Mortality and loss-to-follow-up during the pre-treatment period in an antiretroviral therapy programme under normal health service conditions in Uganda.
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Background: In many HIV programmes in Africa, patients are assessed clinically and prepared for antiretroviral treatment over a period of 4–12 weeks. Mortality rates following initiation of ART are very high largely because patients present late with advanced disease. The rates of mortality and retention during the pre-treatment period are not well understood. We conducted an observational study to determine these rates. Methods: HIV-infected subjects presenting at The AIDS Support Clinic in Jinja, SE Uganda, were assessed for antiretroviral therapy (ART). Eligible subjects were given information and counselling in 3 visits done over 4–6 weeks in preparation for treatment. Those who did not complete screening were followed-up at home. Survival analysis was done using poisson regression. Results: 4321 HIV-infected subjects were screened of whom 2483 were eligible for ART on clinical or immunological grounds. Of these, 637 (26%) did not complete screening and did not start ART. Male sex and low CD4 count were associated independently with not completing screening. At follow-up at a median 351 days, 181 (28%) had died, 189 (30%) reported that they were on ART with a different provider, 158 (25%) were alive but said they were not on ART and 109 (17%) were lost to follow-up. Death rates (95% CI) per 100 person-years were 34 (22, 55) (n.18) within one month and 37 (29, 48) (n.33) within 3 months. 70/158 (44%) subjects seen at follow-up said they had not started ART because they could not afford transport. Conclusion: About a quarter of subjects eligible for ART did not complete screening and pretreatment mortality was very high even though patients in this setting were well informed. For many families, the high cost of transport is a major barrier preventing access to ART.
- School of Medicine