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Telehealth Seen as Viable Option for Same-Day ART Patients

A small study shows a majority of HIV patients open to both starting ART and follow-up telehealth appointments.

An overwhelming majority of newly diagnosed HIV patients who accepted Same-Day ART initiation (SDART) also accepted follow-up telehealth appointments.

Of the 69 patients (93.2%) who accepted SDART, 68 of them agreed to a telehealth session.

These findings were presented at the International AIDS Society (IAS) AIDS 2020 Virtual Sessions.

This study was performed at the Thai Red Cross Anonymous Clinic in Bangkok, Thailand. Telehealth was added to the clinic to continue taking care of patients while keeping social distancing measures in place during coronavirus (COVID-19). In addition, the subsequent lockdown and local travel restrictions greatly affected access to facilities.

For patients who agree to SDART, they were assessed and if deemed eligible received a 4-week ART supply. Their follow-up telehealth was scheduled for 2 weeks afterwards.

Patients who tolerated ART were referred to long-term ART facilities, and another 6-week ART supply was mailed to ensure ART continuation during the transition.

Of the 47 patients who reached the 2-week follow-up, 37 used telehealth. Among the 10 patients who did an in-clinic follow-up visit, 2 had rashes, 3 needed syphilis injectable treatment, and 5 wanted face-to-face consultations. All patients remained on ART.

Rashes were identified in 4 clients, and 2 were managed through telemedicine. Overall, follow-up visits were successfully conducted in 100% of 47 clients, compared to 97.2% of 105 clients from the same period last year

“Telehealth is a safe and promising differentiated ART service delivery method, even for clients who just started on ART,” the investigators wrote. “Equity, economic, and sustainability aspects of SDART telehealth should be explored beyond its application during the COVID-19 pandemic.”