The prevalence of HIV among people in correctional facilities remains much higher than that of the general population. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness and acceptability of HIV treatment for individuals incarcerated in US prisons and jails. However, the period following incarceration is characterized by significant disruptions in HIV care. These disruptions include failure to link in a timely manner (or at all) to community care post-release, as well as not being retained in care after linking. We used a retrospective, propensity-matched cohort design to compare retention in care between HIV-positive individuals recently released from prison (releasees) who linked to care in Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) clinics and RWHAP patients without a recent incarceration history (community controls). We also performed analyses comparing viral load suppression of those retained in both groups. This study shows that even for those who do successfully link to care after prison, they are 24 to 29 percentage points less likely to be retained in care than those already in community care. However, we found that for those who did retain in care, there was no disparity in rates of viral suppression. These findings provide valuable insight regarding how best to address challenges associated with ensuring that HIV-positive individuals leaving prison successfully move through the HIV care continuum to become virally suppressed.
Keywords: HIV care continuum; HIV viral suppression; HIV/AIDS; Health disparities; Prisoner re-entry; Retention in HIV care; Ryan White HIV/AIDS program.