCID: PMC3220528  PMID: 21949125
Caspase; Cysteine Protease; Enzyme Mutation; Parasite; Secretion; Trypanosoma brucei; Pseudopeptidase; Virulence Factor; Cysteine Peptidase; Caspase Family
3.  Primary stroke prevention for sickle cell disease in north-east Italy: the role of ethnic issues in establishing a Transcranial Doppler screening program 
Background
Stroke is a serious complication of sickle cell disease (SCD) in children. Transcranic Doppler (TCD) is a well-established predictor of future cerebrovascular symptoms: a blood flow velocity >200 cm/sec in the Middle Cerebral Artery (MCA) correlates with a high risk of stroke in cohorts of African-american HbS/HbS patients. In North-East Italy the recent increase in SCD patients is mainly due to immigration from Africa. A comprehensive care program for children with SCD was established in our Center since 2004, but a wide and routine screening for Primary stroke prevention needs to be developed.
Methods
In order to verify the feasibility of TCD and Transcranial color coded Sonography (TCCS) screening in our setting and the applicability of international reference values of blood velocities to our population of African immigrants with HbS/HbS SCD, we performed TCD and TCCD in 12 HbS/HbS African children and two groups of age-matched controls of Caucasian and African origin respectively. TCD and TCCS were performed on the same day of the scheduled routine hematologic visit after parental education.
Results
All parents accepted to perform the sonography to their children. TCD and TCCD were performed in all patients and an adequate temporal window could be obtained in all of them. Pulsatility index and depth values in both the MCA and the Basilar Artery (BA) were similar at TCD and TCCS evaluation in the three groups while time-average maximum velocities (TAMM), peak systolic velocity and diastolic velocity in the MCA and BA were higher in the patients' group on both TCD and TCCS evaluation. African and Caucasian healthy controls had similar lower values.
Conclusion
Our preliminary data set the base to further evaluate the implementation of a primary stroke prevention program in our setting of HbS/HbS African immigrants and HbS/beta thalassemia Italians. Parental education-preferably in the native language- on stroke risk and prevention in SCD increases compliance and should be a necessary part of the program. Ethnic background does not seem to influence TCD velocity and internationally accepted reference values already validated in African-American SCD pediatric patients can be used, but long prospective trials are needed to verify their efficacy in defining stroke risk in our setting.
doi:10.1186/1824-7288-35-15
PMCID: PMC2717563  PMID: 19545422
4.  The Clinical Impact of Chromosomal Microarray on Paediatric Care in Hong Kong 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109629.
Objective
To evaluate the clinical impact of chromosomal microarray (CMA) on the management of paediatric patients in Hong Kong.
Methods
We performed NimbleGen 135k oligonucleotide array on 327 children with intellectual disability (ID)/developmental delay (DD), autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and/or multiple congenital anomalies (MCAs) in a university-affiliated paediatric unit from January 2011 to May 2013. The medical records of patients were reviewed in September 2013, focusing on the pathogenic/likely pathogenic CMA findings and their “clinical actionability” based on established criteria.
Results
Thirty-seven patients were reported to have pathogenic/likely pathogenic results, while 40 had findings of unknown significance. This gives a detection rate of 11% for clinically significant (pathogenic/likely pathogenic) findings. The significant findings have prompted clinical actions in 28 out of 37 patients (75.7%), while the findings with unknown significance have led to further management recommendation in only 1 patient (p<0.001). Nineteen out of the 28 management recommendations are “evidence-based” on either practice guidelines endorsed by a professional society (n = 9, Level 1) or peer-reviewed publications making medical management recommendation (n = 10, Level 2). CMA results impact medical management by precipitating referral to a specialist (n = 24); diagnostic testing (n = 25), surveillance of complications (n = 19), interventional procedure (n = 7), medication (n = 15) or lifestyle modification (n = 12).
Conclusion
The application of CMA in children with ID/DD, ASD, and/or MCAs in Hong Kong results in a diagnostic yield of ∼11% for pathogenic/likely pathogenic results. Importantly the yield for clinically actionable results is 8.6%. We advocate using diagnostic yield of clinically actionable results to evaluate CMA as it provides information of both clinical validity and clinical utility. Furthermore, it incorporates evidence-based medicine into the practice of genomic medicine. The same framework can be applied to other genomic testing strategies enabled by next-generation sequencing.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109629
PMCID: PMC4198120  PMID: 25333781
5.  First Trimester Exposure to Anxiolytic and Hypnotic Drugs and the Risks of Major Congenital Anomalies: A United Kingdom Population-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100996.
Background
Despite their widespread use the effects of taking benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics during pregnancy on the risk of major congenital anomaly (MCA) are uncertain. The objectives were to estimate absolute and relative risks of MCAs in children exposed to specific anxiolytic and hypnotic drugs taken in the first trimester of pregnancy, compared with children of mothers with depression and/or anxiety but not treated with medication and children of mothers without diagnosed mental illness during pregnancy.
Methods
We identified singleton children born to women aged 15–45 years between 1990 and 2010 from a large United Kingdom primary care database. We calculated absolute risks of MCAs for children with first trimester exposures of different anxiolytic and hypnotic drugs and used logistic regression with a generalised estimating equation to compare risks adjusted for year of childbirth, maternal age, smoking, body mass index, and socioeconomic status.
Results
Overall MCA prevalence was 2.7% in 1,159 children of mothers prescribed diazepam, 2.9% in 379 children with temazepam, 2.5% in 406 children with zopiclone, and 2.7% in 19,193 children whose mothers had diagnosed depression and/or anxiety but no first trimester drug exposures. When compared with 2.7% in 351,785 children with no diagnosed depression/anxiety nor medication use, the adjusted odds ratios were 1.02 (99% confidence interval 0.63–1.64) for diazepam, 1.07 (0.49–2.37) for temazepam, 0.96 (0.42–2.20) for zopiclone and 1.27 (0.43–3.75) for other anxiolytic/hypnotic drugs and 1.01 (0.90–1.14) for un-medicated depression/anxiety. Risks of system-specific MCAs were generally similar in children exposed and not exposed to such medications.
Conclusions
We found no evidence for an increase in MCAs in children exposed to benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics in the first trimester of pregnancy. These findings suggest that prescription of these drugs during early pregnancy may be safe in terms of MCA risk, but findings from other studies are required before safety can be confirmed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100996
PMCID: PMC4071000  PMID: 24963627
6.  Attitudes Toward Antiretroviral Therapy and Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Chinese HIV-Infected Patients 
HIV has become a significant health issue in China, and an increasing number of HIV-infected individuals are in need of care. Current reports confirm more than 230,000 cases of HIV infection and estimate that approximately 700,000 people are now infected with HIV, although approximately 70% of these individuals do not realize they are infected (Gill & Okie, 2007).
China's national antiretroviral therapy (ART) program, Four Frees and One Care, began in 2003, and ART treatment is now widely available in China (Zhang et al., 2007). Under this program, the following services are available to eligible citizens: (a) free ART for all AIDS patients in financial difficulty, (b) free schooling for AIDS orphans and children of AIDS patients, (c) free counseling and prevention measures to prevent mother-to-child-transmission for HIV-infected pregnant women, and (d) free HIV antibody testing and counseling, provided by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC). “One Care” means providing care to AIDS patients and their families (Zhang, Pan, Yu, Wen, & Zhao, 2005). Prior to 2003, only a few people in China had access to ART, and clinical expertise in HIV medicine was limited to the major centers in a few eastern cities (Zhang et al., 2007). When ART is the dominant method of treatment, however, its use is complicated by the presence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which has remained a substitute and supplement for conventional HIV therapy (Hsiao et al., 2003), even after ART became available (Josephs, Fleishman, Gaist, & Gebo, 2007).
CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine (National Institutes of Health, 2008). Commonly, CAM includes a wide range of practices that do not fit within the dominant allopathic model of health care (Bishop, Yardley, & Lewith, 2007), including but not limited to herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture, and diet-based therapies (Bratman & Steven, 1997). TCM has been used in Chinese society for more than 5,000 years. In the TCM approach, the body is recognized and treated as a whole entity, and diseases are identified as conditions caused by internal imbalances. The role of doctors is to identify imbalances and then correct them; the body is then expected to be able to heal itself (Tsao, Dobalian, Myers, & Zeltzer, 2005). The balancing factors of the yin and yang, or of the cold and hot forces, govern health and modulate some Chinese eating and pain management practices (Wong-Kim & Merighi, 2007). The integration of ART and CAM therefore has important implications in health outcomes, especially in China where the use of CAM is widespread.
Three types of treatment systems are practiced in Chinese society: (a) allopathic Western medicine offered by health care professionals in clinics and hospitals; (b) Buyao, which is over-the-counter popular medicine and includes teas, soups, tablets, herbal preparations, and tonics, which are similar to herb supplements used in some Western countries; and (c) TCM or Zhongyi, provided by trained Chinese herbalists, which incorporates a wide range of theories, therapies, and practices, some of which are medicinal, some physical, and some supernatural (Ma et al., 2008). Many Chinese people use all three types of treatment simultaneously.
In the West, the use of CAM is widespread among HIV-infected individuals. From 1980 to 1996, 27% to 100% of HIV-infected patients used CAM (Ernst, 1997), and the rates of CAM remained steady when compared with the era before highly active ART (Josephs et al., 2007). Some people living with HIV (PLWH) used CAM to replace the prescribed ART treatment regimen (Owen-Smith, Diclemente, & Wingood, 2007), while others used it as a complement to conventional HIV therapy (Hsiao et al., 2003).
A variety of factors influence an individual's decision to use CAM. In Western countries, women who were more educated and who had lived longer with HIV were more likely to use CAM (Owen-Smith et al., 2007). Pain was a strong predictor of CAM use, and increased pain over time was associated with the use of unlicensed or illicit underground drugs that held a potential for harm (Tsao et al., 2005). Overall, the most common source of information about CAM was from patients' friends (Wiwanitkit, 2003). Generally, CAM users perceived complementary therapies as useful, although there is no evidence to suggest that these treatments are particularly effective. CAM is generally perceived as “safe,” despite evidence of harmful interactions between some herbal medicines and medical treatments and the evidence of associated risks (Ma et al., 2007). Specifically, recent studies have shown that herbal medicines can interact with ART in such a way as to contribute to treatment failure (Ma et al., 2007). Physicians around the world, however, do not routinely discuss CAM therapies with PLWH, despite knowing that CAM therapies are widely used (Ma et al., 2008; Hsiao et al., 2003).
