What Will It Take to End the HIV/AIDS Epidemic? Linking the Most Disenfranchised Into Care Through Outreach

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Abstract

The 2015 National HIV/AIDS Strategy renewed its goal of increasing access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and called for an increased focus on linkage to care efforts. As many PLWHA face multiple barriers to care and live on the margins of society, adoption of intensive outreach activities is necessary to engage the most disenfranchised PLWHA into care and to ultimately end the HIV epidemic. The Bay Area Network for Positive Health (BANPH), comprising 12+ agencies, established a network outreach model for our linkage-to-care project to engage the hardest-to-reach populations in the San Francisco Bay Area. During the years 2010-2013, BANPH agencies conducted street outreach, analyzed internal tracking systems to identify out-of-care individuals and individuals experiencing tenuous care, and surveyed participants using Apple iPod Touch devices. During the 3-year project, BANPH agencies engaged 602 out-of-care PLWHA and linked 440 to care. On average, outreach workers made 10 contact attempts with a client to link them to care. Sixty-three percent of participants were linked to care on an average of 56 days after initial contact. Factors, including lack of case management, lack of transportation, competing concerns, substance abuse, and HIV stigma, were significantly associated with linkageto-care outcomes. Intensive outreach efforts could help to reduce barriers to care for hard-to-reach PLWHA, but these efforts require a tremendous amount of time and resources. A network outreach model could help facilitate sharing of limited resources and increase regional outreach capacity for linkage-to-care programs.

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