Improving linkage to HIV care at low-threshold STI/HIV testing sites: An evaluation of the Immediate Staging Pilot Project in Vancouver, British Columbia

Bobbi Brownrigg, Darlene Taylor, Felicia Phan, Irvine Sandstra, Rochelle Stimpson, Rolando Barrios, Richard Lester, Gina Ogilvie


OBJECTIVES: The objective of the Immediate Staging Pilot Project (ISPP) was to improve linkage to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care by increasing the number of referrals made to HIV care, and to decrease the time between diagnosis and linkage to care for newly diagnosed HIV clients. This pilot had the potential to decrease HIV transmission at a population level by engaging clients in treatment earlier.

SETTING: The Bute Street Clinic and Health Initiative for Men Clinic on Davie in Vancouver, British Columbia are low-threshold public health facilities providing HIV/STI testing primarily to men who have sex with men (MSM).

INTERVENTION: To improve engagement of MSM in the cascade of HIV care, the BC Centre for Disease Control implemented a 12-month ISPP in 2012 for clients newly diagnosed with HIV. The pilot offered CD4 and viral load testing at the time of diagnosis, implemented improved referral procedures and enhanced nursing support for clients.

OUTCOMES: Comparing linkage to care outcomes between a group that received the standard of care (SOC) and an intervention group that received immediate staging, the median linkage to care time decreased from 21.5 to 14.0 days respectively (p = 0.053). The referral rates to HIV care were 56.1% in the SOC group and 94.1% in the intervention group (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Creating best practices that include offering CD4 and viral load testing at the time of diagnosis, enhanced nursing support and standardized referral processes has facilitated an improvement in the quality of HIV services provided to MSM clients attending low-threshold clinics.


Linkage to care; continuum of care; HIV; men who have sex with men; low-threshold sites; outcome assessment (health care)

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