Impact of insurance coverage on HIV transmission potential among antiretroviral therapy-treated youth living with HIV

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Abstract

Objective:

To identify the prevalence of high HIV transmission potential in a cohort of youth living with HIV (YLWH), and determine the impact of insurance coverage on potential for HIV transmission.

Design:

Retrospective cohort study of antiretroviral therapy (ART)-treated YLWH at a US adolescent HIV clinic, 2002–2015.

Methods:

The primary exposure was presence or absence of insurance, defined as private, public or pharmacy-only coverage. The primary outcome was high HIV transmission potential, defined as time-concurrent incident bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STI) (gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis) and HIV RNA greater than 1500 copies/ml. Marginal structural models adjusting for baseline demographic covariates, prior history of STI and time-varying retention in care assessed the relationship between insurance status and HIV transmission potential.

Results:

Participants (n = 240) were followed for a median of 22 (IQR 8.1–49) months after ART initiation, and were predominately African-American men and transgender women who have sex with men, with a median age at HIV diagnosis of 19 years (IQR 17–21). We identified 37 (15%) participants with at least one episode of high HIV transmission potential. Insurance coverage was associated with a greater than 50% lower odds of high HIV transmission potential (aOR 0.46, 95% CI 0.26–0.84), and history of STI at or before entry to HIV care conferred more than three-fold higher odds of high transmission potential (aOR 3.21, 95% CI 1.55–6.63).

Conclusion:

We found 15% of YLWH to have episodic high HIV transmission potential despite receiving ART. Insurance coverage, including pharmacy-only benefits, was protective against transmission risk, suggesting a pivotal role for universal ART coverage in treatment as prevention.

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