A financial incentives program has failed to improve the viral suppression rate among substance users living with HIV.

Publishing their findings in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers studied a structured patient navigation intervention, given with or without financial incentives, intended to improve viral suppression rates among substance users with elevated viral loads.

Between July 2012 and January 2014, 801 HIV-positive substance users who were patients at 11 U.S. hospitals were randomly assigned to receive a patient navigation intervention, a patient navigation intervention plus financial incentives or treatment as usual.

The patient navigation system included up to 11 sessions of health care coordination with case management and motivational interviewing over six months. The financial incentives could be as great as $1,160 and were given when participants achieved certain benchmark behaviors with the ultimate purpose of lowering substance use, increasing their engagement with HIV-related health care and improving HIV-related health outcomes. Treatment as usual meant the hospital followed its standard practice for linking hospitalized patients to outpatient HIV care and substance use disorders treatment.

There was no statistically significant difference among the groups in the rate of those who had a fully suppressed viral load 12 months into the program. All three groups had full-suppression rates in the mid-30 percent range.

To read the study abstract, click here.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the Miami Herald article, click here.