Studies have examined PLWH attitudes toward ART and CAM in different countries (Littlewood & Vanable, 2008). One study described nurses in Uganda using a traditional, nurse-prepared ointment on PLWH as an alternative medication for skin problems because they “know it works” (Hardon et al., 2008). CAM has also been used to treat the psychological and physical effects of illness and the side effects of ART (Kaufman & Gregory, 2007). Studies show, however, that many PLWH do not report CAM use to their medical providers (Hsiao et al., 2003). To date, there has been little research on CAM use in the Chinese PLWH population.
This qualitative study explored issues related to positive and negative attitudes toward both ART and CAM in Chinese PLWH in Beijing, China. The study was part of a larger project examining behavioral interventions meant to enhance ART adherence in PLWH in China (Chen et al., 2007; Starks et al., 2008). Semi-structured, in-depth, interviews were used to explore PLWHA attitudes, experiences, and perceptions about ART and CAM.
doi:10.1016/j.jana.2008.12.004
PMCID: PMC2684986  PMID: 19427598
7.  Adherence to HAART: A Systematic Review of Developed and Developing Nation Patient-Reported Barriers and Facilitators 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e438.
Background
Adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) medication is the greatest patient-enabled predictor of treatment success and mortality for those who have access to drugs. We systematically reviewed the literature to determine patient-reported barriers and facilitators to adhering to antiretroviral therapy.
Methods and Findings
We examined both developed and developing nations. We searched the following databases: AMED (inception to June 2005), Campbell Collaboration (inception to June 2005), CinAhl (inception to June 2005), Cochrane Library (inception to June 2005), Embase (inception to June 2005), ERIC (inception to June 2005), MedLine (inception to June 2005), and NHS EED (inception to June 2005). We retrieved studies conducted in both developed and developing nation settings that examined barriers and facilitators addressing adherence. Both qualitative and quantitative studies were included. We independently, in duplicate, extracted data reported in qualitative studies addressing adherence. We then examined all quantitative studies addressing barriers and facilitators noted from the qualitative studies. In order to place the findings of the qualitative studies in a generalizable context, we meta-analyzed the surveys to determine a best estimate of the overall prevalence of issues. We included 37 qualitative studies and 47 studies using a quantitative methodology (surveys). Seventy-two studies (35 qualitative) were conducted in developed nations, while the remaining 12 (two qualitative) were conducted in developing nations. Important barriers reported in both economic settings included fear of disclosure, concomitant substance abuse, forgetfulness, suspicions of treatment, regimens that are too complicated, number of pills required, decreased quality of life, work and family responsibilities, falling asleep, and access to medication. Important facilitators reported by patients in developed nation settings included having a sense of self-worth, seeing positive effects of antiretrovirals, accepting their seropositivity, understanding the need for strict adherence, making use of reminder tools, and having a simple regimen. Among 37 separate meta-analyses examining the generalizability of these findings, we found large heterogeneity.
Conclusions
We found that important barriers to adherence are consistent across multiple settings and countries. Research is urgently needed to determine patient-important factors for adherence in developing world settings. Clinicians should use this information to engage in open discussion with patients to promote adherence and identify barriers and facilitators within their own populations.
An analysis of qualitative and quantitative studies found consistent barriers to adherence to HIV therapy across multiple settings and countries, ranging from access to medication to problems with complicated regimens.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The World Health Organization has estimated that in 2005, about 38 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS; the mortality caused by HIV/AIDS is very high. Antiretroviral drugs are effective at controlling the disease and extending life span. However, it is important for people to stick to the drug regimens exactly in order to keep levels of HIV low, prevent it from becoming resistant to drugs, and stop the illness from progressing. However, many people find it very difficult to take antiretroviral drugs precisely as they should. There is already some evidence from research studies on the reasons why this is the case. There are two different research approaches taken by these studies: “qualitative” methods, which try to find out about attitudes and behaviors using focus groups, interviews, or other techniques; and “quantitative” methods, which try to find out about peoples' opinions and experience using surveys with set questions for the participants to answer, and then count the different responses.
Why Was This Study Done?
The investigators wanted to put together all of the available evidence from published research studies (called doing a “systematic review”) on which factors affected people's adherence to antiretroviral drugs. They wanted to do a systematic review because it is thought to be a very rigorous way of appraising all the available evidence (although there is considerable debate about the value of using such a method to analyze the results of qualitative research).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The study team searched biomedical literature databases as well as conference abstracts and research registries using a defined set of search queries. They screened all the scientific papers they found; those reporting results of original research into factors affecting antiretroviral adherence were then analyzed in more detail. 84 relevant studies were identified, of which 37 used “qualitative” methods (focus groups, interviews, open-ended questioning) and 47 used “quantitative” methods (surveys). Most of these studies had been carried out in the developed world. Then, the researchers extracted the factors affecting adherence from the original studies, which could be either “positive” factors (helping adherence) or “negative” ones (making adherence more difficult). They classified the factors into four key themes: “patient related” (e.g., seeing positive results, fear of disclosure, being depressed); “beliefs about medication” (e.g., faith in how well the drugs worked, side effects); “daily schedules” (e.g., using reminder tools, disruptions to routine); and “interpersonal relationships” (e.g., trusting relations with health-care provider; social isolation).
  Many barriers to adherence were common to both developed and developing settings. Some factors were unique to the studies conducted in the developing world, such as financial constraints and problems with traveling to get access to treatment. Fear of disclosure was an important barrier identified in many of the studies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers combined the results of many different studies and identified factors that help or obstruct adherence to antiretroviral treatment. By identifying influences common to the different settings, greater weight can be placed on the factors that were identified. Only 12 of the studies included in this research were from the developing world, where the majority of HIV/AIDS patients live; hence more work is needed to examine and address the factors influencing antiretroviral adherence in these parts of the world. This study provides researchers and health policy makers with a starting point for changes that might help to ensure greater adherence to antiretroviral treatment.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030438.
Medline Plus information on AIDS medicines (Medline Plus is a service of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health)
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has information about the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide
The World Health Organization has an HIV/AIDS program site providing comprehensive information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide
The World Health Organization pages on antiretroviral therapy
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030438
PMCID: PMC1637123  PMID: 17121449
8.  Assessment of Yellow Fever Epidemic Risk: An Original Multi-criteria Modeling Approach 
Background
Yellow fever (YF) virtually disappeared in francophone West African countries as a result of YF mass vaccination campaigns carried out between 1940 and 1953. However, because of the failure to continue mass vaccination campaigns, a resurgence of the deadly disease in many African countries began in the early 1980s. We developed an original modeling approach to assess YF epidemic risk (vulnerability) and to prioritize the populations to be vaccinated.
Methods and Findings
We chose a two-step assessment of vulnerability at district level consisting of a quantitative and qualitative assessment per country. Quantitative assessment starts with data collection on six risk factors: five risk factors associated with “exposure” to virus/vector and one with “susceptibility” of a district to YF epidemics. The multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) modeling method was specifically adapted to reduce the five exposure variables to one aggregated exposure indicator. Health districts were then projected onto a two-dimensional graph to define different levels of vulnerability. Districts are presented on risk maps for qualitative analysis in consensus groups, allowing the addition of factors, such as population migrations or vector density, that could not be included in MCA. The example of rural districts in Burkina Faso show five distinct clusters of risk profiles. Based on this assessment, 32 of 55 districts comprising over 7 million people were prioritized for preventive vaccination campaigns.
Conclusion
This assessment of yellow fever epidemic risk at the district level includes MCA modeling and consensus group modification. MCA provides a standardized way to reduce complexity. It supports an informed public health decision-making process that empowers local stakeholders through the consensus group. This original approach can be applied to any disease with documented risk factors.
Author Summary
This article describes the use of an original modeling approach to assess the risk of yellow fever (YF) epidemics. YF is a viral hemorrhagic fever responsible in past centuries for devastating outbreaks. Since the 1930s, a vaccine has been available that protects the individual for at least 10 years, if not for life. However, immunization of populations in African countries was gradually discontinued after the 1960s. With the decrease in immunity against YF in African populations the disease reemerged in the 1980s. In 2005, WHO, UNICEF, and the GAVI Alliance decided to support preventive vaccination of at-risk populations in West African endemic countries in order to tackle the reemergence of YF and reduce the risk of urban YF outbreaks. Financial resources were made available to scale up a global YF vaccine stockpile and to support countries with limited resources in the management of preventive vaccination campaigns. This article describes the process we used to determine the most at-risk populations using a mathematical model to prioritize targeted immunization campaigns. We believe that this approach could be useful for other diseases for which decision making process is difficult because of limited data availability, complex risk variables, and a need for rapid decisions and implementation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000483
PMCID: PMC2704869  PMID: 19597548
9.  Health and Human Rights Concerns of Drug Users in Detention in Guangxi Province, China 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e234.
Background
Although confinement in drug detoxification (“detox”) and re-education through labor (RTL) centers is the most common form of treatment for drug dependence in China, little has been published about the experience of drug users in such settings. We conducted an assessment of the impact of detention on drug users' access to HIV prevention and treatment services and consequent threats to fundamental human rights protections.
Methods and Findings
Chinese government HIV and anti-narcotics legislation and policy documents were reviewed, and in-depth and key informant interviews were conducted with 19 injection drug users (IDUs) and 20 government and nongovernmental organization officials in Nanning and Baise, Guangxi Province. Significant contradictions were found in HIV and antinarcotics policies, exemplified by the simultaneous expansion of community-based methadone maintenance therapy and the increasing number of drug users detained in detox and RTL center facilities. IDU study participants reported, on average, having used drugs for 14 y (range 8–23 y) and had been confined to detox four times (range one to eight times) and to RTL centers once (range zero to three times). IDUs expressed an intense fear of being recognized by the police and being detained, regardless of current drug use. Key informants and IDUs reported that routine HIV testing, without consent and without disclosure of the result, was the standard policy of detox and RTL center facilities, and that HIV-infected detainees were not routinely provided medical or drug dependency treatment, including antiretroviral therapy. IDUs received little or no information or means of HIV prevention, but reported numerous risk behaviors for HIV transmission while detained.
Conclusions
Legal and policy review, and interviews with recently detained IDUs and key informants in Guangxi Province, China, found evidence of anti-narcotics policies and practices that appear to violate human rights and imperil drug users' health.
