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HIV Med. 2011 Oct;12(9):525-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-1293.2011.00921.x. Epub 2011 Apr 24.

Can community health workers improve adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy in the USA? A review of the literature.

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Jay Weiss Center for Social Medicine and Health Equity, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA.



Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has transformed HIV infection into a manageable chronic illness, yet AIDS mortality among ethnic minorities persists in the USA. HAART nonadherence is associated with increased HIV viral load, low CD4 cell count and racial disparities in HIV outcomes. While there is no universal consensus on how to improve medical adherence in HIV-positive populations, the community health worker (CHW) model is emerging as an effective strategy to overcome barriers to HAART adherence. Although utilized in international settings, there is little evidence regarding the effects of CHWs on HIV outcomes in the USA.


We performed a comprehensive search from May 2010 to November 2010 to identify studies carried out in the USA that utilized CHWs to improve HAART adherence and measured HIV viral loads and CD4 cell counts to assess intervention effects. Sixteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed for this article. All studies reported clinical HIV outcomes.


Interventions that lasted at least 24 weeks, provided frequent contact with participants, and focused on medication management were associated with improved HAART adherence, as indicated by reduced HIV viral load and increased CD4 cell count.


Compared with current standards of care, CHW programmes may offer a practical and cost-effective alternative to improve HAART adherence, which may lead to reduced HIV viral load and increased CD4 cell counts among HIV-positive populations in the USA.

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