Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 14–20 | Cite as

Food Insecurity is Associated with Incomplete HIV RNA Suppression Among Homeless and Marginally Housed HIV-infected Individuals in San Francisco

  • Sheri D. WeiserEmail author
  • Edward A. Frongillo
  • Kathleen Ragland
  • Robert S. Hogg
  • Elise D. Riley
  • David R. Bangsberg
Original Article


Background and Objectives

There is growing international concern that food insecurity may negatively impact antiretroviral (ARV) treatment outcomes, but no studies have directly evaluated the effect of food insecurity on viral load suppression and antiretroviral adherence. We hypothesized that food insecurity would be associated with poor virologic response among homeless and marginally housed HIV-positive ARV-treated patients.


This is a cross-sectional study.

Participants and Setting

Participants were ARV-treated homeless and marginally housed persons receiving adherence monitoring with unannounced pill counts in the Research on Access to Care in the Homeless (REACH) Cohort.


Food insecurity was measured by the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). The primary outcome was suppression of HIV viral RNA to <50 copies/ml. We used multivariate logistic regression to assess whether food insecurity was associated with viral suppression.


Among 104 participants, 51% were food secure, 24% were mildly or moderately food insecure and 25% were severely food insecure. Severely food insecure participants were less likely to have adherence >=80%. In adjusted analyses, severe food insecurity was associated with a 77% lower odds of viral suppression (95% CI = 0.06–0.82) when controlling for all covariates. In analyses stratified by adherence level, severe food insecurity was associated with an 85% lower odds of viral suppression (95% CI = 0.02–0.99) among those with <=80% adherence and a 66% lower odds among those with >80% adherence (95% CI = 0.06–1.81).


Food insecurity is present in half of the HIV-positive urban poor in San Francisco, one of the best resourced settings for HIV-positive individuals in the United States, and is associated with incomplete viral suppression. These findings suggest that ensuring access to food should be an integral component of public health HIV programs serving impoverished populations.


HIV/AIDS food insecurity homeless HIV viral load suppression adherence San Francisco 



This study was funded by NIMH 54907 and was also supported by NIH/NCRR UCSF-CTSI grant number UL1 RR024131. Dr Weiser received additional funding from NIMH 79713-01. Dr. Bangsberg received additional funding from NIAAA 015287. HIV RNA kits were donated by Roche. The authors wish to thank Richard Clark, Steven Deeks, and REACH study participants who shared their experiences. Results of this study were presented at the 15th Conference of Retrovirus and Opportunistic Infections in February, 2008.

Conflict of Interest Statement

None disclosed.

Funding sources

This study was funded by NIMH 54907 and was conducted at the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Initiative Tenderloin Clinical Research Center, NIH U54 RR023566-01. Dr. Weiser received additional funding from NIMH 79713-01. Dr. Bangsberg received additional funding from NIAAA 015287. HIV RNA kits were donated by Roche.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheri D. Weiser
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Edward A. Frongillo
    • 3
  • Kathleen Ragland
    • 4
  • Robert S. Hogg
    • 5
    • 6
  • Elise D. Riley
    • 1
  • David R. Bangsberg
    • 7
  1. 1.Positive Health Program, San Francisco General Hospital, UCSFSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)San FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of General Internal Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital, UCSFSan FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  6. 6.BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDSVancouverCanada
  7. 7.Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Initiative for Global HealthBostonUSA

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