Importance: Early diagnosis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, prompt linkage to and sustained care, and antiretroviral therapy are associated with reduced individual morbidity, mortality, and transmission of the virus. However, levels of these indicators may differ among population groups with HIV. Disparities in care and treatment may contribute to the higher incidence rates among groups with higher prevalence of HIV.
Objective: To examine differences between groups of persons living with HIV by sex, age, race/ethnicity, and transmission category at essential steps in the continuum of care.
Design and setting: We obtained data from the National HIV Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the number of persons living with HIV who are aware and unaware of their infection using back-calculation models. We calculated the percentage of persons linked to care within 3 months of diagnosis on the basis of CD4 level and viral load test results. We estimated the percentages of persons retained in care, prescribed antiretroviral therapy, and with viral suppression using data from the Medical Monitoring Project, a surveillance system of persons receiving HIV care in select areas representative of all such persons in the United States.
Participants: All HIV-infected persons in the United States.
Main outcomes and measures: Percentage of persons living with HIV who are aware of their infection, linked to care, retained in care, receiving antiretroviral therapy, and achieving viral suppression.
Results: Of the estimated 1,148,200 persons living with HIV in 2009 in the United States, 81.9% had been diagnosed, 65.8% were linked to care, 36.7% were retained in care, 32.7% were prescribed antiretroviral therapy, and 25.3% had a suppressed viral load (≤200 copies/mL). Overall, 857 276 persons with HIV had not achieved viral suppression, including 74.8% of male, 79.0% of black, 73.9% of Hispanic/Latino, and 70.3% of white persons. The percentage of blacks in each step of the continuum was lower than that for whites, but these differences were not statistically significant. Among persons with HIV who were 13 to 24 years of age, only 40.5% had received a diagnosis and 30.6% were linked to care. Persons aged 25 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54 years were all significantly less likely to achieve viral suppression than were persons aged 55 to 64 years.
Conclusions and relevance: Significant age disparities exist at each step of the continuum of care. Additional efforts are needed to ensure that all persons with HIV receive a diagnosis and optimal care to reduce morbidity, mortality, disparities in care and treatment, and ultimately HIV transmission. Ensuring that people stay in care and receive treatment will increase the proportion of HIV-infected individuals who achieve and maintain a suppressed viral load.