Teasdale CA, Abrams EJ, Yuengling KA, Lamb MR, Wang C, Vitale M, Hawken M, Melaku Z, Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha H, El-Sadr WM.
PLoS One. 2020 Apr 16;15(4):e0231667. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0231667. eCollection 2020.
Scale-up and expansion of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV (PLHIV) have been a global priority for more than 15 years.
We describe PLHIV at enrollment in care and ART initiation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania from 2005-2014 and report on enrollment location, CD4 count and loss to follow-up (LTF), death, and combined attrition (LTF and death) pre- and post-ART initiation over time. Pre-ART outcomes were estimated using competing risk and post-ART using Kaplan-Meier estimators; LTF defined as no visit within six months pre-ART and 12 months after ART start.
From 2005-2014, 884,328 PLHIV enrolled in care at 350 health facilities, median age was 32.0 years (interquartile range [IQR] 26.0-42.0), and majority were female (66.5%). The proportion of PLHIV enrolled at primary and rural facilities increased from 12.9% and 15.3% in 2005-2006 to 43.5% and 41.7% in 2013-2014 (p<0.0001). Median CD4+ cell count at enrollment increased from 171 cell/mm3 in 2005-2006 (IQR 71-339) to 289 cell/mm3 in 2013-2014 (IQR 133-485) (p<0.0001). A total of 460,758 (57.4%) PLHIV initiated treatment. Cumulative risk of LTF for PLHIV prior to ART initiation 12 months after enrollment was 33.5% (95%CI 33.36-33.58) and 21.98% (95%CI 21.9-22.1) after ART initiation. Pregnant women and the youngest PLHIV group had the highest attrition after ART initiation, at 24 months 40.8% (95%CI 40.1-41.6) of pregnant women and 47.4% (95%CI 46.4-48.4) of PLHIV 15-19 years were not retained. Attrition at 12 months after enrollment among PLHIV regardless of ART status was 38.5% (95%CI 38.4-38.6).
Over 10 years of HIV scale-up in four sub-Saharan African countries, close to a million PLHIV were enrolled in care increasingly at rural and primary facilities with increasing CD4 count. Loss to follow-up from HIV care remains alarmingly high, particularly among pregnant women and younger PLHIV.