Based on their review of Chinese government legislation and policy documents, and using interviews with recently detained injection drug users and officials in Guangxi Province, Elizabeth Cohen and Joseph Amon find evidence of antinarcotics policies and practices that may compromise the health and human rights of drug users.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Ever since the AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) epidemic began, needle sharing by injection drug users (IDUs) has been a major transmission route for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the blood-borne virus that causes AIDS. In China, for example, the AIDS epidemic began in earnest in 1989 when 146 HIV-positive IDUs were identified in Southwest Yunnan. By 1998, HIV infections had been reported throughout China, 60%–70% of which were in IDUs. These days, nearly half of new HIV infections in China are associated with injection drug use and 266,000 of the 700,000 HIV-positive people in China are drug users. Faced with these figures, the Chinese government has recently introduced measures to reduce HIV transmission among the estimated 3–4 million IDUs in China. These measures include increased provision of methadone maintenance treatment clinics and needle exchanges and the establishment of HIV prevention programs that target IDUs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Alongside these progressive public-health practices, China has extremely punitive anti-narcotics policies. IDUs are routinely confined without legal review in drug detoxification centers or sent to re-education through labor (RTL) centers, sometimes for many years. In 2005, these centers housed more than 350,000 drug users yet little is known about the conditions in these centers or how the Chinese anti-narcotic policy affects human rights or access to HIV prevention and treatment services. In this study, the researchers investigated these issues by interviewing IDUs and “key informants” (government officials and members of nongovernmental organizations [NGOs] who provide services to IDUs) about their experiences of detoxification centers and RTL centers in two cities in Guangxi Province, China.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 19 IDUs who had been recently confined in a detoxification center or RTL center and 20 key informants (including a doctor at a detoxification center and a former RTL center guard). In the interviews the researchers used a semi-structured questionnaire to ask the participants about their experiences of detoxification centers and RTL centers. All the IDUs reported that they were repeatedly tested for HIV while in detention but never given their test results even when they asked for them. Key informants confirmed that repeated HIV testing without result disclosure is the current policy in detoxification centers and RTL centers. All the IDUs expressed concerns about inadequate access to health care in detention. In particular, most of the IDUs who were taking antiretroviral drugs before detention were unable to continue their treatment during detention, although two received antiretroviral drugs by negotiating with their guards. The IDUs and key informants also both noted that very little information or means of HIV prevention was provided in the detoxification centers and RTL centers and that HIV-related risk behaviors, including injection drug use and unsafe sex, occurred in both types of center. Finally, the IDUs reported that their fear of being recognized by the police and detained even if not taking drugs prevented them from seeking HIV tests, HIV treatment, and help for their drug addiction.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study has several limitations in addition to its small size. For example, because the IDUs were self selected—they responded to posters asking if they would be interviewed—their views may not be representative of all IDUs. Similarly, the key informants who were interviewed might have had different opinions from those who chose not to participate. Furthermore, the results reported here cannot be generalized to other areas of China. Nevertheless, the consistent experiences reported by the IDUs and confirmed by the key informants suggest that China's anti-narcotic policies and practices violate the human rights of IDUs and put their health in danger by making it hard for them to access HIV prevention and treatment or adequate treatment for their drug addiction. This situation, if not remedied, is likely to jeopardize China's attempts to control its HIV epidemic.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050234.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Steve Koester
Avert, an international AIDS charity, provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including HIV and AIDS in China and HIV prevention, harm reduction, and injecting drug use
The UNAIDS 2008 Country Progress Report provides up-to-date details about the AIDS situation in China
HIVInSite provides links to more information about HIV/AIDS in China.
Human Rights Watch works on health and human rights and human rights developments in China
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a booklet entitled Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide (in English and Spanish)
UN Office on Drugs and Crime has information on HIV/AIDS in prisons
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050234
PMCID: PMC2596857  PMID: 19071954
10.  Psychosocial Factors That Shape Patient and Carer Experiences of Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001331.
A systematic review of qualitative studies conducted by Frances Bunn and colleagues identifies and describes the experiences of patients and caregivers on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia.
Background
Early diagnosis and intervention for people with dementia is increasingly considered a priority, but practitioners are concerned with the effects of earlier diagnosis and interventions on patients and caregivers. This systematic review evaluates the qualitative evidence about how people accommodate and adapt to the diagnosis of dementia and its immediate consequences, to guide practice.
Methods and Findings
We systematically reviewed qualitative studies exploring experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia, and their carers, around diagnosis and the transition to becoming a person with dementia. We searched PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, CINAHL, and the British Nursing Index (all searched in May 2010 with no date restrictions; PubMed search updated in February 2012), checked reference lists, and undertook citation searches in PubMed and Google Scholar (ongoing to September 2011). We used thematic synthesis to identify key themes, commonalities, barriers to earlier diagnosis, and support identified as helpful. We identified 126 papers reporting 102 studies including a total of 3,095 participants. Three overarching themes emerged from our analysis: (1) pathways through diagnosis, including its impact on identity, roles, and relationships; (2) resolving conflicts to accommodate a diagnosis, including the acceptability of support, focusing on the present or the future, and the use or avoidance of knowledge; and (3) strategies and support to minimise the impact of dementia. Consistent barriers to diagnosis include stigma, normalisation of symptoms, and lack of knowledge. Studies report a lack of specialist support particularly post-diagnosis.
Conclusions
There is an extensive body of qualitative literature on the experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia. We present a thematic analysis that could be useful to professionals working with people with dementia. We suggest that research emphasis should shift towards the development and evaluation of interventions, particularly those providing support after diagnosis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Dementia is a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer disease is the most common type of dementia. People with dementia usually have problems with two or more cognitive functions—thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment. Dementia is rare before the age of 65, but about a quarter of people over 85 have dementia. Because more people live longer these days, the number of patients with dementia is increasing. It is estimated that today between 40 and 50 million people live with dementia worldwide. By 2050, this number is expected to triple.
One way to study what dementia means to patients and their carers (most often spouses or other family members) is through qualitative research. Qualitative research aims to develop an in-depth understanding of individuals' experiences and behavior, as well as the reasons for their feelings and actions. In qualitative studies, researchers interview patients, their families, and doctors. When the studies are published, they usually contain direct quotations from interviews as well as summaries by the scientists who designed the interviews and analyzed the responses.
Why Was This Study Done?
This study was done to better understand the experiences and attitudes of patients and their carers surrounding dementia diagnosis. It focused on patients who lived and were cared for within the community (as opposed to people living in senior care facilities or other institutions). Most cases of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms get worse over time. Diagnosis often happens at an advanced stage of the disease, and some patients never receive a formal diagnosis. This could have many possible reasons, including unawareness or denial of symptoms by patients and people close to them. The study was also trying to understand barriers to early diagnosis and what type of support is useful for newly diagnosed patients and carers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic search for published qualitative research studies that reported on the experience, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes surrounding dementia diagnosis. They identified and reviewed 102 such studies. Among the quotations and summaries of the individual studies, they looked for prominent and recurring themes. They also compared and contrasted the respective experiences of patients and carers.
Overall, they found that the complexity and variety of responses to a diagnosis of dementia means that making the diagnosis and conveying it to patients and carers is challenging. Negative connotations associated with dementia, inconsistent symptoms, and not knowing enough about the signs and symptoms were commonly reported barriers to early dementia diagnosis. It was often the carer who initiated the search for help from a doctor, and among patients, willingness and readiness to receive a diagnosis varied. Being told one had dementia had a big impact on a patient's identity and often caused feelings of loss, anger, fear, and frustration. Spouses had to adjust to increasingly unequal relationships and the transition to a role as carer. The strain associated with this often caused health problems in the carers as well. On the other hand, studies examining the experience of couples often reported that they found ways to continue working together as a team.
Adjusting to a dementia diagnosis is a complex process. Initially, most patients and carers experienced conflicts, for example, between autonomy and safety, between recognizing the need for help but reluctance to accept it, or between living in the present and dealing with anxiety about and preparing for the future. As these were resolved and as the disease progressed, the attitudes of patients and carers towards dementia often became more balanced and accepting. Many patients and their families adopted strategies to cope with the impact of dementia on their lives in order to manage the disease and maintain some sort of normal life. These included practical strategies involving reminders, social strategies such as relying on family support, and emotional strategies such as using humor. At some point many patients and carers reported that they were able to adopt positive mindsets and incorporate dementia in their lives.
The studies also pointed to an urgent need for support from outside the family, both right after diagnosis and subsequently. General practitioners and family physicians have important roles in helping patients and carers to get access to information, social and psychological support, and community care. The need for information was reported to be ongoing and varied, and meeting it required a variety of sources and formats. Key needs for patients and carers mentioned in the studies include information on financial aids and entitlements early on, and continued access to supportive professionals and specialists.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Qualitative studies to date on how patients and carers respond to a diagnosis of dementia provide a fairly detailed picture of their experiences. The summary provided here should help professionals to understand better the challenges patients and carers face around the time of diagnosis as well as their immediate and evolving needs. The results also suggest that future research should focus on the development and evaluation of ways to meet those needs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001331.
Wikipedia has pages on dementia and qualitative research (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Alzheimer Europe, an umbrella organization of 34 Alzheimer associations from 30 countries across Europe, has a page on the different approaches to research
The UK Department of Health has pages on dementia, including guidelines for carers of people with dementia
MedlinePlus also has information about dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001331
PMCID: PMC3484131  PMID: 23118618
11.  Keeping silent about emergency contraceptives in Addis Ababa: a qualitative study among young people, service providers, and key stakeholders 
BMC Women's Health  2014;14(1):134.
Background
The growing popularity of emergency contraceptives (ECs) among urban youth in Sub-Saharan Africa is accompanied by debates on morality and health. This study was situated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and aimed to explore how these debates affect the way in which the product is promoted at a national level, how it is dispensed by service providers, and how young people access, purchase, and get informed about ECs.
Methods
Data were collected using qualitative methods: observations in pharmacies, administering semi-structured questionnaires to young people in pharmacies (N = 36), informal interviews with young people (N = 65), and in-depth interviews with service providers (N = 8) and key stakeholders (N = 3).
Results
Key stakeholders, uncomfortable with high sales of ECs, and service providers, worried about women’s health, promiscuity and the neglect of condoms, stay silent about ECs. Most young people had used ECs more than once. In a context where premarital sex is morally sanctioned ECs provide young people with a way of keeping their sexual lives secret and they fit well with their sex lives that often entail infrequent sexual encounters. Young people preferred (but they are also left with no other option than) to seek information from discreet sources, including friends and partners, leaflets and the mass media. In addition, service providers misunderstood young people’s purchasing behaviour, characterized by buying ECs quickly and feeling too embarrassed to ask questions, as a rejection of counselling. The resultant lack of information about ECs sometimes led to confusion about how to take the pills.
