HIV-positive heterosexuals are more likely to maintain a fully suppressed viral load over time if they live in a neighborhood with a relatively low proportion of residents who are food distressed, Infectious Disease Advisor reports. That’s the key finding from a recent analysis of how neighborhood characteristics are associated with viral suppression among heterosexuals living with HIV in New York City.

Publishing their findings in AIDS Care, researchers analyzed data from New York City’s HIV surveillance registry on 3,159 individuals diagnosed with HIV in the city between 2009 and 2013 who had heterosexual sex as their transmission risk factor.

Fifty-seven percent of the study cohort achieved viral suppression at any point within 12 months of their HIV diagnosis. Thirty-six percent of the cohort had durable viral suppression, defined as: 1) having a viral load at or below 200 according to two tests taken at least 90 days apart, with no viral load test results above 200 between those tests; and 2) no viral loads above 200 following their first viral load test result below that threshold.

The study authors looked for any associations between achieving viral suppression and durable suppression and various characteristics of the cohort members’ respective neighborhoods, including: food distress, demographic composition, disadvantage and affluence, health care access, alcohol outlet density, residential vacancy and police stop-and-frisk rates.

The analysis indicated that living in neighborhoods in which less than 1 percent of residents suffered from food distress was marginally associated with achieving viral suppression and was associated with achieving durable suppression of HIV. Additionally, living in neighborhoods in which less than 5 percent of residents were Black was associated with achieving viral suppression.

Referring to the finding about food insecurity’s association with durable suppression, the study authors wrote: “If future research should confirm this is a causal association, community-level interventions targeting food distress may improve the health of people living with HIV and reduce the risk of forward transmission.”

To read the Infectious Disease Advisor article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.