ART EXPERIENCED PATIENTS FOR TACKLING ATTRITION FROM HIV CARE: A MULTI-SITE COHORT STUDY
Introduction: Retention of patients on anti-retroviral treatment in Ethiopia is a challenge. Use of anti-retroviral treatment experienced patients to prepare and re-engage them when they miss follow-ups is recommended, but evidence on its effectiveness is limited. This study evaluated its effectiveness.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study in 10 randomly selected health facilities was conducted to compare outcomes before and after initiation of the adherence supporters program in HIV care and treatment from September 2001 to August 2013. Data analysis involved Kaplan-Meier survival and Log-rank test analysis on STATA statistical software Version 12 to compare survival experiences.
Results: Of 18,835 records that were available, 938 (4.36%) records with missing values were excluded and data from the remaining 17,897 was analyzed. The incidence of first instance lost to follow-up was 22.2 per 100 person-years (95% confidence interval 21.7-22.7). The risk of missing follow-ups after initiation of the program was high (Hazard Ratio –1.22, P < 0.001). The incidence of restarting after missed follow-ups was 23 per 100 PY (95% CI 22.2-24.0). The likelihood of restarting after missed follow-ups was four times higher during the period adherence supporters were present (P<0.001). Patients who stayed longer in care before missing follow ups were more likely to restart (5.7 times the chance of restarting treatment for those whose first lost to follow-up occurred at≥12 months compared to <3 months, P< 0.001).Time to restarting treatment was shorter after the initiation of the adherence supporters program (median 37 vs. 115 days). The risk of recurrence of being lost to follow-up in the presence of adherence supporters was significantly higher than when there were no adherence supporters; 38.8 (95% CI 36.3-41.6) per 100 PY vs. 26.1 (95% CI 19.8-34.4) per 100 PY, respectively.
Conclusion: Adherence supporters were effective in improving re-engagement of patients in treatment and care after they were lost to follow-up. Yet, prevention of lost to follow-up cases has remained a challenge to the program.
Key Words: Adherence, adherence supporters, lost to follow-up, HIV, antiretroviral treatment