The role of the general practitioner in the Australian approach to HIV care: interviews with ‘key informants’ from government, non-government and professional organisations

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Abstract

Objectives

HIV care is provided in a range of settings in Australia, but advances in HIV treatment and demographic and geographic changes in the affected population and general practitioner (GP) workforce are testing the sustainability of the special role for GPs. This paper explores how a group of ‘key informants’ described the role of the GP in the Australian approach to HIV care, and conceptualised the challenges currently inspiring debate around future models of care.

Methods

A thematic analysis was conducted of semistructured interviews carried out in 2010 with 24 professionals holding senior roles in government, non-government and professional organisations that influence Australian HIV care policy.

Results

The strengths of the role of the GP were described as their community setting, collaborative partnership with other medical and health professions, and focus on patient needs. A number of associated challenges were also identified including the different needs of GPs with high and low HIV caseloads, the changing expectations of professional roles in general practice, and barriers to service accessibility for people living with HIV.

Conclusions

While there are many advantages to delivering HIV services in primary care, GPs need flexible models of training and accreditation, support in strengthening relationships with other health and medical professionals, and assistance in achieving service accessibility. Consideration of how to support the GP workforce so that care can be made available in the broadest range of geographical and service settings is also critical if systems of HIV care delivery are to be realistic and cost-effective and meet consumer needs.

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