In parts of Africa, where the HIV rate is 36 percent, researchers tested out a simple idea: They made access to care easier for people living with a chronic condition.

In a nearly three-year study in South Africa and Uganda, researchers used mobile vans in five communities to dispense care and treatment to 1,315 people living with HIV and not on antiretroviral treatment.

The randomized controlled trial, conducted between May 2016 and March 2019, found that viral suppression was 74 percent, compared to 63 percent for those seen in a clinic.

Ruanne Barnabas, associate professor of global health in the University of Washington schools of medicine and public health, presented the results March 9 at the virtual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI).

"A lot of the lessons learned -- including providing treatment to the community, freeing up clinical space for patients who need it, communicating by text message or videoconference, and the ability to deliver medications easily -- are valuable lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic we are dealing with currently," she said. "I would encourage everyone to really think how we can simplify what patients need to do to access care, and how we can provide it while keeping our facilities free for people who are more acutely ill."

Read the entire story at UW Medicine, and a related story at EurekAlert! Ruanne Barnabas is an Associate Professor of Global Health.