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Gardner LI, Marks G, Patel U, Cachay E, Wilson TE, Stirratt M, Rodriguez A, Sullivan M, Keruly JC, Giordano TP. Gaps Up To 9 Months Between HIV Primary Care Visits Do Not Worsen Viral Load. AIDS Patient Care and Stds. 2018 Apr 1; 32(4):157-164.
Current guidelines specify that visit intervals with viral monitoring should not exceed 6 months for HIV patients. Yet, gaps in care exceeding 6 months are common. In an observational cohort using US patients, we examined the association between gap length and changes in viral load status and sought to determine the length of the gap at which significant increases in viral load occur. We identified patients with gaps in care greater than 6 months from 6399 patients from six US HIV clinics. Gap strata were > 6 to < 7, 7 to < 8, 8 to < 9, 9 to < 12, and = 12 months, with viral load measurements matched to the opening and closing dates for the gaps. We examined visit gap lengths in association with two viral load measurements: continuous (log viral load at gap opening and closing) and dichotomous (whether patients initially suppressed but lost viral suppression by close of the care gap). Viral load increases were nonsignificant or modest when gap length was < 9 months, corresponding to 10% or fewer patients who lost viral suppression. For gaps = 12 months, there was a significant increase in viral load as well as a much larger loss of viral suppression (in 23% of patients). Detrimental effects on viral load after a care gap were greater in young patients, black patients, and those without private health insurance. On average, shorter gaps in care were not detrimental to patient viral load status. HIV primary care visit intervals of 6 to 9 months for select patients may be appropriate.