Antiretroviral medication treatment for all HIV-infected individuals: A protocol using innovative multilevel methodologies to evaluate New York City's universal ART policy among problem substance users

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Abstract

Background: The intersection of HIV-related health outcomes and problem substance use has been well documented. New York City continues to be a focal point of the U.S. HIV epidemic. In 2011, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) issued a recommendation that all HIV infected individuals should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART) regardless of CD4 cell count or other indicators of disease progression. This policy is based in the concept of "treatment as prevention," in which providing ART to people living with HIV (PLWH) greatly reduces the likelihood of HIV transmission, while also improving individual health. The "ART for ALL" (AFA) study was designed to inform modifications to and identify gaps in the implementation of universal ART, and specifically to help guide allocation of resources to obtain local policy goals for increasing viral suppression among PLWH who have problem substance use. Methods/Design: The AFA Study is informed by two complementary frameworks: Glasgow and colleagues' RE-AIM model, a multi-level framework developed to guide the evaluation of implementation of new policies, and Bronfrenbrenner's ecological systems model, which conceptualizes the bi-directional interplay between people and their environment. Using multi-level data and mixed methods, the primary aims of the AFA Study are to assess rates of viral load suppression, using the NYC HIV Surveillance Registry, within 12 months of HIV diagnosis with (a) yearly cohorts of high-risk-to-transmit, difficult-to-treat, substance using patients recruited from NYC Sexually Transmitted Disease clinics and a large detoxification unit and (b) yearly cohorts of all newly HIV diagnosed people in NYC. Further goals include (c) recruiting cross-sectional samples of HIV/AIDS service providers to assess ART initiation with problem substance users and d) examining geographic factors that influence rates of viral load suppression. An Implementation Collaborative Board meets regularly to guide study procedures and interpret results. Discussion: The AFA Study has the unique strength of accessing and analyzing data at multiple levels using mixed methodology, taking advantage of NYC DOHMH biomedical surveillance data. If successful, others may benefit from lessons learned to inform local and state policies to improve the health of PLWH and further reduce HIV transmission.

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Campbell, A. N. C., Des Jarlais, D., Hannah, C., Braunstein, S., Tross, S., Kersanske, L., … Wolff, M. (2016). Antiretroviral medication treatment for all HIV-infected individuals: A protocol using innovative multilevel methodologies to evaluate New York City’s universal ART policy among problem substance users. BMC Health Services Research, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-016-1554-8

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