AIDS United Retention in Care Initiative Addresses Key Barriers Facing Medically Underserved People Living with HIV

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The three-year effort lead by the M·A·C AIDS Fund and AIDS United improved on national retention in HIV care benchmarks by 25 percent

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“We are thrilled with these results because viral suppression is key to living long and well with HIV,” said AIDS United President & CEO Jesse Milan, Jr.

The AIDS United Retention in Care (RiC) initiative, a three-year partnership launched by AIDS United and the M·A·C AIDS Fund, the philanthropic arm of M·A·C Cosmetics, to address key barriers to HIV care, announced today that these efforts improved on national retention in HIV care benchmarks by 25 percent, viral suppression by 25 percent over national averages and saved up to $6.75 for every dollar spent.

The initiative supported seven geographically diverse community-based organizations to develop innovative approaches to address specific barriers to care and better reach underserved people. Interventions ranged from “housing-first” models to smart phone apps. At its core, the initiative sheds new light on the role of stigma, discrimination and social determinants of health on retention in care and provides several promising approaches that could dramatically improve the way HIV care is delivered.

“We are thrilled with these results because viral suppression is key to living long and well with HIV,” said AIDS United President & CEO Jesse Milan, Jr. “A person living with HIV with a consistently suppressed viral load poses little to no risk of transmitting HIV. It’s key to ending the epidemic.”

According to AIDS.gov, of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, 14% do not know their HIV status. Of those that do, only 43 percent are retained in care and just 35 percent are virally suppressed. To achieve the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Updated to 2020 goals, and finally end the HIV epidemic, we still have far to go.

“When we can help people living with HIV access and stay engaged in care, we break the cycle of HIV in this country,” said Nancy Mahon, senior vice president for global philanthropy and corporate citizenship at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and global executive director of the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund. “The Retention in Care initiative not only saved lives, but it also created new blueprints and improved strategies to reach vulnerable people living with HIV. We are thrilled to be AIDS United’s partner.”

An important component of RiC was a rigorous evaluation led by Dr. David Holtgrave, Ph.D. and Dr. Catherine Maulsby, M.P.H., Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that included a deep-dive examination of specific barriers faced by the 603 people served through the initiative. For example, at enrollment 35 percent of clients served were unstably housed, 15 percent reported injection drug use and more than 25 percent were clinically depressed. “It is clear that before people can engage fully in care these basic needs must be addressed,” said Maulsby. “Addressing needs such as housing instability, unemployment, lack of transportation and affordable child care are important for HIV prevention but are too often overlooked.”

Perhaps most shocking, the evaluation found that at enrollment almost 15 percent of clients served “sometimes” or “often” avoided treatment due to the intense HIV-related stigma they faced. “Stigma and shame, fear of discrimination and lack of understanding about HIV all too often prevent people from getting tested and into lifesaving care and treatment,” said Milan. “Addressing these issues is critical to ending the epidemic.”

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About AIDS United:
AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., through strategic grant-making, capacity building, formative research and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS-related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $98 million to local communities, and have leveraged more than $115 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to, HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy. http://www.aidsunited.org.

About the M·A·C AIDS Fund:
The M·A·C AIDS Fund (MAF), the heart and soul of M·A·C Cosmetics, was established in 1994 to support men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS globally. MAF is a pioneer in HIV/AIDS funding, providing financial support to organizations working with underserved regions and populations. Recently recognized by Funders Concerned About AIDS as the top corporate giver in the arena, MAF is committed to addressing the link between poverty and HIV/AIDS by supporting diverse organizations around the world that provide a wide range of services to people living with HIV/AIDS. To date, MAF has raised more than $440 million (U.S.) exclusively through the sale of MAC's VIVA GLAM Lipstick and Lipglass donating 100 percent of the sale price to fight HIV/AIDS. For more information, go to: macaidsfund.org.

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Cody Barnett
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