Conclusions
The attitudes and beliefs of key stakeholders and service providers result in a lack of clear information on ECs available to young people. This could be addressed by improving the information leaflet, providing clear instructions of use on blister packages, strategically distributing posters, and service providers adopting a more proactive attitude.
doi:10.1186/s12905-014-0134-5
PMCID: PMC4228100  PMID: 25370200
Emergency contraceptives; Young people; Service providers; Ethiopia; Information seeking
12.  e-Health, m-Health and healthier social media reform: the big scale view 
Introduction
In the upcoming decade, digital platforms will be the backbone of a strategic revolution in the way medical services are provided, affecting both healthcare providers and patients. Digital-based patient-centered healthcare services allow patients to actively participate in managing their own care, in times of health as well as illness, using personally tailored interactive tools. Such empowerment is expected to increase patients’ willingness to adopt actions and lifestyles that promote health as well as improve follow-up and compliance with treatment in cases of chronic illness. Clalit Health Services (CHS) is the largest HMO in Israel and second largest world-wide. Through its 14 hospitals, 1300 primary and specialized clinics, and 650 pharmacies, CHS provides comprehensive medical care to the majority of Israel’s population (above 4 million members). CHS e-Health wing focuses on deepening patient involvement in managing health, through personalized digital interactive tools. Currently, CHS e-Health wing provides e-health services for 1.56 million unique patients monthly with 2.4 million interactions every month (August 2011). Successful implementation of e-Health solutions is not a sum of technology, innovation and health; rather it’s the expertise of tailoring knowledge and leadership capabilities in multidisciplinary areas: clinical, ethical, psychological, legal, comprehension of patient and medical team engagement etc. The Google Health case excellently demonstrates this point. On the other hand, our success with CHS is a demonstration that e-Health can be enrolled effectively and fast with huge benefits for both patients and medical teams, and with a robust business model.
CHS e-Health core components
They include:
1. The personal health record layer (what the patient can see) presents patients with their own medical history as well as the medical history of their preadult children, including diagnoses, allergies, vaccinations, laboratory results with interpretations in layman’s terms, medications with clear, straightforward explanations regarding dosing instructions, important side effects, contraindications, such as lactation etc., and other important medical information. All personal e-Health services require identification and authorization.
2. The personal knowledge layer (what the patient should know) presents patients with personally tailored recommendations for preventative medicine and health promotion. For example, diabetic patients are push notified regarding their yearly eye exam. The various health recommendations include: occult blood testing, mammography, lipid profile etc. Each recommendation contains textual, visual and interactive content components in order to promote engagement and motivate the patient to actually change his health behaviour.
3. The personal health services layer (what the patient can do) enables patients to schedule clinic visits, order chronic prescriptions, e-consult their physician via secured e-mail, set SMS medication reminders, e-consult a pharmacist regarding personal medications. Consultants’ answers are sent securely to the patients’ personal mobile device.
On December 2009 CHS launched secured, web based, synchronous medical consultation via video conference. Currently 11,780 e-visits are performed monthly (May 2011). The medical encounter includes e-prescription and referral capabilities which are biometrically signed by the physician. On December 2010 CHS launched a unique mobile health platform, which is one of the most comprehensive personal m-Health applications world-wide. An essential advantage of mobile devices is their potential to bridge the digital divide. Currently, CHS m-Health platform is used by more than 45,000 unique users, with 75,000 laboratory results views/month, 1100 m-consultations/month and 9000 physician visit scheduling/month.
4. The Bio-Sensing layer (what physiological data the patient can populate) includes diagnostic means that allow remote physical examination, bio-sensors that broadcast various physiological measurements, and smart homecare devices, such as e-Pill boxes that gives seniors, patients and their caregivers the ability to stay at home and live life to its fullest. Monitored data is automatically transmitted to the patient’s Personal Health Record and to relevant medical personnel.
The monitoring layer is embedded in the chronic disease management platform, and in the interactive health promotion and wellness platform. It includes tailoring of consumer-oriented medical devices and service provided by various professional personnel—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and more.
5. The Social layer (what the patient can share). Social media networks triggered an essential change at the humanity ‘genome’ level, yet to be further defined in the upcoming years. Social media has huge potential in promoting health as it combines fun, simple yet extraordinary user experience, and bio-social-feedback. There are two major challenges in leveraging health care through social networks:
a. Our personal health information is the cornerstone for personalizing healthier lifestyle, disease management and preventative medicine. We naturally see our personal health data as a super-private territory. So, how do we bring the power of our private health information, currently locked within our Personal Health Record, into social media networks without offending basic privacy issues?
b. Disease management and preventive medicine are currently neither considered ‘cool’ nor ‘fun’ or ‘potentially highly viral’ activities; yet, health is a major issue of everybody’s life. It seems like we are missing a crucial element with a huge potential in health behavioural change—the Fun Theory. Social media platforms comprehends user experience tools that potentially could break current misconception, and engage people in the daily task of taking better care of themselves.
CHS e-Health innovation team characterized several break-through applications in this unexplored territory within social media networks, fusing personal health and social media platforms without offending privacy. One of the most crucial issues regarding adoption of e-health and m-health platforms is change management. Being a ‘hot’ innovative ‘gadget’ is far from sufficient for changing health behaviours at the individual and population levels.
CHS health behaviour change management methodology includes 4 core elements:
1. Engaging two completely different populations: patients, and medical teams. e-Health applications must present true added value for both medical teams and patients, engaging them through understanding and assimilating “what’s really in it for me”. Medical teams are further subdivided into physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative personnel—each with their own driving incentive. Resistance to change is an obstacle in many fields but it is particularly true in the conservative health industry. To successfully manage a large scale persuasive process, we treat intra-organizational human resources as “Change Agents”. Harnessing the persuasive power of ~40,000 employees requires engaging them as the primary target group. Successful recruitment has the potential of converting each patient-medical team interaction into an exposure opportunity to the new era of participatory medicine via e-health and m-health channels.
2. Implementation waves: every group of digital health products that are released at the same time are seen as one project. Each implementation wave leverages the focus of the organization and target populations to a defined time span. There are three major and three minor implementation waves a year.
3. Change-Support Arrow: a structured infrastructure for every implementation wave. The sub-stages in this strategy include:
Cross organizational mapping and identification of early adopters and stakeholders relevant to the implementation wave
Mapping positive or negative perceptions and designing specific marketing approaches for the distinct target groups
Intra and extra organizational marketing
Conducting intensive training and presentation sessions for groups of implementers
Running conflict-prevention activities, such as advanced tackling of potential union resistance
Training change-agents with resistance-management behavioural techniques, focused intervention for specific incidents and for key opinion leaders
Extensive presence in the clinics during the launch period, etc.
The entire process is monitored and managed continuously by a review team.
4. Closing Phase: each wave is analyzed and a “lessons-learned” session concludes the changes required in the modus operandi of the e-health project team.
PMCID: PMC3571141
e-Health; mobile health; personal health record; online visit; patient empowerment; knowledge prescription
13.  Toward an Understanding of Disengagement from HIV Treatment and Care in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001369.
Norma Ware and colleagues conducted a large qualitative study among patients in HIV treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa to investigate reasons for missed visits and provide an explanation for disengagement from care.
Background
The rollout of antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa has brought lifesaving treatment to millions of HIV-infected individuals. Treatment is lifelong, however, and to continue to benefit, patients must remain in care. Despite this, systematic investigations of retention have repeatedly documented high rates of loss to follow-up from HIV treatment programs. This paper introduces an explanation for missed clinic visits and subsequent disengagement among patients enrolled in HIV treatment and care programs in Africa.
Methods and Findings
Eight-hundred-ninety patients enrolled in HIV treatment programs in Jos, Nigeria; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Mbarara, Uganda who had extended absences from care were tracked for qualitative research interviews. Two-hundred-eighty-seven were located, and 91 took part in the study. Interview data were inductively analyzed to identify reasons for missed visits and to assemble them into a broader explanation of how missed visits may develop into disengagement. Findings reveal unintentional and intentional reasons for missing, along with reluctance to return to care following an absence. Disengagement is interpreted as a process through which missed visits and ensuing reluctance to return over time erode patients' subjective sense of connectedness to care.
Conclusions
Missed visits are inevitable over a lifelong course of HIV care. Efforts to prevent missed clinic visits combined with moves to minimize barriers to re-entry into care are more likely than either approach alone to keep missed visits from turning into long-term disengagement.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. As the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker, and the affected person becomes more susceptible to life-threatening infections. Over the past three decades, 25 million people have died from HIV, and according to the World Health Organization, in 2011, there were roughly 34.2 million people living with HIV, over 60% of whom lived in sub-Saharan Africa. Although HIV cannot be cured, the virus can be suppressed by combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) consisting of three or more antiretroviral drugs. ART controls viral replication and strengthens the immune system, allowing the affected person to fight off infections. With ART, HIV can be managed as a chronic disease: people living with HIV can live healthy lives as long as they take antiretroviral drugs regularly for the rest of their lives.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, poor retention in HIV programs is a huge problem: a large proportion—30%–60% in some settings in sub-Saharan Africa—of people starting ART, are lost to follow-up and stop taking treatment. Few studies have looked in depth at the reasons why people with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa miss clinic appointments or even stop coming altogether. So in this study in Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria, the researchers did a qualitative analysis from the patients' perspective on the reasons for missing clinic visits. Qualitative research can use information-gathering techniques, such as open-ended interviews, to develop an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons behind such behavior.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers indentified people to interview by using “tracking lists” from HIV/AIDS care clinics in the three countries—patient tracking by clinical trackers is increasingly used as a way to contact patients who have missed clinic appointments. The researchers included people in the study who had been tracked and contacted by clinic trackers, had been absent from the clinic for three months or more, and gave consent to be re-contacted by the researchers. The researchers interviewed participants, using their local language, on several topics, including their experiences of care at the clinic and of tracking, and the circumstances of missed appointments. The detailed accounts were transcribed, and then the researchers categorized the reasons for missing appointments into intentional and unintentional reasons.
