Setting and organization of care for persons living with HIV/AIDS

Policy makers and health workers need evidence about how and where to provide care for people living with HIV/AIDS. This review identified 28 studies involving 39,776 study subjects that examined these questions. Centres with a lot of HIV/AIDS patients often had lower death rates. The number of patients needed to get these results was very different in each study so it is not clear what the right number is. Settings with case management had fewer deaths and had higher use of antiretroviral medications. There were several other promising interventions to increase antiretroviral use (using several health interventions at the same time and using computerized reminders), to reduce hospital admissions (using multiple health disciplines and increasing hours of operation), and reducing length of hospital stay (telephone notices and advice for providers). Unfortunately, the design of these studies, the small number of studies on each intervention and the lack of standard terms and definitions limits their usefulness to health providers and policy-makers. This is especially true for developing countries as no studies were found from those settings.

Authors' conclusions: 

Certain settings of care (i.e. high volume of HIV positive patients) and models of care (i.e. case management) may improve patient mortality and other outcomes. More detailed descriptions of care models, consistent definition of terms, and studies on innovative models suitable for developing countries are needed. There is not yet enough evidence to guide policy and clinical care in this area.

Read the full abstract...

Treating the world's 40.3 million persons currently infected with HIV/AIDS is an international responsibility that involves unprecedented organizational challenges. Key issues include whether care should be concentrated or decentralized, what type and mix of health workers are needed, and which interventions and mix of programs are best. High volume centres, case management and multi-disciplinary care have been shown to be effective for some chronic illnesses. Application of these findings to HIV/AIDS is less well understood.


Our objective was to evaluate the association between the setting and organization of care and outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Search strategy: 

Computerized searches from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 2002 of MEDLINE, EMBASE, Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI), CINAHL, HealthStar, PsychInfo, PsychLit, Social Sciences Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts as well as searches of meeting abstracts and relevant journals and bibliographies in articles that met inclusion criteria. Searches included articles published in English and other languages.

Selection criteria: 

Articles were considered for inclusion if they were observational or experimental studies with contemporaneous comparison groups of adults and/or children currently infected with HIV/AIDS that examined the impact of the setting and/or organization of care on outcomes of mortality, opportunistic infections, use of HAART and prophylaxis, quality of life, health care utilization, and costs for patient with HIV/AIDS.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently screened abstracts to determine relevance. Full paper copies were reviewed against the inclusion criteria. The findings were extracted by both authors and compared. The 28 studies that met inclusion criteria were too disparate with respect to populations, interventions and outcomes to warrant meta-analysis.

Main results: 

Twenty-eight studies were included involving 39,776 study subjects. The studies indicated that case management strategies and higher hospital and ward volume of HIV-positive patients were associated with decreased mortality. Case management was also associated with increased receipt of ARVs. The results for multidisciplinary teams or multi-faceted treatment varied. None of the studies examined quality of life or immunological or virological outcomes. Healthcare utilization outcomes were mixed.