Death rates for people with AIDS have decreased dramatically in the last few years. The decline for blacks, though, has been more gradual than for other groups. The amount of virus in the bloodstream (viral load) of an HIV-infected person is a predictor of disease progression. Highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) is effective in decreasing the viral load and is readily available to many people in the U.S. A cohort of male participants at Project SHAPE in Seattle, Washington, showed that a slightly smaller proportion of black men compared to white men report current HAART use. In addition, reported viral loads appear to be higher among black men compared to white men, suggesting that blacks with HIV benefit less from available drug therapies and as a consequence have a higher mortality rate. Previous studies have shown that the biggest factor affecting viral loads is treatment adherence, which is mostly controllable by the patient.
Project SHAPE has released findings that examined some social and behavioral factors potentially affecting black men's ability to adhere to HAART. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 20 HIV-positive black men, with questions focusing on social and behavioral factors within six categories: medical care, medications, recreational drug use, general health, social structure, and "other" factors. Data showed that respondents are satisfied with their medical care, purposely avoid mixing medications with alcohol and drugs, want to trust their primary care clinician, and had emotional burdens removed by disclosing HIV status to family members. Adherence appeared to be affected by alcohol and drug use because participants voluntarily interrupted treatment for fear of adverse reactions. Significance of the "other" factors was evident though no obvious links to adherence were identified.
To find out more information on Project SHAPE, contact 1-877-758-0042. Project SHAPE is a multicultural project of the University of Washington's School of Social Work and is funded through Public Health -- Seattle King County and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).