Eight-hundred-ninety patients in the three countries were tracked during the study period, but only 287 were located, of whom 91 participated in the study. Of the 91 participants, 76 were being prescribed ART, and 15 had not started treatment. The main unintentional reason for missing clinic visits was a conflicting demand on the patients' time, which was often unexpected and for complex reasons, such as caring for a dying relative, going to a funeral, or traveling to work. These reasons were often transient and changed over time. Intentional reasons were often related to dissatisfaction with the care received at the clinic, especially “the harsh treatment” they received from health workers, which typically referred to behavior perceived by patients to be rude. For example, participants reported being spoken to “roughly” or feeling that the clinic staff “didn't care.” Such behavior made patients feel hurt, humiliated, and angry, and reluctant to return to the clinic. The researchers found that, overall, disengagement from care appeared to be a process through which missed visits and subsequent reluctance to return over time eroded patients' sense of connectedness to care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Absences from care will be inevitable over a lifetime course of treatment for HIV/AIDS. These findings indicate that absences may be unintentional as well as intentional, and that the reasons are complex and can change over time. Initial reasons for missing may disappear, leaving patients free, but reluctant, to return to care. Reasons for reluctance include shame at having been absent and the anticipation of a negative response to return from care providers. Patient education for ART initiation in sub-Saharan Africa often includes stern warnings about the lifelong commitment beginning ART represents. Paradoxically, educational efforts intended to maximize the benefits of ART for patients may be driving some away from care. Therefore, efforts to prevent missed clinic visits coupled with strategies to minimize any obstacles to coming back to care are necessary to keep patients' missed visits from turning into long-term disengagement from treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001369.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Edward Mills
The World Health Organization has the latest data on access to ART
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more information on types of ART, and also on adherence to treatment
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some information about interventions to help improve adherence
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001369
PMCID: PMC3541407  PMID: 23341753
14.  Pharmacy Refill Adherence Compared with CD4 Count Changes for Monitoring HIV-Infected Adults on Antiretroviral Therapy 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e109.
Background
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for monitoring HIV-infected individuals taking combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in resource-limited settings recommend using CD4+ T cell (CD4) count changes to monitor treatment effectiveness. In practice, however, falling CD4 counts are a consequence, rather than a cause, of virologic failure. Adherence lapses precede virologic failure and, unlike CD4 counts, data on adherence are immediately available to all clinics dispensing cART. However, the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting future or detecting current virologic failure has not been determined. The goal of this study therefore was to determine the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting and detecting virologic failure and to compare the accuracy of adherence-based monitoring approaches with approaches monitoring CD4 count changes.
Methodology and Findings
We conducted an observational cohort study among 1,982 of 4,984 (40%) HIV-infected adults initiating non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based cART in the Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program, which serves nine countries in southern Africa. Pharmacy refill adherence was calculated as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last refill prior to the endpoint of interest, expressed as a percentage. The main outcome measure was virologic failure defined as a viral load > 1,000 copies/ml (1) at an initial assessment either 6 or 12 mo after cART initiation and (2) after a previous undetectable (i.e., < 400 copies/ml) viral load (breakthrough viremia). Adherence levels outperformed CD4 count changes when used to detect current virologic failure in the first year after cART initiation (area under the receiver operating characteristic [ROC] curves [AUC] were 0.79 and 0.68 [difference = 0.11; 95% CI 0.06 to 0.16; χ2 = 20.1] respectively at 6 mo, and 0.85 and 0.75 [difference = 0.10; 95% CI 0.05 to 0.14; χ2 = 20.2] respectively at 12 mo; p < 0.001 for both comparisons). When used to detect current breakthrough viremia, adherence and CD4 counts were equally accurate (AUCs of 0.68 versus 0.67, respectively [difference = 0.01; 95% CI −0.06 to 0.07]; χ2 = 0.1, p > 0.5). In addition, adherence levels assessed 3 mo prior to viral load assessments were as accurate for virologic failure occurring approximately 3 mo later as were CD4 count changes calculated from cART initiation to the actual time of the viral load assessments, indicating the potential utility of adherence assessments for predicting future, rather than simply detecting current, virologic failure. Moreover, combinations of CD4 count and adherence data appeared useful in identifying patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
Conclusions
Pharmacy refill adherence assessments were as accurate as CD4 counts for detecting current virologic failure in this cohort of patients on cART and have the potential to predict virologic failure before it occurs. Approaches to cART scale-up in resource-limited settings should include an adherence-based monitoring approach.
Analyzing pharmacy and laboratory records from 1,982 patients beginning HIV therapy in southern Africa, Gregory Bisson and colleagues find medication adherence superior to CD4 count changes in identifying treatment failure.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Globally, more than 30 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Combinations of antiretroviral drugs that hold HIV in check (viral suppression) have been available since 1996. Unfortunately, most of the people affected by HIV/AIDS live in developing countries and cannot afford these expensive drugs. As a result, life expectancy has plummeted and economic growth has reversed in these poor countries since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. Faced with this humanitarian crisis, the lack of access to HIV treatment was declared a global health emergency in 2003. Today, through the concerted efforts of governments, international organizations, and funding bodies, about a quarter of the HIV-positive people in developing and transitional countries who are in immediate need of life-saving, combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) receive the drugs they need.
Why Was This Study Done?
To maximize the benefits of cART, health-care workers in developing countries need simple, affordable ways to monitor viral suppression in their patients—a poor virologic response to cART can lead to the selection of drug-resistant HIV, rapid disease progression, and death. In developed countries, virologic response is monitored by measuring the number of viral particles in patients' blood (viral load) but this technically demanding assay is unavailable in most developing countries. Instead, the World Health Organization recommends that CD4+ T cell (CD4) counts be used to monitor patient responses to cART in resource-limited settings. HIV results in loss of CD4 cells (a type of immune system cell), so a drop in a patient's CD4 count often indicates virologic failure (failure of treatment to suppress the virus). However, falling CD4 counts are often a result of virologic failure and therefore monitoring CD4 counts for drops is unlikely to prevent virologic failure from occurring. Rather, falling CD4 counts are often used only to guide a change to new medicines, which may be even more expensive or difficult to take. On the other hand “adherence lapses”—the failure to take cART regularly—often precede virologic failure, so detecting them early provides an opportunity for improvement in adherence that could prevent virologic failure. Because clinics that dispense cART routinely collect data that can be used to calculate adherence, in this study the researchers investigate whether assessing adherence might provide an alternative, low-cost way to monitor and predict virologic failure among HIV-infected adults on cART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program provides cART to medical insurance fund subscribers in nine countries in southern Africa. Data on claims for antiretroviral drugs made through this program, plus CD4 counts assessed at about 6 or 12 months after initiating cART, and viral load measurements taken within 45 days of a CD4 count, were available for nearly 2,000 HIV-positive adults who had been prescribed a combination of HIV drugs including either efavirenz or nevirapine. The researchers defined adherence as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last pharmacy refill before a viral load assessment was performed. Virologic failure was defined in two ways: as a viral load of more than 1,000 copies per ml of blood 6 or 12 months after cART initiation, or as a rebound of viral load to similar levels after a previously very low reading (breakthrough viremia). The researchers' statistical analysis of these data shows that at 6 and 12 months after initiation of cART, adherence levels indicated virologic failure more accurately than CD4 count changes. For breakthrough viremia, both measurements were equally accurate. Adherence levels during the first 3 months of cART predicted virologic failure at 6 months as accurately as did CD4 count changes since cART initiation. Finally, the combination of adherence levels and CD4 count changes accurately identified patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that adherence assessments (based in this study on insurance claims for pharmacy refills) can identify the patients on cART who are at high and low risk of virologic failure at least as accurately as CD4 counts. In addition, they suggest that adherence assessments could be used for early identification of patients at high risk of virologic failure, averting the health impact of treatment failure and the cost of changing to second-line drug regimens. Studies need to be done in other settings (in particular, in public clinics where cART is provided without charge) to confirm the generalizability of these findings. These finding do not change that fact that monitoring CD4 counts plays an important role in deciding when to start cART or indicating when cART is no longer protecting the immune system. But, write the researchers, systematic monitoring of adherence to cART should be considered as an alternative to CD4 count monitoring in patients who are receiving cART in resource-limited settings or as a way to direct the use of viral load testing where feasible.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050109.
This study is discussed further in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by David Bangsberg
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including an article about adherence to antiretroviral therapy
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages) and on its recommendations for antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection in adults and adolescents
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on global efforts to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050109
PMCID: PMC2386831  PMID: 18494555
15.  What happens when patients know more than their doctors? Experiences of health interactions after diabetes patient education: a qualitative patient-led study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(11):e003583.
Objective
To explore the impact of patient education on the lives of people with diabetes, including the effect on interactions with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Design
Qualitative user-led study using longitudinal interviews and 146 h of participant observation. Data were analysed using a narrative approach.
Participants
21 patients with type 1 diabetes, those either about to attend a patient education course or those who had completed the course in the previous 10 years.
Setting
Established patient education centres in three UK teaching hospitals teaching the Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating (DAFNE) course.
Results
Both postcourse and several years later, most participants spoke of the experience of taking part in education as life-changingly positive. It helped them understand how to gain control over a very complex disease and freed them from dependence on medical advice and restrictive regimes. However, interactions within the health system following patient education could be fraught. Participants emerged from the course with greater condition-specific knowledge than many of the healthcare professionals they encountered. When these professionals did not understand what their patients were trying to do and were uncomfortable trusting their expertise, there could be serious consequences for these patients' ability to continue effective self-management.
Conclusions
Patients who have in-depth knowledge of their condition encounter problems when their expertise is seen as inappropriate in standard healthcare interactions, and expertise taught to patients in one branch of medicine can be considered non-compliant by those who are not specialists in that field. Although patient education can give people confidence in their own self-management skills, it cannot solve the power imbalance that remains when a generalist healthcare professional, however well meaning, blocks access to medication and supplies needed to manage chronic diseases successfully. There is a role for those involved in primary and hospital care, including those supporting and training healthcare professionals, to recognise these problems and find ways to acknowledge and respect chronic patients' biomedical and practical expertise.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003583
PMCID: PMC3831109  PMID: 24231459
Medical Education & Training; Primary Care
16.  A personalized care plan in chronic care: implementation and evaluation 
Purpose
Implementation and evaluation of a personalized care plan for approximately 350 people with (an increased risk of) cardiovascular disease in ten general practices in the Netherlands.
