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AIDS. 2019 Apr 1;33(5):825-832. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000002124.

RAPID antiretroviral therapy: high virologic suppression rates with immediate antiretroviral therapy initiation in a vulnerable urban clinic population.

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Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine.
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco, California, USA.



Little is known about long-term viral suppression rates for patients who start antiretroviral therapy (ART) soon after diagnosis. We describe virologic outcomes from the San Francisco-based Ward 86 Rapid ART Program for Individuals with an HIV Diagnosis (RAPID) ART program.


Retrospective review of clinic-based cohort.


In 2013, Ward 86 adopted immediate ART at the first visit after HIV diagnosis. Patients were referred from testing sites, offered same or next-day intakes, and received multidisciplinary evaluation, support, and insurance enrollment/optimization. Patients were provided ART starter packs and close follow-up. Demographics and labs were extracted from medical records. Subsequent viral loads were obtained from public health surveillance data. Kaplan-Meier curves summarized distribution of times to first viral suppression; viral suppression rates at last viral load recorded were calculated.


Of 225 patients referred to RAPID ART from 2013 to 2017, 216 (96%) were started on immediate-ART: median age 30; 7.9% women; 11.6% African-American, 26.9% Hispanic, 36.6% white; 51.4% with substance use; 48.1% with mental health diagnoses; 30.6% unstably housed; baseline median CD4 cell count 441 cells/μl median viral load 37 011. By 1 year after intake, 95.8% achieved viral suppression to less than 200 cells/μl at least once. Over a median follow-up time of 1.09 years (0-3.92), 14.7% of patients had viral rebound, but most (78%) resuppressed. Viral suppression rates were 92.1% at last recorded viral load.


In an urban clinic with high rates of mental illness, substance use and housing instability, immediate ART provided through a RAPID program resulted in viral suppression at last viral load measurement for more than 90% of patients over a median of 1.09 years. RAPID ART for vulnerable populations is acceptable, feasible, and successful with multidisciplinary care and municipal support.

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