While treatment has been made available to Americans with HIV regardless of their socioeconomic background, vulnerable and underprivileged populations are having trouble staying in treatment.
Both African-Americans -- the racial/ethnic group most severely burdened by HIV in the United States -- and Latinos with HIV are less likely to remain in treatment than whites, Kaiser Health News reported in December.
According to the CDC, of African-Americans diagnosed with HIV in 2013, 79 percent were linked to HIV medical care within 3 months, but only 51 percent were retained in HIV care (receiving continuous HIV medical care).
In addition, African American men are more than seven times and Latino men are almost twice as likely to die from HIV-related complications compared to white men, KHN reported.
One of the reasons for the relative lack of treatment received by minority groups is the reality that many of them face social and economic challenges that make it difficult for them to make treatment a priority.
Anthony Hayes, managing director of public affairs and policy for GMHC, formerly Gay Men’s Health Crisis, told KHN that there is an "extreme disparity" when it comes to HIV/AIDS treatments.
"It’s very hard to talk about HIV prevention with someone who is homeless or someone who isn’t sure where they’re going to find their next meal," he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Edward Machtinger, professor and director of the Women’s HIV Program at the University of California, San Francisco, told KHN that many of his patients face problems such as poverty, domestic abuse, addiction and mental illness -- issues that "Medicine and HIV primary care has not considered...to be in their domain and their responsibility."
Healthify's goal is to efficiently connect the underprivileged to social programs that can help address basic needs such as housing, job placement, drug rehabilitation and mental health services.
In addressing these social determinants of health, Healthify's hope is that vulnerable people, such as a HIV-infected member of a minority group, can overcome social and economic barriers to get to the treatments they need.