Where to Seek Care

An Examination of People in Rural Areas with HIV/AIDS

Published In: The Journal of Rural Health, v. 18, no. 2, Spring 2002, p. 337-347

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2001

by Claudia L. Schur, Jennifer L. Dunbar, Martin F. Shapiro, Susan E. Cohn, Samuel A. Bozzette

Though HIV/AIDS has spread to rural areas, little empirical evidence is available on where patients living in these areas receive care. This article presents estimates of rural residents in care for HIV/AIDS, their demographic and health-related characteristics, information about whether they receive care in a rural or urban setting, and data on the drug therapies prescribed. The estimates come from the HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study (HCSUS), a nationally representative probability sample of HIV-infected adults receiving care in the contiguous United States. Regardless of the definition used--enrollment site, usual source of HIV care, or site of most recent hospitalization--almost three quarters of rural residents with HIV/AIDS obtained their health care in urban areas. The authors find that differences in the demographic characteristics of those using urban vs. rural care do not drive the decision on where to obtain care, with the primary difference being that people with a rural provider tend to be older. Rural residents with an urban usual source of HIV care incurred significant inconvenience in obtaining care--the majority said their care was not conveniently located, they had substantially longer mean travel times, and over 25% had put off obtaining care in the past 6 months because they did not have a way to get to their provider. Given the considerable burden this places on a chronically ill population, further research is needed to explore how provider supply and provider experience affect the decision to travel for care and how quality of care is affected.

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