Background. The private medical sector is an important source of healthcare in India. Increasingly, concerns have been raised about its role in the care of patients with HIV/AIDS. Evidence about private practitioners’ existing management practices will help to create policies addressing this sector.
Methods. A central urban area of Pune city was selected for its high density of healthcare facilities. Private practitioners in the area were interviewed using a structured interview schedule. Based on a 1-year recall period, the schedule covered different aspects of the practitioners’ HIV/AIDS management practices including diagnosis, treatment and referral.
Results. Of the 215 practitioners interviewed, 66% had tested and diagnosed HIV infection. Fifty-four per cent had been consulted by HIV-infected clients ‘shopping’ for alternative diagnoses or treatment. Overall, 75% of the respondents had been consulted by HIV-infected clients for treatment. Of these, 14% had prescribed antiretroviral drugs, sometimes without adequate knowledge of the guidelines for their use. Other supportive and symptomatic treatments were also frequently prescribed. Private practitioners commonly referred HIV-infected clients for management to other private doctors, or to public hospitals. There were variations in respondents’ practices by sex and system of medicine.
Conclusion. Private practitioners are actively involved in diagnosing and managing patients with HIV/AIDS. Some of their management practices are inappropriate and need to be remedied. There are also concerns about gaps in the continuity of care of HIV-infected persons, for which networks between providers need to be strengthened. Public–private partnerships must be created to improve the flow of information to private practitioners, and include them in the national health framework.
Sheikh, K.; Rangan, S.; Deshmukh, D.; Dholakia, Y.; Porter, J. Urban private practitioners: Potential partners in the care of patients with HIV/AIDS. National Medical Journal of India (2005) 18 (132) 32-36.