(EDGE) The AIDS United Access to Care initiative expanded access to high-quality, life-extending care to over 5,000 people living with HIV, exceeded national viral suppression rates by 27 percent and saved up to $8.83 in future HIV-related medical care for every $1 spent. These innovative models put client health first and move communities closer to achieving the goals and progress indicators in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Updated to 2020.
In the United States, more than 1.2 million people live with HIV and more than 45,000 people newly contract HIV each year. Bringing people living with HIV into and retaining them in care is critical to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country. HIV can be managed well with proper care and medications yet far too many people do not have access to the treatment and care they need to live well.
"I know personally that HIV treatment works," said AIDS United President & CEO Jesse Milan, Jr. who has been living with HIV for decades. "Not only does medication improve individual health, treatment is also a proven method of HIV prevention. Yet, less than one-third of people living with HIV in this country consistently receive the medical care needed to achieve an undetectable viral load."
Access to Care, a public-private partnership between AIDS United, the Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund and 14 private national funders, supported 12 grantees over five years as they designed and implemented innovative programs to expand access to and support consistent engagement in care. The initiative granted over $14 million to the field and leveraged an additional $14 million in local match funding and has generated dozens of freely available articles, tools and resources for the field.
Grantee projects are as diverse as the communities they are designed to serve and range from pioneering work to bring telemedicine to the rural South, bridging the gap between jail and the community and supporting deeper and more meaningful integration of peers into care settings.
A pivotal component of the Access to Care initiative is a rigorous multi-pronged evaluation, led by David Holtgrave, Ph.D. and Catherine Maulsby, M.P.H., Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that measured health outcomes, community impact and cost benefit of each model.
"Our analysis found that Access to Care sites consistently exceeded national benchmarks for linkage to and retention in care, prescription of HIV medications, and viral suppression. Linkage and retention in care programs like Access to Care that are evidence-based and serve the most vulnerable populations are needed if we aim to meet the goals put forward by the National HIV AIDS Strategy," said Maulsby.
"We won't end this epidemic until all people living with HIV are in care. Access to Care and the findings it represents show all of us ways to get to the end of AIDS," said Milan.