Evaluation of a Client-Centered Linkage Intervention for Patients Newly Diagnosed with HIV at an Urban United States LGBT Center: The Linkage to Care Specialist Project
Linkage to care (LTC) is a key element of the HIV care continuum, and a crucial bridge from testing and diagnosis to receipt of antiretroviral therapies and viral suppression. In 2012, the Los Angeles LGBT Center hired a full-time LTC specialist (LTC-S), who developed a unique client-centered approach to LTC. This single-arm demonstration project was designed to systematically evaluate the LTC-S intervention. Individuals who were newly diagnosed with HIV between March 2014 and September 2015 were eligible for enrollment. The LTC-S draws heavily from principles of motivational interviewing and strengths-based case management, helping to normalize fears while guiding clients at a pace that reflects individual needs and resources. These tailored, targeted methods facilitate the rapid development of rapport, enabling the LTC-S to help clients address particular reactions and barriers to care more effectively. Of the 118 newly HIV-diagnosed individuals who enrolled, 111 (94.1%) saw an HIV primary care provider within 3 months of diagnosis; the LTC-S spent an average of 2.1 h working with each participant. Enrolled clients were a racially diverse, urban group composed primarily of young men who have sex with men. The LTC-S intervention was effective in promoting LTC among this sample. Our results demonstrate that client-centered, resiliency-based LTC services can be seamlessly integrated into an existing HIV testing program, thereby increasing the chances that newly diagnosed individuals will link to care.