Context
The ‘Healthy Vessels’ (‘Vitale Vaten’) care standard of 2009 describes the optimum care for people with (an increased risk of) cardiovascular disease and is based on the Chronic Care Model. New: working with a personalized care plan, with detailed attention for the promotion of self-management and shared decision-making (SDM). This requires patients to adopt a more active attitude, with a more coaching role from care providers. Vilans has developed the personalized care plan for cardiovascular disease (the booklet ‘Zorgplan Vitale Vaten’) and the personalized care plan for diabetes and for COPD in 2011. In 2011 Vilans also started with the development of a general care plan for patients with multi morbidity diseases.
Data sources
Patients: quantitative survey with a written questionnaire sent to approximately 75 patients. Baseline and end points for 40 patients, plus in-depth interviews with eight patients.
Care providers
Quantitative survey with a written questionnaire sent to 45 care providers. Baseline and end points for 22 care providers, plus in-depth interviews with 10 care providers.
Case description
The personalized care plan is produced by a shared decision-making process and consists of:
A prioritised list of the patient’s SMART objectives
A personalized plan for achieving those objectives
Agreements concerning what the patient will do himself/herself and the support or advice needed
Agreements concerning contact to review the progress (how and when)
The patient or the care provider notes the plan in the patient’s booklet (the ‘Zorgplan Vitale Vaten’=‘Healthy Vessels Care Plan’). This booklet also contains information about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the importance of the patient adopting an active role, measurement values, medication and the patient’s care providers.
Advisers from Vilans, the knowledge centre for long-term care in the Netherlands, provide participating organisations guidance for the implementation of the personalized care plan with: work conferences, supporting products and monthly support phone-calls or e-mails.
The project consists of the following phases:
Jan 2010 to Jun 2010: development of materials
Jun 2010 to Oct 2011: implementation and evaluation in ten general practices
Nov 2011 to Feb 2012: project completion and reporting
The results will be available in February 2012
The study questions in this project are:
What effects does the personalized care plan have on the level of self-management of the patients?
What effects does the personalized care plan have on professionals in a multidisciplinary team?
Do the effects also apply to ethnic minority patients and patients with a low socio-economic status?
(Preliminary) conclusions:
Self-management/Shared Decision Making is difficult to implement. Regular feedback and joint learning are needed.
It is helpful when agreements between the patient and the care provider are made concrete: writing things down makes a difference.
Variable response from patients: ranging from ‘good to know you have something to fall back on’ to ‘the idea of writing down personal objectives makes me feel a bit nervous’.
The personalized care plan does not seem suitable for all, in particular not for the elderly, for those of low socio-economic status, and for ethnic minorities.
Discussion
Health care professionals are used to take care of patients with chronic diseases. They are very willing to help and give patients some advice about how they can prevent a chronic disease or have a good life with a chronic disease. During the conferences and phone calls we have with them, we see that the focus is more on caring instead of sharing and self-management. It frustrates professionals when patients do not behave the way they tell them to. They do not know how to handle or turn the conversation into self-management and rather fall back in their roll of caring. It seems necessary to get feedback on a regular basis so they can explore new ways of self-management support together in a multidisciplinary way.
Self-management support is more successful when professionals are working together, looking for ways to take into account the perspective and expectations of the patient as well as those of the professional. The personalized care plan can help patients and professionals exploring their new roles.
There are some relevant questions concerning personalized care plans in practice which we cannot yet answer. We would like to discuss these essential questions with the participants of INIC12. For example:
How important is it for patients to have a personalized care plan? Does it support them in making decisions concerning their health in daily life? In what way can a digital care plan provide help?
Do professionals improve their caring and communication with patients with chronic diseases when they use a personalized care plan?
Is it more successful when one professional is the central care provider for a patient?
What are good ways for integrating personalized care plans in usual care? Does it take more time in comparison to regular care?
How to create possibilities for professionals so they can regard the personalized care plan as an important topic in chronic care? We see it is difficult for a small group of patients. How to implement the personalized care plan for all the patients with a chronic disease?
What do the answers to these questions mean and does individual care planning change the health care process in such a way that self-management can flourish?
PMCID: PMC3617761
personalized care plan; self-management; vascular risk; multidisciplinary team; chronic care
17.  Explaining Adherence Success in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Ethnographic Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1000011.
Background
Individuals living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa generally take more than 90% of prescribed doses of antiretroviral therapy (ART). This number exceeds the levels of adherence observed in North America and dispels early scale-up concerns that adherence would be inadequate in settings of extreme poverty. This paper offers an explanation and theoretical model of ART adherence success based on the results of an ethnographic study in three sub-Saharan African countries.
Methods and Findings
Determinants of ART adherence for HIV-infected persons in sub-Saharan Africa were examined with ethnographic research methods. 414 in-person interviews were carried out with 252 persons taking ART, their treatment partners, and health care professionals at HIV treatment sites in Jos, Nigeria; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Mbarara, Uganda. 136 field observations of clinic activities were also conducted. Data were examined using category construction and interpretive approaches to analysis. Findings indicate that individuals taking ART routinely overcome economic obstacles to ART adherence through a number of deliberate strategies aimed at prioritizing adherence: borrowing and “begging” transport funds, making “impossible choices” to allocate resources in favor of treatment, and “doing without.” Prioritization of adherence is accomplished through resources and help made available by treatment partners, other family members and friends, and health care providers. Helpers expect adherence and make their expectations known, creating a responsibility on the part of patients to adhere. Patients adhere to promote good will on the part of helpers, thereby ensuring help will be available when future needs arise.
Conclusion
Adherence success in sub-Saharan Africa can be explained as a means of fulfilling social responsibilities and thus preserving social capital in essential relationships.
Using ethnographic data from Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, Norma Ware and colleagues examine why levels of adherence to HIV/AIDS drugs are so much higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in North America.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic has killed more than 25 million people since 1981, and about 30 million people (22 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone) are currently infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV destroys immune system cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected individuals died within ten years but in 1996, combination antiretroviral therapy (ART)—a mixture of powerful drugs—was developed. For HIV-infected people living in affluent, developed countries, HIV/AIDS became a chronic disease, but for the millions of infected people living in low- and middle-income countries, HIV/AIDS remained a death sentence—ART was simply too expensive. In 2003, this situation was declared a global health emergency. Today, through the concerted efforts of governments, international organizations, and funding bodies, nearly one-third of the people in developing and transitional countries who are in immediate need of life-saving ART receive free, reliable supplies of the drugs they need.
Why Was This Study Done?
For ART to work, it must be taken regularly. If drug doses are missed, the virus can rebound and resistance to ART is more likely to develop. In poor countries, even though free antiretroviral drugs are increasingly available, many obstacles to good adherence to ART remain. These include economic obstacles (for example, the cost of traveling to clinics and the loss of earning associated with clinic attendance), and social, cultural, and behavioral barriers. Some patients fear disclosure, for example. Others receive conflicting messages about the benefits of ART. However, despite worries that the scale-up of ART provision in developing countries would be dogged by inadequate adherence, people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa generally take more than 90% of their prescribed doses of ART, a better level of adherence than in North America. In this study, the researchers investigate why ART adherence is so high in sub-Saharan Africa by analyzing qualitative data from an ethnographic study done in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. Qualitative data are often used to address “how” and “why” research questions: ethnography is a comprehensive qualitative approach to describing and explaining human behavior and culture.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their study, the researchers interviewed 158 patients, 45 treatment partners (lay-people who help HIV-positive people keep to their treatment), and 49 health care workers. Patients were asked about their experiences of ART and about the help they received from their treatment partners; partners were asked about the type of help they gave and about their feelings about this help; health care workers were asked to describe a typical clinic visit and to indicate how adherence was discussed. From these interviews and observations of clinic sessions, the researchers identified several strategies used by patients and their treatment partners to overcome economic obstacles to ART adherence. These included borrowing and “begging” funds to pay for travel to clinics and making “impossible choices” to prioritize adherence, and “doing without.” The researchers' analysis also indicates that the prioritization of adherence to ART reflects the importance of relationships as a resource for managing economic hardship. So, for example, they found that treatment partners and health care workers expected patients to adhere to ART (which, by improving patients' health, improves their ability to support themselves and their families) and made their expectations known, thereby creating a responsibility among patients to adhere. Patients, in turn, adhered to their treatment to promote good will from their helpers and thus ensure their continuing help.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings offer a possible explanation of adherence success in sub-Saharan Africa. The high level of adherence to ART can be explained as a means of fulfilling social responsibilities. Adherence, the researchers suggest, not only improves personal health (the main driver for ART adherence in resource-rich environments) but also preserves “social capital” in essential relationships. In other words, in sub-Saharan Africa, adherence to treatment may protect the relationships that individuals living in extreme poverty rely on to help them survive.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000011.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Agnes Binagwaho and Niloo Ratnayake
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including an article about to antiretroviral therapy
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in Africa (including detailed information on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and Uganda) and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on global efforts to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000011
PMCID: PMC2631046  PMID: 19175285
18.  Strategies to manage hypertension: a qualitative study with black Caribbean patients 
Background
The detection of hypertension in black Caribbean populations is good, but its control is thought to be inadequate.
Aim
To explore how black Caribbean patients with hypertension understand their condition, and the strategies they use in managing hypertension.
Design of study
Qualitative study using in-depth interviews.
Setting
One general practice in inner-city London.
Method
Practice records were searched to identify black Caribbean patients with known and treated hypertension. Audiotaped in-depth interviews were conducted with all identified patients and transcripts of the interviews were analysed for thematic content.
Results
We interviewed 19 black Caribbean patients with hypertension. Participants reported physical symptoms for elevated blood pressure; a minority relied on symptoms to determine their medicine use. A majority of participants equated ‘normal’ blood pressure readings with being cured and with no need for prescribed medicine. All participants had been prescribed antihypertension medication, and seven reported taking medication as prescribed. Those who did not, reported diverse and dynamic patterns of medication consumption. Some who had achieved normal blood pressure equated this with being cured and stopped medication, resuming when diagnosed with high blood pressure. Some modified their use of tablets according to bodily symptoms that they felt indicated higher or lower blood pressure. Some stopped or reduced medication because of unwanted effects and almost half of the participants used Caribbean ‘bush’ remedies.
Conclusion
These findings suggest that some patients are making reasoned decisions about blood pressure management, drawing on medical information, their own bodily experiences of illness and sociocultural notions and practices. However, this may lead to medication use that diverges from that which is recommended. This study indicates a continued need to address these patients' perspectives and develop and evaluate new strategies to achieve hypertension control in this group.
