Recent advances in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) therapy have significantly
reduced HIV-related mortality in the developed world, but mortality rates
have plateaued, and AIDS remains a leading cause of serious illness and death
for young adults. The chronic nature of the HIV disease course and the increasing
burden of cumulative HIV-related morbidity and treatment-related toxic effects
pose new challenges to the care of patients over time. Uncertainties about
prognosis and the promise and limitations of rapidly evolving therapies have
made decision making about advance care planning and end-of-life issues more
complex and elusive than when the disease course was more uniform, rapid,
and predictable. The emerging biomedical paradigm of highly active antiretroviral
therapy (HAART) as the cornerstone of treatment has helped to transform HIV
into a manageable chronic disease, yet at the same time has resulted in a
more narrow focus and a de facto separation between disease-specific "curative"
and symptom-specific "palliative" care for patients with HIV/AIDS. As patients
survive longer in the latter stages of progressive HIV disease, they may in
fact have increasing need for comprehensive symptom management as well as
wide-ranging need for psychosocial, family, and care planning support. In
the HAART era, the false dichotomy of curative vs palliative care for patients
with HIV/AIDS must be supplanted by a more integrated model to provide comprehensive
care for patients with advanced HIV disease and their families.
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