Impact of COVID-19 Response on the HIV Epidemic in Men Who Have Sex With Men in San Francisco County: The Importance of Rapid Return to Normalcy

Citina Liang, Sze Chuan Suen, Anthony Nguyen, Corrina Moucheraud, Ling Hsu, Ian W. Holloway, Edwin D. Charlebois, Wayne T. Steward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco County (SFC) had to shift many nonemergency health care resources to COVID-19, reducing HIV control resources. We sought to quantify COVID-19 effects on HIV burden among men who have sex with men (MSM) as SFC returns to pre-COVID service levels and progresses toward the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) goals. Setting: Microsimulation model of MSM in SFC tracking HIV progression and treatment. Methods: Scenario analysis where services affected by COVID-19 [testing, care engagement, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake, and retention] return to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2022 or 2025, compared against a counterfactual where COVID-19 changes never occurred. We also examined scenarios where resources are prioritized to reach new patients or retain of existing patients from 2023 to 2025 before all services return to pre-COVID levels. Results: The annual number of MSM prescribed PrEP, newly acquired HIV, newly diagnosed, and achieving viral load suppression (VLS) rebound quickly after HIV care returns to pre-COVID levels. However, COVID-19 service disruptions result in measurable reductions in cumulative PrEP use, VLS person-years, incidence, and an increase in deaths over the 2020-2035 period. The burden is statistically significantly larger if these effects end in 2025 instead of 2022. Prioritizing HIV care/prevention initiation over retention results in more person-years of PrEP but less VLS person-years and more deaths, influencing EHE PrEP outcomes. Conclusions: Earlier HIV care return to pre-COVID levels results in lower cumulative HIV burdens. Resource prioritization decisions may differentially affect different EHE goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-377
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 15 2023


  • COVID-19
  • MSM
  • San Francisco
  • microsimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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