The number of HIV-infected refugees entering the USA is increasing. There is little data describing the HIV-infected refugee population and the challenges encountered when caring for them. We performed a retrospective case–control analysis of HIV-infected refugees in order to characterize their co-morbidities, baseline HIV characteristics, and longitudinal care compared to HIV-infected non-refugees.
A retrospective chart review was performed of HIV-infected refugees and non-refugees who were matched for gender, age, and time of establishment of initial HIV care.
The refugee population studied was largely from West Africa. Refugees were more likely than non-refugees to have heterosexual risk for HIV infection, latent tuberculosis infection, and active hepatitis B. Refugees were less likely than non-refugees to have a history of substance use, start antiretrovirals, and be enrolled in a clinical study. The baseline CD4 counts and HIV plasma viral loads were similar between the two groups.
Clinicians caring for West African HIV-infected refugees should be knowledgeable about likely co-morbidities and the impact of cultural differences on HIV care. Further studies are needed to develop culturally competent HIV treatment, education, and prevention programs for refugees who are beginning a new life in the USA.