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The HIV Care Continuum

The HIV care continuum describes the steps that a person infected with HIV must follow in order to achieve viral suppression. Viral suppression — having a low level of virus in the body — is essential in preventing an HIV-positive person from developing AIDS. The continuum outlines a person's engagement with receiving HIV care. An individual may advance through the care continuum on the path to viral suppression and may at certain points return to a previous stage.

Steps in the HIV Care Continuum

Several program models described in Module 2 are organized using the HIV care continuum framework. There are five steps included in the HIV care continuum:

Many organizations adapt the HIV care continuum to better fit their goals. The continuum has also been referred to by other names such as the HIV treatment cascade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses the HIV care continuum to monitor the outcomes of different subpopulations at different stages of the continuum. The U.S. has set several national goals for HIV diagnosis and care, including:

  • 90% of HIV-positive people are aware of diagnosis
  • 85% of newly HIV-positive people are connected to care within one month
  • 80% of people diagnosed with HIV reach viral suppression

Resources to Learn More

HIV Care Continuum
Describes the HIV care continuum model and the stages of care a person living with HIV/AIDS will go through from the initial HIV diagnosis to the final stage of the continuum where viral suppression is achieved. Offers resources supporting HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
Organization(s):, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Rural vs. Non-Rural HIV Care Continuum Differences: Study Results and AETC Program Interventions
Presentation Slides
Discusses the results of a study comparing the continuum of care for people living with HIV in rural and urban regions of the U.S. Highlights the barriers and challenges to treating people living with HIV (PLWH) in rural areas including poverty, limited access to resources and services, prevalence of stigma, and lack of health insurance. Demonstrates how the use of telementoring (Project ECHO) provides expert knowledge to the community clinician.
Organization(s): AIDS Education and Training Centers (AETCs) Program Rural Health Committee, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Date: 6/2015

Understanding the HIV Care Continuum
Provides background information on the history and development of the HIV care continuum and the steps necessary to achieve viral suppression. Explains how the CDC monitors progress and works to improve the outcomes of the HIV care continuum at the national level.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Date: 7/2019