Looking Beyond the Cascade of HIV Care to End the AIDS Epidemic: Estimation of the Time Interval From HIV Infection to Viral Suppression

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Abstract

Background:

Ensuring early universal access to HIV treatment is critical to reach the end of AIDS. The cascade of HIV care has become a critical metric to assess the coverage of treatment and viral suppression, but it does not provide any information on the elapsed times between becoming HIV-infected and reaching viral suppression.

Methods:

We estimated the cascade of care, the distribution of times between steps of the care continuum, in France, in 2010, at the national level, overall and by HIV exposure groups, using statistical modelling and large datasets: the national HIV surveillance system, the general social insurance scheme, and the French Hospital Database on HIV.

Results:

We found that the overall rate of viral suppression was high, with an estimated value of 52% (95% confidence interval: 49 to 54). However, the time intervals from HIV infection to viral suppression were long; overall, the median value was 6.1 years (inter quartile range: 3.6–9.2), and it ranged from ∼5.6 years among men who have sex with men and heterosexual women to 9.6 years among injection drug users. Time lost in achieving viral suppression was mainly due to delays in HIV testing (overall median of 3.4 years), except for injection drug users where it was also due to delayed care entry once diagnosed (∼1 year in median versus <1 month for other groups).

Conclusions:

High viral suppression rate can hide large gaps between time of HIV infection and time of viral suppression. Estimates of the flow-time between steps of the care continuum should become priority indicators to identify these gaps and monitor whether interventions are successful in closing them.

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