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An exploratory study to characterize the HIV testing-to-care continuum to improve outcomes for Black and Latinx residents of South Los Angeles



South Los Angeles (SPA6), with mostly Black (27.4%) and Latinx (68.2%) residents, has the second highest rates of new HIV diagnoses (31 per 100,000) in Los Angeles County. However, there is limited understanding of the HIV testing-to-care continuum among newly diagnosed in this setting.


We conducted an exploratory study that analyzed de-identified data, including demographic characteristics and biomedical outcomes, from the electronic medical records of individuals newly diagnosed with HIV from 2016-2020 at the only public safety-net, county-run health department HIV clinic in SPA 6. We used Pearson Chi-square and Fisher's Exact test to explore associations with HIV outcomes and a Kaplan-Meier survival curve to assess the time to linkage to care.


A total of 281 patients were identified. The majority (74.1%) presented with a baseline CD4 <500, many of which presented with a CD4<200 (39.2%). We found twice as many newly diagnosed Black individuals in our study population (48.2%) when compared to LAC (23%), despite only accounting for 27.4% of residents in SPA 6. The majority were linked to care within 30 days of positive test and prescribed anti-retroviral therapy. Viral suppression (59.8%) and undetectable VL (52.6%) were achieved within the year following diagnosis, with 9.3% lost to follow-up. Of those who became virally suppressed, 20.7% experienced viral rebound within the year following diagnosis.


The large proportion of patients with a baseline CD4 <500 raises concerns about late diagnoses. Despite high rates of linkage to care and ART prescription, achievement of sustained viral suppression remains low with high rates of viral rebound. Longitudinal studies are needed to understand the barriers to early testing, retention in care, and treatment adherence to develop strategies and interventions with community organizations that respond to the unique needs of people living with HIV in South Los Angeles.

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