Financial Incentives for Linkage to Care and Viral Suppression Among HIV-Positive Patients: A Randomized Clinical Trial (HPTN 065)

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ImportanceAchieving linkage to care and viral suppression in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive patients improves their well-being and prevents new infections. Current gaps in the HIV care continuum substantially limit such benefits.ObjectiveTo evaluate the effectiveness of financial incentives on linkage to care and viral suppression in HIV-positive patients.Design, Setting, and ParticipantsA large community-based clinical trial that randomized 37 HIV test and 39 HIV care sites in the Bronx, New York, and Washington, DC, to financial incentives or standard of care.InterventionsParticipants at financial incentive test sites who had positive test results for HIV received coupons redeemable for $125 cash-equivalent gift cards upon linkage to care. HIV-positive patients receiving antiretroviral therapy at financial incentive care sites received $70 gift cards quarterly, if virally suppressed.Main Outcomes and MeasuresLinkage to care: proportion of HIV-positive persons at the test site who linked to care within 3 months, as indicated by CD4+ and/or viral load test results done at a care site. Viral suppression: proportion of established patients at HIV care sites with suppressed viral load (<400 copies/mL), assessed at each calendar quarter. Outcomes assessed through laboratory test results reported to the National HIV Surveillance System.ResultsA total of 1061 coupons were dispensed for linkage to care at 18 financial incentive test sites and 39 359 gift cards were dispensed to 9641 HIV-positive patients eligible for gift cards at 17 financial incentive care sites. Financial incentives did not increase linkage to care (adjusted odds ratio, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.73-1.67; P = .65). However, financial incentives significantly increased viral suppression. The overall proportion of patients with viral suppression was 3.8% higher (95% CI, 0.7%-6.8%; P = .01) at financial incentive sites compared with standard of care sites. Among patients not previously consistently virally suppressed, the proportion virally suppressed was 4.9% higher (95% CI, 1.4%-8.5%; P = .007) at financial incentive sites. In addition, continuity in care was 8.7% higher (95% CI, 4.2%-13.2%; P < .001) at financial incentive sites.Conclusions and RelevanceFinancial incentives, as used in this study (HPTN 065), significantly increased viral suppression and regular clinic attendance among HIV-positive patients in care. No effect was noted on linkage to care. Financial incentives offer promise for improving adherence to treatment and viral suppression among HIV-positive patients.Trial Identifier: NCT01152918

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