February 02, 2017
4 min read

Viral suppression, linkage to care still lagging in blacks with HIV/AIDS

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Recently published data in MMWR suggest blacks have lower levels of viral suppression and medical care than other racial and ethnic groups, and improving these  numbers might be essential to achieving the National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2020 goals.

The report was released ahead of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7.

The researchers stated that the findings have greater implications than simply meeting a government project’s objective.

“Improving health outcomes for blacks living with HIV infection is necessary to reduce HIV infection in the United States,” Andre F. Dailey, MSPH, division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, CDC, and colleagues wrote.

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) 2020 goals, according to the researchers, include: 80% of all persons diagnosed with HIV to have an undetectable viral load, 85% to be linked to medical care within 1 month of their diagnosis and 90% to be retained in medical care.

Using National HIV Surveillance System data from 33 jurisdictions in persons aged 13 and older, the researchers identified 257,316 blacks living with an HIV diagnosis as of Dec. 31, 2013, which made up 65.3% of blacks living with HIV in the United States. In this group, 53.5% were retained in medical care, and 48.5% had an undetectable viral load at their most recent test. The researchers also wrote that persons aged younger than 35 years had lower percentages of linkage to care, retention in care, and viral suppression than those aged 35 years or older and that the lowest levels of care and viral suppression were among persons with infection attributed to injection drug use and in males with infection attributed to heterosexual contact. In addition, of the 12,269 blacks who received a diagnosis of HIV in 2014, 71.6% were linked to medical care 1 month or less after their HIV diagnosis.

Dailey and colleagues noted that their study did not cover all jurisdictions and thus, may not be indicative of the entire black population. Although they stated that the CDC is working with its stakeholders to make the most use of care and prevention methods already in place, work must still be done to improve the health of blacks with HIV/AIDS, which could help reach the NHAS 2020 goals.

The results of the analyses described in this report underscore the need for routine testing and greater linkage to care, retention in care, and viral suppression among blacks, particularly those who inject drugs and young males with infection attributed to heterosexual contact. Focusing prevention and care efforts on populations that bear a disproportionate burden of HIV disease could lead to reductions in HIV incidence and health inequities,” Dailey and colleagues wrote. “Focusing on HIV prevention and care among blacks might be beneficial in meeting NHAS 2020 goals of improving care outcomes and reducing HIV-related racial/ethnic disparities in the United States.”

In an additional report by the CDC, researchers found that between 2010 and 2014, the disparity in HIV diagnosis rates and the overall HIV diagnosis rates among black, Latina and white women decreased.– by Janel Miller

Disclosure: Healio Family Medicine was unable to determine researchers’ relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.

Further reading: https://www.aids.gov/federal-resources/national-hiv-aids-strategy/overview/ (accessed 02-01-17)