PMCID: PMC1463158  PMID: 15904554
compliance; ethnicity; hypertension; medication use
19.  Managers' perceptions of the manager role in relation to physicians: a qualitative interview study of the top managers in Swedish healthcare 
Background
This study focused on the manager role in the manager-physician relationship, considered from the manager perspective. The aim was to understand how top executives in Swedish healthcare regard management of physicians in their organisations, and what this implies for the manager role in relation to the medical profession. Abbott's theory of professional jurisdiction was used to inform thinking about managerial control and legitimacy in relation to physicians.
Methods
Data from semi-structured individual interviews with 18 of the 20 county council chief executive officers (CEOs) in Sweden were subjected to qualitative analysis.
Results
The results show that, when asked about their views on management of physicians, the CEOs talked about "how physicians are" rather than describing their own or their subordinate managers' managerial behaviour or strategies. Three types of descriptions of physicians were identified: 1) they have high status and expertise; 2) they lack knowledge of the system; 3) they do what they want in the organisation. The CEOs seldom reported that general management strategies were used to manage physicians. Instead, they described four types of physician-specific management strategies that were used in their organisations: organisational separation of physicians; "nagging and arguing"; compensations; relying on the physician role. These strategies seemed to reflect pragmatic behaviour on behalf of the managers that helped them to maintain control over physicians in daily work. However, in a longer perspective, they seemed to decrease the legitimacy of the manager role and also contribute to weakening of that role in the organisation.
Conclusions
Many CEOs seemed to regard the manager role in their organisations as weak and described difficulties in both taking and defining that role (for themselves or others) in relation to the physician role. Further research is needed to elucidate how managers in healthcare organisations assume the manager role in relation to the medical profession. Studies indicate that lack of clarity concerning manager role authority and responsibility may have negative consequences not only for the working conditions of managers, physicians, and other healthcare professionals, but also for the quality of care.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-271
PMCID: PMC2949855  PMID: 20849581
20.  Task Shifting for Scale-up of HIV Care: Evaluation of Nurse-Centered Antiretroviral Treatment at Rural Health Centers in Rwanda 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000163.
Fabienne Shumbusho and colleagues evaluate a task-shifting model of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment prescribing in rural primary health centers in Rwanda and find that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
Background
The shortage of human resources for health, and in particular physicians, is one of the major barriers to achieve universal access to HIV care and treatment. In September 2005, a pilot program of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment (ART) prescription was launched in three rural primary health centers in Rwanda. We retrospectively evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of this task-shifting model using descriptive data.
Methods and Findings
Medical records of 1,076 patients enrolled in HIV care and treatment services from September 2005 to March 2008 were reviewed to assess: (i) compliance with national guidelines for ART eligibility and prescription, and patient monitoring and (ii) key outcomes, such as retention, body weight, and CD4 cell count change at 6, 12, 18, and 24 mo after ART initiation. Of these, no ineligible patients were started on ART and only one patient received an inappropriate ART prescription. Of the 435 patients who initiated ART, the vast majority had adherence and side effects assessed at each clinic visit (89% and 84%, respectively). By March 2008, 390 (90%) patients were alive on ART, 29 (7%) had died, one (<1%) was lost to follow-up, and none had stopped treatment. Patient retention was about 92% by 12 mo and 91% by 24 mo. Depending on initial stage of disease, mean CD4 cell count increased between 97 and 128 cells/µl in the first 6 mo after treatment initiation and between 79 and 129 cells/µl from 6 to 24 mo of treatment. Mean weight increased significantly in the first 6 mo, between 1.8 and 4.3 kg, with no significant increases from 6 to 24 mo.
Conclusions
Patient outcomes in our pilot program compared favorably with other ART cohorts in sub-Saharan Africa and with those from a recent evaluation of the national ART program in Rwanda. These findings suggest that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a serious health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. The virus attacks white blood cells that protect against infection, most commonly a type of white blood cell called CD4. When a person has been infected with HIV for a long time, the number of CD4 cells they have goes down, resulting in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), in which the person's immune system no longer functions effectively.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the disease into four stages as it progresses, according to symptoms including weight loss and so-called opportunistic infections. These are known as clinical stage I, II, III, or IV but were revised and renamed 1, 2, 3, and 4 in September 2005. HIV infection and AIDS cannot be cured but they can be managed with antiretroviral treatment (ART). The WHO currently recommends that ART is begun when the CD4 count falls below 350.
Rwanda is a country situated in the central Africa with a population of around 9 million inhabitants; over 3% of the rural population and 7% of the urban population are infected with HIV. In 2007, the WHO estimated that 220,000 Rwandan children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Why Was This Study Done?
The WHO estimates that 9.7 million people with HIV in low- to middle-income countries need ART but at the end of 2007, only 30% of these, including in Rwanda, had access to treatment. In many low-income countries a major factor in this is a lack of doctors. Rwanda, for example, has one doctor per 50,000 inhabitants and one nurse per 3,900 inhabitants.
This situation has led the WHO to recommend “task shifting,” i.e., that the task of prescribing ART should be shifted from doctors to nurses so that more patients can be treated. This type of reorganization is well studied in high-income countries, but the researchers wanted to help develop a system for treating AIDS that would be effective and timely in a predominantly rural, low-income setting such as Rwanda.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In conjunction with the Rwandan Ministry of Health, the researchers developed and piloted a task-shifting program, in which one nurse in each of three rural Rwandan primary health centers (PHCs) was trained to examine HIV patients and prescribe ART in simple cases. Nurses had to complete more than 50 consultations observed by the doctor before being permitted to consult patients independently. More complex cases were referred to a doctor. The authors developed standard checklists, instructions, and evaluation forms to guide nurses and the doctors who supervised them once a week.
The authors evaluated the pilot program by reviewing the records of 1,076 patients who enrolled on it between September 2005 and March 2008. They looked to see whether the nurses had followed guidelines and monitored the patients correctly. They also considered health outcomes for the patients, such as their death rate, their body weight, their CD4 cell count, and whether they maintained contact with caregivers.
They found that by March 2008, 451 patients had been eligible for ART. 435 received treatment and none of the patients were prescribed ART when they should not have been. Only one prescription did not follow national guidelines.
At every visit, nurses were supposed to assess whether patients were taking their drugs and to monitor side effects. They did this and maintained records correctly for the vast majority of the 435 patients who were prescribed ART. 390 patients (over 90%) of the 435 prescribed receiving ART continued to take it and maintain contact with the pilot PHC's program. 29 patients died. Only one was lost to follow up and the others transferred to another ART site. The majority gained weight in the first six months and their CD4 cell counts rose. Outcomes, including death rate, were similar to those treated on the (doctor-led) Rwandan national ART program and other sub-Saharan African national (doctor-led) programs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The study suggests that nurses are able to prescribe ART safely and effectively in a rural sub-Saharan setting, given sufficient training, mentoring, and support. Nurse-led prescribing of ART could mean that timely, appropriate treatment reaches many more HIV patients. It would reduce the burden of HIV care for doctors, freeing their time for other duties, and the study is already being used by the Rwandan Ministry of Health as a basis for plans to adopt a task-shifting strategy for the national ART program.
The study does have some limitations. The pilot program was funded and designed as a health project to deliver ART in rural areas, rather than a research project to compare nurse-led and doctor-led ART programs. There was no group of equivalent patients treated by doctors rather than nurses for direct comparison, although the authors did compare outcomes with those achieved nationally for doctor-led ART. The most promising sites, nurses, and patients were selected for the pilot and careful monitoring may have been an additional motivation for the nurses and doctors taking part. Health professionals in a scaled-up program may not be as committed as those in the pilot, who were carefully monitored. In addition, the nature of the pilot, which lasted for under three years and recruited new patients throughout, meant that patients were followed up for relatively short periods.
The authors also warn that they did not consider in this study the changes task shifting will make to doctors' roles and the skills required of both doctors and nurses. They recommend that task shifting should be implemented as part of a wider investment in health systems, human resources, training, adapted medical records, tools, and protocols.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000163.
PLoS Medicine includes a page collecting together its recent articles on HIV infection and AIDS that includes research articles, perspectives, editorials, and policy forums
SciDev.net provides news, views, and information about science, technology, and the developing world, including a section specific to HIV/AIDs
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a downloadable booklet Task Shifting to Tackle Health Worker Shortages
The WHO offers information on HIV and AIDS (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) as well as health information and fact sheets on individual countries, including on Rwanda
The UNAIDS/WHO working group on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Surveillance gathers and publishes data on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in individual countries, including on Rwanda
AIDS.ORG provides information to help prevent HIV infections and to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and AIDS. Factsheets on many aspects of HIV and AIDS are available. It is the official online publisher of AIDS Treatment News
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000163
PMCID: PMC2752160  PMID: 19823569
21.  Effects of aging on the association between cerebrovascular responses to visual stimulation, hypercapnia and arterial stiffness 
Aging is associated with decreased vascular compliance and diminished neurovascular- and hypercapnia-evoked cerebral blood flow (CBF) responses. However, the interplay between arterial stiffness and reduced CBF responses is poorly understood. It was hypothesized that increased cerebral arterial stiffness is associated with reduced evoked responses to both, a flashing checkerboard visual stimulation (i.e., neurovascular coupling), and hypercapnia. To test this hypothesis, 20 older (64 ± 8 year; mean ± SD) and 10 young (30 ± 5 year) subjects underwent a visual stimulation (VS) and a hypercapnic test. Blood velocity through the posterior (PCA) and middle cerebral (MCA) arteries was measured concurrently using transcranial Doppler ultrasound (TCD). Cerebral and systemic vascular stiffness were calculated from the cerebral blood velocity and systemic blood pressure waveforms, respectively. Cerebrovascular (MCA: young = 76 ± 15%, older = 98 ± 19%, p = 0.004; PCA: young = 80 ± 16%, older = 106 ± 17%, p < 0.001) and systemic (young = 59 ± 9% and older = 80 ± 9%, p < 0.001) augmentation indices (AI) were higher in the older group. CBF responses to VS (PCA: p < 0.026) and hypercapnia (PCA: p = 0.018; MCA: p = 0.042) were lower in the older group. A curvilinear model fitted to cerebral AI and age showed AI increases until ~60 years of age, after which the increase levels off (PCA: R2 = 0.45, p < 0.001; MCA: R2 = 0.31, p < 0.001). Finally, MCA, but not PCA, hypercapnic reactivity was inversely related to cerebral AI (MCA: R2 = 0.28, p = 0.002; PCA: R2 = 0.10, p = 0.104). A similar inverse relationship was not observed with the PCA blood flow response to VS (R2 = 0.06, p = 0.174). In conclusion, older subjects had reduced neurovascular- and hypercapnia-mediated CBF responses. Furthermore, lower hypercapnia-mediated blood flow responses through the MCA were associated with increased vascular stiffness. These findings suggest the reduced hypercapnia-evoked CBF responses through the MCA, in older individuals may be secondary to vascular stiffening.
doi:10.3389/fphys.2014.00049
PMCID: PMC3928624  PMID: 24600398
aging; cerebral blood flow; physiology; transcranial doppler; arterial stiffness
22.  Using GIS-based methods of multicriteria analysis to construct socio-economic deprivation indices 
Background
Over the past several decades researchers have produced substantial evidence of a social gradient in a variety of health outcomes, rising from systematic differences in income, education, employment conditions, and family dynamics within the population. Social gradients in health are measured using deprivation indices, which are typically constructed from aggregated socio-economic data taken from the national census – a technique which dates back at least until the early 1970's. The primary method of index construction over the last decade has been a Principal Component Analysis. Seldom are the indices constructed from survey-based data sources due to the inherent difficulty in validating the subjectivity of the response scores. We argue that this very subjectivity can uncover spatial distributions of local health outcomes. Moreover, indication of neighbourhood socio-economic status may go underrepresented when weighted without expert opinion. In this paper we propose the use of geographic information science (GIS) for constructing the index. We employ a GIS-based Order Weighted Average (OWA) Multicriteria Analysis (MCA) as a technique to validate deprivation indices that are constructed using more qualitative data sources. Both OWA and traditional MCA are well known and used methodologies in spatial analysis but have had little application in social epidemiology.
