‘Optimistic’ HIV-Positive Patients More Likely To Miss Treatment Doses, Practice Unsafe Sex, Study Says
HIV-positive patients who are "optimistic" about their futures are less likely to remember to take medication and less likely to engage in safe sex practices, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Reuters Health reports. Although optimism can sometimes assist patients in dealing with a chronic illness or disease, Drs. William Holmes and Joseph Pace of the University of Pennsylvania conclude that optimism also can have "negative consequences" for people with HIV. Holmes and Pace surveyed 220 HIV-positive people about their backgrounds, their disease status, their attitudes about their condition and their health behaviors. Most respondents said they believed that they would live "many" more years, with 27% indicating that they thought they would live to "old age." Respondents who indicated that they were "relatively optimistic" about their future were twice as likely as those with "relatively pessimistic" outlooks for the futures to forget to take their medicine and almost twice as likely to report not practicing safe sex. Approximately 26% of "optimists" reported forgetting to take their medicine occasionally, compared with only 13% of "pessimists," and 57% of optimistic respondents reported that they did not always practice safe sex, compared with 29% of pessimistic ones. White respondents, respondents with low CD4+ T cell counts, and respondents with less formal education were less likely to "hold out hopes for their futures," the researchers report. Holmes hypothesized that optimistic people may feel well enough to return to work and other normal activities "that engage[e] one's attention to a point that [they] competitively edg[e] out attentiveness to the details of when one should take their pills." Holmes suggested that physicians inform their HIV-positive patients of the potentially negative effects of optimism. "Anticipatory discussions with patients can act to help them develop insight about and vigilance against these potential problems," Holmes said (McCook, Reuters Health, 10/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.