A UMKC School of Medicine researcher is working to understand why people diagnosed with HIV may not stick with their treatment.
An estimated 1.2 million Americans live with HIV infection. The disease is treated with antiretroviral therapy, a combination of medicines that reduces the amount of HIV in the bloodstream, which helps the body fight off infections and cancers. It also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus.
“We’ve gotten to the point where in some respects being HIV-positive is a chronic condition,” said Mary Gerkovich, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical and health informatics. “We now have HIV-positive patients who are developing all the naturally occurring aging conditions.”
Gerkovich works with the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill to identify participants in her research. “How do you get people to make behavior changes and then stick with them, is the question I keep going back to,” said Gerkovich, who collaborates with colleagues in the departments of Biomedical and Health Informatics, Medicine and Psychology.
According to Gerkovich, people who are diagnosed with a chronic condition first have to come to terms with it. “Often when people get a diagnosis that’s a serious diagnosis, they can sometimes shut down and say, ‘I can’t deal with this right now. I’m not willing to acknowledge it and accept it,’” she said.