Poor retention in care is associated with higher viral load (VL) results and decreased rates of viral load suppression (VS) in people living with HIV (PLWH). Therefore, improving retention in HIV care is a priority of national significance. The NC-LINK Retention Project utilized a systematic approach to identify, locate, and attempt to return to care patients who did not attend a clinic appointment for 6-9 months. Clinical and surveillance data were used to evaluate associations between patient characteristics and VL outcomes. Between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014, 1118 patients at participating clinics were identified as out-of-care and referred to retention staff. Of these, 712 (64%) were located in North Carolina. Patients with recent prior medical care (aPR 1.43, 95% CI 1.25, 1.66) and recent VS (aPR 1.28, 95% CI 1.16, 1.41) were more likely to be located. Of located patients, 58% re-engaged in care within 90 days of retention referral. Patients who achieved VS within 180 days were more likely to be 40-49 years (aPR 1.19 95% CI 1.01-1.40; compared with 18-29 age group), had insurance at their last visit (aPR 1.19 95% CI 1.01-1.77), had a care visit in the prior year (aPR 1.37 95% CI 1.05-1.77), and had VS at the prior care visit (aPR 2.54 95% CI 1.98-3.25). Clinic-based retention efforts may be effective at helping PLWH decrease out-of-care periods, but prior patterns of care usage persist.
Keywords: HIV care; Out-of-care; Retention in care.