Evaluating the Population Impact on Racial/Ethnic Disparities in HIV in Adulthood of Intervening on Specific Targets: A Conceptual and Methodological Framework

Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Feb 1;187(2):316-325. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx247.


Reducing racial/ethnic disparities in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease is a high priority. Reductions in HIV racial/ethnic disparities can potentially be achieved by intervening on important intermediate factors. The potential population impact of intervening on intermediates can be evaluated using observational data when certain conditions are met. However, using standard stratification-based approaches commonly employed in the observational HIV literature to estimate the potential population impact in this setting may yield results that do not accurately estimate quantities of interest. Here we describe a useful conceptual and methodological framework for using observational data to appropriately evaluate the impact on HIV racial/ethnic disparities of interventions. This framework reframes relevant scientific questions in terms of a controlled direct effect and estimates a corresponding proportion eliminated. We review methods and conditions sufficient for accurate estimation within the proposed framework. We use the framework to analyze data on 2,329 participants in the CFAR [Centers for AIDS Research] Network of Integrated Clinical Systems (2008-2014) to evaluate the potential impact of universal prescription of and ≥95% adherence to antiretroviral therapy on racial disparities in HIV virological suppression. We encourage the use of the described framework to appropriately evaluate the potential impact of targeted interventions in addressing HIV racial/ethnic disparities using observational data.

Keywords: HIV; health status disparities.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / ethnology
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-HIV Agents