Suboptimal geographic accessibility to comprehensive HIV care in the US: regional and urban-rural differences

J Int AIDS Soc. 2019 May;22(5):e25286. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25286.


Achieving US state and municipal benchmarks to end the HIV epidemic and promote health equity requires access to comprehensive HIV care. However, this care may not be geographically accessible for all people living with HIV (PLHIV). We estimated county-level drive time and suboptimal geographic accessibility to HIV care across the contiguous US, assessing regional and urban-rural differences. We integrated publicly available data from four federal databases to identify and geocode sites providing comprehensive HIV care in 2015, defined as the co-located provision of core HIV medical care and support services. Leveraging street network, US Census and HIV surveillance data (2014), we used geographic analysis to estimate the fastest one-way drive time between the population-weighted county centroid and the nearest site providing HIV care for counties reporting at least five diagnosed HIV cases. We summarized HIV care sites, county-level drive time, population-weighted drive time and suboptimal geographic accessibility to HIV care, by US region and county rurality (2013). Geographic accessibility to HIV care was suboptimal if drive time was >30 min, a common threshold for primary care accessibility in the general US population. Tests of statistical significance were not performed, since the analysis is population-based. We identified 671 HIV care sites across the US, with 95% in urban counties. Nationwide, the median county-level drive time to HIV care is 69 min (interquartile range (IQR) 66 min). The median county-level drive time to HIV care for rural counties (90 min, IQR 61) is over twice that of urban counties (40 min, IQR 48), with the greatest urban-rural differences in the West. Nationally, population-weighted drive time, an approximation of individual-level drive time, is over five times longer in rural counties than in urban counties. Geographic access to HIV care is suboptimal for over 170,000 people diagnosed with HIV (19%), with over half of these individuals from the South and disproportionately the rural South. Nationally, approximately 80,000 (9%) drive over an hour to receive HIV care. Suboptimal geographic accessibility to HIV care is an important structural barrier in the US, particularly for rural residents living with HIV in the South and West. Targeted policies and interventions to address this challenge should become a priority.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; access to care; disparities; geography; rural; travel time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual
  • Geography, Medical
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Rural Population
  • United States