Study Finds Psychiatric Patients at Greater Risk for HIV, TB and Hepatitis
A study presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine in Palm Springs, Calif., last week shows that patients at psychiatric hospitals are at greater risk of contracting tuberculosis, hepatitis or HIV than members of the general population, Reuters Health reports. The study, which analyzed more than 650 men and women who had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals between 1997 and 1999, reported that patients were four to five times "as likely to have hepatitis B" and 12 times more likely to have hepatitis C than the general public. Data indicate that the risk is on the rise, with 30% of patients in 1999 being diagnosed with hepatitis C, compared to 20% of patients in 1997. The rate of HIV among patients in the study was approximately 3%, which is nine times the rate of the general population, and over 20% of patients were diagnosed with tuberculosis, a rate that is four times the "estimated" rate in the United States. Dr. W. Pirl, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study, indicated that increased contact with doctors and better testing would help curtail the problem, noting that "less than 20% [of psychiatric patients] have regular medical doctors that they see." Pirl added that investigating the substance abuse history of patients and testing appropriately would also assist in diagnosis. "Some of the things you would think would make people be tested ... were not indicative of whether or not they had been tested," he said, adding, "[W]e need to find better ways to integrate medical doctors into the care of chronic psychiatric patients ... [I]t would be nice to develop a system where preventative health care was part of mental health systems instead of being separate" (Mozes, Reuters Health, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.