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Managing HIV: A Call to Action for Primary Care Physicians

Managing HIV: A Call to Action for Primary Care Physicians

Click here to listen to a podcast of Dr. Wong discussing the growing need of support for HIV care.   The care of patients with HIV in the United States has typically been provided by physicians formally trained in infectious diseases as well as those in primary care and doctors with experience managing HIV. In the past 5 years, the CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have pushed the medical community to get more primary care physicians (PCPs) without experience managing HIV to become comfortable with providing testing for the infection as well as counseling and initiating and monitoring patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Barriers to Providing HIV Care A survey from HealthHIV of nearly 2,000 HIV specialists and PCPs suggests that the HIV workforce may not be ready to care for the growing number of people living with the infection. “There are an estimated 50,000 new HIV infections per year in the U.S,” says Michael T. Wong, MD, who is the chairman of HealthHIV. “The number of HIV-positive people in America is estimated between 1.1 million and 1.4 million. There just aren’t enough existing HIV specialists to provide services for all of these patients.” While about 65% of HIV care providers in the survey reported an increase in their HIV caseloads, approximately 35% reported inadequate reimbursement as a barrier to expanding their practices. More than 20% of PCPs also cited reimbursement as a significant barrier to providing HIV services. “Reimbursement rates remain low, in part because of ICD-9 coding,” says Dr. Wong. “There have also been many changes in reimbursement from CMS, with many third-party...
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