Importance: Achieving linkage to care and viral suppression in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive patients improves their well-being and prevents new infections. Current gaps in the HIV care continuum substantially limit such benefits.
Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of financial incentives on linkage to care and viral suppression in HIV-positive patients.
Design, setting, and participants: A large community-based clinical trial that randomized 37 HIV test and 39 HIV care sites in the Bronx, New York, and Washington, DC, to financial incentives or standard of care.
Interventions: Participants at financial incentive test sites who had positive test results for HIV received coupons redeemable for $125 cash-equivalent gift cards upon linkage to care. HIV-positive patients receiving antiretroviral therapy at financial incentive care sites received $70 gift cards quarterly, if virally suppressed.
Main outcomes and measures: Linkage to care: proportion of HIV-positive persons at the test site who linked to care within 3 months, as indicated by CD4+ and/or viral load test results done at a care site. Viral suppression: proportion of established patients at HIV care sites with suppressed viral load (<400 copies/mL), assessed at each calendar quarter. Outcomes assessed through laboratory test results reported to the National HIV Surveillance System.
Results: A total of 1061 coupons were dispensed for linkage to care at 18 financial incentive test sites and 39 359 gift cards were dispensed to 9641 HIV-positive patients eligible for gift cards at 17 financial incentive care sites. Financial incentives did not increase linkage to care (adjusted odds ratio, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.73-1.67; P = .65). However, financial incentives significantly increased viral suppression. The overall proportion of patients with viral suppression was 3.8% higher (95% CI, 0.7%-6.8%; P = .01) at financial incentive sites compared with standard of care sites. Among patients not previously consistently virally suppressed, the proportion virally suppressed was 4.9% higher (95% CI, 1.4%-8.5%; P = .007) at financial incentive sites. In addition, continuity in care was 8.7% higher (95% CI, 4.2%-13.2%; P < .001) at financial incentive sites.
Conclusions and relevance: Financial incentives, as used in this study (HPTN 065), significantly increased viral suppression and regular clinic attendance among HIV-positive patients in care. No effect was noted on linkage to care. Financial incentives offer promise for improving adherence to treatment and viral suppression among HIV-positive patients.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01152918.