Despite growing interest in the accessibility of medical care and health-related quality of life for persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus, an association between these variables has not been documented. The authors conducted a cross-sectional study of access to care and its association with health-related quality of life among 205 persons of low income infected with the human immunodeficiency virus with constitutional symptoms and/or diarrhea at one public and one Veterans Administration hospital, using a 9-item measure of perceived access and a 55-item health-related quality of life instrument. Problems with access were widespread: 55% traveled for longer than 30 minutes to their usual source of care (compared with 9% to 12% of general populations in national surveys), 49% had problems meeting costs of care, and 48% had problems with clinic hours (compared with 23% in national surveys). In multivariate analyses, uninsured patients reported worse access than patients with Medicaid or Veterans Administration insurance, particularly for meeting the cost of care (P < 0.01). Adjusted health-related quality of life scores in this sample were far lower (by about 1 SD) than those of subjects in a large national acquired immune deficiency syndrome clinical trial. For 8 of 11 health-related quality of life subscales, worse perceived access was significantly (P < 0.05) associated with poorer health-related quality of life, even after controlling for T-4 lymphocyte count, symptoms and other factors. Access and health-related quality of life measures similar to those used in this study may prove useful in future evaluations of medical care systems serving poor, clinically ill populations infected with human immunodeficiency virus.
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