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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.

In 2013, the HIV Care Continuum Initiative was started as the next step to advance the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The Initiative will:

  • “Mobilize and coordinate Federal efforts in response to recent advances regarding how to prevent and treat HIV infection
  • Support further integration of HIV prevention and care efforts
  • Promote expansion of successful HIV testing and service delivery models
  • Encourage innovative approaches to addressing barriers to accessing testing and treatment
  • Ensure that Federal resources are appropriately focused on implementing evidence-based interventions that improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum.”

The HIV Care Continuum Initiative also established the HIV Care Continuum Working Group to ensure that federal efforts are coordinated to improve outcomes for populations with HIV.

Steps in the HIV Care Continuum
The AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) Program provides resources and implementation considerations for each step of the HIV care continuum. The program models described in Module 2 are organized using the HIV Care Continuum framework. As outlined by the AETC Program, there are six steps in the HIV care continuum:

Many organizations adapt the HIV Care Continuum to better fit their goals. For instance, some organizations have adapted the continuum to begin with prevention, while others begin with diagnosis as the first step. The continuum has also been referred to by other names such as the HIV treatment cascade. The CDC uses the HIV Care Continuum to monitor the outcomes of different subpopulations at different stages of the continuum.

Resources to Learn More

HIV Care Continuum
Website includes many resources related to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and also includes resources outlining the steps that comprise the HIV care continuum. This resource details the HIV care continuum and the stages of care that a person living with HIV/AIDS will go through from the time when they are first diagnosed with HIV to the final stage of the continuum where viral suppression has been achieved.

Rural vs. Non-Rural HIV Care Continuum Differences: Study Results and AETC Program Interventions
This webinar discusses results of a study looking at rural vs. non-rural people living with HIV in 18 U.S. jurisdictions, along with AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) Program interventions being done in different rural regions of the U.S. to increase HIV prevention, testing, linkage, retention, and viral load suppression interventions for persons living with HIV. Includes slides and a link to the webinar recording.
Organization(s): AETC Rural Health Committee, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 6/2015

Understanding the HIV Care Continuum
The article provides background on the care continuum, explaining its history and different steps. It also provides an explanation of how the CDC monitors progress through the care continuum at the national level, including the two major HIV surveillance systems used by the CDC.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 12/2014