Background: Timely linkage to appropriate care after human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis is critical to optimizing patient outcomes. Medicaid is the largest source of health care coverage for patients with HIV in the United States, yet no studies of linkage to appropriate HIV care have focused solely on the Medicaid population.
Methods: This is a retrospective study using Medicaid claims data from 15 states. Study sample comprised patients aged 18 to 64 years with 1 or more HIV tests between January 1, 2003, to May 1, 2010, followed or accompanied by HIV diagnosis. The “Test Index” corresponded to the HIV test that was temporally proximate to first HIV diagnosis. Study end point was linkage to appropriate HIV care, defined as receipt of CD4 and viral load tests as per US treatment guidelines. Time-to-event analyses characterized patterns and correlates of linkage to appropriate care.
Results: This study included 6684 patients, with a mean age of 35 years, 70% female, and 47% black race. Overall, 21.0% of patients linked to appropriate care within 1 year of the Test Index and 26.4% within 5 years. Compared with whites, blacks had a significantly shorter time to linkage to HIV appropriate care (hazard ratio, 2.034; P < 0.001).
Conclusions: These findings in Medicaid patients newly diagnosed with HIV contrast with prior research show disparities in access to HIV care favoring whites. Overall, the proportion of patients who linked to appropriate HIV care was very low given the availability of effective treatment, suggesting a need for more effective interventions promoting timely linkage to appropriate care after diagnosis.