Improving Timely Linkage to Care among Newly Diagnosed HIV-Infected Youth: Results of SMILE

J Urban Health. 2019 Dec;96(6):845-855. doi: 10.1007/s11524-019-00391-z.


Delayed linkage to care deprives youth living with HIV of the benefits of HIV treatment and risks increased HIV transmission. Developing and testing linkage-to-care models that are capable of simultaneously addressing structural and individual obstacles are necessary to attain national goals for timely linkage of newly diagnosed youth to care. We assessed an integrated, multi-pronged strategy for improving youth's timely linkage to care carried out in eight adolescent medicine clinical trials units (AMTUs) in the USA. In phase I, the intervention strategy paired intensive medical case management with formalized relationships to local health departments, including granting of public health authority (PHA) to four of the AMTUs. In phase II, local coalitions run by the AMTUs to address structural changes to meet youth's HIV prevention and HIV testing needs began to advocate for local structural changes to improve timely access to care. Results of an ARIMA model demonstrated sustained decline in the average number of days to link to care over a 6-year period (ARIMA (1,2,1) AIC = 245.74, BIC = 248.70, p < .01)). By the end of the study, approximately 90% of youth linked to care had an initial medical visit in 42 or fewer days post-diagnosis. PHA improved the timeliness of linkage to care (b = - 69.56, p < .05). A piecewise regression suggested the addition of structural change initiatives during phase II made a statistically significant contribution to reducing time to linkage over and above achievements attained via case management alone (F (3,19) = 5.48, p < .01; Adj. R2 = .3794). Multi-level linkage-to-care interventions show promise for improving youth's timely access to HIV medical care.

Keywords: Adolescence; HIV/AIDS; Linkage-to-care; Structural change; Youth.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Young Adult