A study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and National Institute of Mental Health (both within the National Institutes of Health) found that peer-to-peer engagement helped individuals with unsuppressed HIV connect to treatment services and achieve viral suppression.  According to Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAD, the study demonstrates that “populations not engaged in care are indeed reachable when a concerted effort is made, underscoring the importance of developing and optimizing strategies to identify people with HIV and connect them to HIV treatment services.”

The study assessed an HIV prevention strategy involving a peer-to-peer recruitment method to identify, recruit and link men and transgender women with unsuppressed HIV to treatment services.  Of the 144 men and transgender women with unsuppressed HIV, 84% were black and 7% were of Latin descent, two-thirds of participants were unemployed, and 64% reported an annual income less than $20,000.  Participants were randomly selected to either work with case managers who helped them navigate health care and supportive services, or were enrolled in existing programs offering HIV treatment services at participating clinics.  After 12 months, 48% of all study participants had achieved and maintained viral suppression.

As you know, Ryan White HIV/AIDS providers are achieving record levels of viral suppression – reaching a rate of 85.9% in 2017.  RWCs play an important role in connecting and providing individuals with unsuppressed HIV the treatment and support services necessary to achieve viral suppression.  Although not addressed in the study, peer-to-peer engagement is not typically covered by insurance plans.  The 340B program allows RWCs to stretch their grant funds so that they can offer a wider range of services and provide the full continuum of care needed by persons living with HIV/AIDS.  Peer-to-peer engagement is an example of the kind of services that RWCs can provide with the support of the 340B program.

The results of the study were reported at the 2019 IAS Conference on HIV Science.  The study is currently closed for follow-up and results have not been officially published.  For additional details about the study, please visit the HIV Prevention Trials Network website.