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Opinion

Breaking Down Barriers to HIV Care

January 27, 2017

We have the tools to keep people living with HIV healthy and virally suppressed, but in the U.S., fewer than half of people living with HIV are taking antiretroviral medications, with only about a third virally suppressed. Looking closer, these rates are even lower among some underserved populations, such as transgender women of color, people living in poverty, and people who are unstably housed. To change that, we set off to find strategies to counter some of our country's most stubborn barriers to HIV care, such as lack of transportation, housing instability, poverty, HIV stigma, and more.

Working with the M·A·C AIDS Fund and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, we supported seven community-based organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate innovative approaches to address barriers to HIV care and better reach underserved communities. Grantee programs focused on a range of people including individuals who are unstably housed, transgender people, women, rural people, and people living in poverty. The grantees developed tailored programs to meet the needs in their community, from housing-first models, smart phone apps, to trans-specific care. Collectively, grantees improved retention in care rates by 21%.


Retention in Care Initiative at a Glance


By creating systems to break down barriers to care and support holistic client health, grantees did a better job helping people living with HIV to stay engaged in care and manage their HIV than national averages. On top of that, the program was cost effective, saving up to $6.75 for every dollar spent!

"Addressing needs such as housing instability, unemployment, lack of transportation, and affordable child care are important for HIV prevention but are too often overlooked," explained Catherine Maulsby, M.P.H., Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who worked on the evaluation of the program.

Moving forward, we hope that the field will see barriers to care as an opportunity for creativity and engagement. The seven RiC grantees were incredibly successful in countering barriers to care and HIV stigma, and we are hopeful that this momentum will continue, moving us closer to ending the epidemic.

Learn more about the Retention in Care initiative grantees, program models, and tools to support your organization here!


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This article was provided by AIDS United. Visit AIDS United's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
 

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