Objective: HIV transmission is influenced by status awareness and receipt of care and treatment. We analyzed these attributes of named partners of persons with acute HIV infection (index AHI cases) to characterize the transmission landscape in North Carolina (NC).
Design: Secondary analysis of programmatic data.
Methods: We used data from the NC Screening and Tracing of Active Transmission Program (2002-2013) to determine HIV status (uninfected, AHI, or chronic HIV infection [CHI]), diagnosis status (new or previously-diagnosed), and care and treatment status (not in care, in care and not on treatment, in care and on treatment) of index AHI cases' named partners. We developed an algorithm identifying the most likely transmission source among known HIV-infected partners to estimate the proportion of transmissions arising from contact with persons at different HIV continuum stages. We conducted a complementary analysis among a subset of index AHI cases and partners with phylogenetically-linked viruses.
Results: Overall, 358 index AHI cases named 932 partners, of which 218 were found to be HIV-infected (162 (74.3%) previously-diagnosed, 11 (5.0%) new AHI, 45 (20.6%) new CHI). Most transmission events appeared attributable to previously-diagnosed partners (77.4%, 95% confidence interval 69.4-85.3%). Among these previously-diagnosed partners, 23.2% (14.0-32.3%) were reported as in care and on treatment near the index AHI case diagnosis date. In the subset study of 33 phylogenetically-linked cases and partners, 60.6% of partners were previously diagnosed (43.9-77.3%).
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of HIV transmission in this setting appears attributable to contact with previously-diagnosed partners, reinforcing the need for improved engagement in care after diagnosis.