Background: The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care continuum has become an important tool for evaluating HIV care. Current depictions of the care continuum are often cross-sectional and evaluate retention and viral suppression (VS) in a single year, yet the National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for programs with long-lasting outcomes.
Methods: Retrospective chart review of HIV-infected patients enrolled in a large, urban clinic in 2010 followed longitudinally for 36 months. McNemar comparisons and logistic regression analyses were conducted to evaluate covariate association with continuous retention and VS. Generalized estimating equation log-linear models were used to integrate time into the model.
Results: Among 655 patients (77% male, 83% black, 54% men who have sex with men (MSM), 78% uninsured) continuous retention/VS at 12 months (84%/64%), 24 months (60%/48%), and 36 months (49%/39%) showed significant attrition (P < .0001) over time. Continuous retention was associated with prevalent VS at the end of 36 months (adjusted prevalence ratio 3.12; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.40, 4.07). 12-month retention for black (84%) and nonblack (85%) patients was equivalent, yet fewer blacks (46%) than nonblacks (63%) achieved 36-month continuous retention due to a significant interaction between race and time (aOR 0.75, 95% CI, .59, .95).
Conclusions: Continuous retention is a critically important measure of long-term success in HIV treatment and the crucial component of successful treatment-as-prevention but is infrequently evaluated. Single cross-sections may overestimate successful retention and virologic outcomes. A longitudinal HIV care continuum provides greater insight into long-term outcomes and exposes disparities not evident with traditional cross-sectional care continua.
Keywords: HIV; care continuum; continuous retention; disparity; viral suppression.
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