Results
A survey of British Columbia's Medical Health Officers (MHOs) was used to populate the MCA-based index. Seven variables were selected and weighted based on the survey results. OWA variable weights assign both local and global weights to the index variables using a sliding scale, producing a range of variable scenarios. The local weights also provide leverage for controlling the level of uncertainty in the MHO response scores. This is distinct from traditional deprivation indices in that the weighting is simultaneously dictated by the original respondent scores and the value of the variables in the dataset.
Conclusion
OWA-based MCA is a sensitive instrument that permits incorporation of expert opinion in quantifying socio-economic gradients in health status. OWA applies both subjective and objective weights to the index variables, thus providing a more rational means of incorporating survey results into spatial analysis.
doi:10.1186/1476-072X-6-17
PMCID: PMC1885247  PMID: 17502000
23.  Elective stenting for symptomatic middle cerebral artery stenosis presenting as transient ischaemic deficits or stroke attacks: short term arteriographical and clinical outcome 
Kim, J | Ahn, J | Lee, B | Chung, Y | Chung, S | Kim, O | Kim, W | Joo, J
Background: Although stent assisted angioplasty is an effective treatment for coronary and peripheral arterial disease, its efficacy in intracranial arteriosclerotic disease has not been verified.
Objectives: To assess the radiographic and clinical outcome of stent assisted angioplasty for symptomatic middle cerebral artery (MCA) stenosis.
Methods: We attempted stent assisted angioplasty in 14 patients with symptomatic high grade stenosis (>60%) on the proximal portion of the MCA, who had experienced either recurrent transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) resistant to medical therapy or one or more stroke attacks. Patient records were analysed for angiographic characteristics, degree of stenosis, pre-procedural regimen of anti-platelet and/or anti-coagulation agents, use of devices, procedure related complications, pre-operative and post-operative single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) findings, and clinical and radiographic outcomes.
Results: Stent assisted angioplasty was successfully performed in 8 of 14 patients without any serious complications and unsuccessful in 2 of 14 patients due to the tortuous curve of the internal carotid artery siphon. Four patients had complications. Two patients had an arterial rupture; one patient was rescued by an additional stent and balloon tamponade, the other patient died. Complications in the other two patients included thrombotic occlusion and distal thrombosis. Residual stenosis was less than 50% in diameter in all the patients. All eight patients who underwent follow up cerebral angiography had no restenosis. Follow up SPECT showed improved perfusion in the affected MCA territory in all the tested patients with TIA and in one of three stroke patients. Using the modified Rankin Scale at follow up, four of five TIA patients and five of six stroke patients were assessed as functionally improved or having a stable clinical status.
Conclusion: Although the re-stenosis rate in stent assisted angioplasty seems to be better than in primary balloon angioplasty as reported previously, the complication rate is still high. Elective stenting is an alternative therapeutic method for the prevention of secondary ischaemic stroke in stroke patients with MCA stenosis, and seems to be a potentially effective but also hazardous therapeutic technique in patients with recurrent TIAs. This study indicates the need for randomised control trial data of this intervention. Additionally, long term follow up data and additional clinical experience are required to assess the durability of this procedure.
doi:10.1136/jnnp.2003.019570
PMCID: PMC1739066  PMID: 15145998
24.  Evaluating Aspects of Online Medication Safety in Long-Term Follow-Up of 136 Internet Pharmacies: Illegal Rogue Online Pharmacies Flourish and Are Long-Lived 
Background
A growing number of online pharmacies have been established worldwide. Among them are numerous illegal websites selling medicine without valid medical prescriptions or distributing substandard or counterfeit drugs. Only a limited number of studies have been published on Internet pharmacies with regard to patient safety, professionalism, long-term follow-up, and pharmaceutical legitimacy verification.
Objective
In this study, we selected, evaluated, and followed 136 Internet pharmacy websites aiming to identify indicators of professional online pharmacy service and online medication safety.
Methods
An Internet search was performed by simulating the needs of potential customers of online pharmacies. A total of 136 Internet pharmacy websites were assessed and followed for four years. According to the LegitScript database, relevant characteristics such as longevity, time of continuous operation, geographical location, displayed contact information, prescription requirement, medical information exchange, and pharmaceutical legitimacy verification were recorded and evaluated.
Results
The number of active Internet pharmacy websites decreased; 23 of 136 (16.9%) online pharmacies ceased operating within 12 months and only 67 monitored websites (49.3%) were accessible at the end of the four-year observation period. However, not all operated continuously, as about one-fifth (31/136) of all observed online pharmacy websites were inaccessible provisionally. Thus, only 56 (41.2%) Internet-based pharmacies were continuously operational. Thirty-one of the 136 online pharmacies (22.8%) had not provided any contact details, while only 59 (43.4%) displayed all necessary contact information on the website. We found that the declared physical location claims did not correspond to the area of domain registration (according to IP address) for most websites. Although the majority (120/136, 88.2%) of the examined Internet pharmacies distributed various prescription-only medicines, only 9 (6.6%) requested prior medical prescriptions before purchase. Medical information exchange was generally ineffective as 52 sites (38.2%) did not require any medical information from patients. The product information about the medicines was generally (126/136, 92.6%) not displayed adequately, and the contents of the patient information leaflet were incomplete in most cases (104/136, 76.5%). Numerous online operators (60/136, 44.1%) were defined as rogue Internet pharmacies, but no legitimate Internet-based pharmacies were among them. One site (0.7%) was yet unverified, 23 (16.9%) were unapproved, while the remaining (52/136, 38.2%) websites were not available in the LegitScript database. Contrary to our prior assumptions, prescription or medical information requirement, or the indication of contact information on the website, does not seem to correlate with “rogue pharmacy” status using the LegitScript online pharmacy verification standards. Instead, long-term continuous operation strongly correlated (P<.001) with explicit illegal activity.
Conclusions
Most Internet pharmacies in our study sample were illegal sites within the definition of “rogue” Internet pharmacy. These websites violate professional, legal, and ethical standards and endanger patient safety. This work shows evidence that online pharmacies that act illegally appear to have greater longevity than others, presumably because there is no compelling reason for frequent change in order to survive. We also found that one in five websites revived (closed down and reopened again within four years) and no-prescription sites with limited medicine and patient information are flourishing.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2606
PMCID: PMC3785996  PMID: 24021777
online pharmacies; Internet pharmacy; online pharmaceutical services; online medicines; counterfeit medicines; patient safety
25.  Treatment and Short-Term Follow-up of Symptomatic Atherosclerotic Intracranial Artery Stenosis by Stent-Assisted Angioplasty 
Interventional Neuroradiology  2004;9(2):153-162.
Summary
Atherosclerotic intracranial artery stenosis can cause hypoperfusion of brain tissues and embolus formation, causing stroke. Conservative medical treatment seemed to have little effect on the natural history and prevent the stroke attack caused by artery stenosis. The purpose of stent-assisted angioplasty is to reconstruct the damaged vessels: the indications, feasibility, effectiveness, complications and follow-up for this new treatment method are discussed.
A series of 32 cases with symptomatic intracranial artery stenosis were accepted from 1998 to 2002. The mean age was 42 yrs (31~76 yr), male/female ratio=23/9. All patients were refractory to optimal medical therapy. Lesions included 12 middle cerebral arteries (37.5%), six basilar arteries (18.75%), three distal ICAs (9.38%) and 12 intracranial Vas (37.5%). All patients were treated by methods of transluminal stent-assisted angioplasty under general anesthesia. Patients were premedicated with Aspirin (300mg/per day) and Ticlopidine (250mg/per day), this was continued for six weeks after the procedure. Medical history, anamnesis, and treatment protocol were reviewed and evaluated retrospectively, short-term follow-up (2mths ~ 1 yr) was also obtained.
Primary clinical presentations were TIAs (21/32, 65.63%), minor stroke ( 8/32, 25%) and severe stroke (3/32, 9.38%). 31 cases (96.86%) were successfully implanted with coronary stents within the stenosed vessels; technical success rate was 96.86%. Instant angiographic results showed the stenosed extent had decreased from 72.36%±5.69 to 10.16%±6.94. One vessel ruptured during the procedure, the patient recovered after surgical repair of the ruptured vessel. Clinical follow-up demonstrated symptoms resolved in most patients (30/32, 93.75%) within the follow-up period, two cases with MCA stenosis had TIAs within two months after the procedure. 12 cases accepted angiographic follow-up. Velocities of stented vessels of five cases (5/21,23.81%) increased compared to instant results, suggesting restenosis, three of them were confirmed by angiography which included two cases with MCA stenosis (figure 3) and one with distal VA, one of the five cases had recurred TIAs.
With the newer generation of coronary stent, this technique seemed safe, feasible and effective to prevent stroke attack, but the indication is very important for the technical success. Restenosis remains a common problem as with coronary stenting. Long-term follow-up will be needed.
PMCID: PMC3547506  PMID: 20591265
atherosclerosis, stent, angioplasty, intracranial arterial stenosis

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