Evaluation of the clinical management of HIV-infected patients by private sector doctors in the eThekwini Metro, KwaZulu-Natal
Background: Although private sector doctors are the backbone of treatment service in many countries, caring for patients with HIV entails a whole new set of challenges and difficulties. The few studies done on the quality of care of HIV patients, in the private sector in developing countries, have highlighted some problems with management. In South Africa, two-thirds of doctors work in the private sector. Though many studies on HIV/AIDS have been undertaken, few have been done in the private sector in terms of the management of this disease. Therefore, a study was undertaken to evaluate the clinical management of HIV-infected patients by private sector doctors.
Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study was undertaken in the eThekwini Metro in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with 190 private sector doctors who, in the first phase of the study, indicated that they manage HIV and AIDS patients and would be willing to participate in the second phase of the study. The HIV guidelines of the Department of Health and Human Services and the South African National Department of Health were used to compare the treatment of HIV patients by these doctors.
Results: Eighty-five doctors (54.5%) always measured the CD4 count and viral load levels at diagnosis. Both CD4 counts and viral load were always used by 76 doctors (61.8%) to initiate therapy. Of the doctors, 134 (78.5%) initiated therapy at CD4 count < 200 cells/mm3. The majority of doctors prescribed triple therapy regimens using the 2 NRTI + 1 NNRTI
combination. Doctors who utilised CD4 counts tended to also use viral load (VL) to assess effectiveness and change therapy (p < 0.001). At initiation of treatment, 68.5% of the doctors saw their patients monthly and 64.3% saw them every three to six months, when stable.
Conclusion: The majority of private sector doctors were compliant with current guidelines for HIV management, hence maintaining an acceptable quality of clinical healthcare.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS; management; quality care; private sector doctors; guidelines