Quantifying retention during pre-antiretroviral treatment in a large urban clinic in Uganda.

27 Jun 2018

BACKGROUND: Retention studies are usually focused on patients on antiretroviral treatment (ART), however in Sub-Saharan Africa many patients get lost to program (LTP) in the pre-ART care period.. We investigated the proportion of patients not retained in care and factors associated with LTP (dead or lost to follow up ≥6 months) in the pre-ART care period. METHODS: We analyzed data from the Infectious Diseases Institute, Kampala, Uganda. We included all adult patients ≥18 years, ART naïve at program enrollment from 1(st)/Jan/2005. We described the number of patients not retained in care during the 3 steps of enrollment-to-treatment "cascade": Step 1) From enrollment to CD4 count testing, Step 2) ART eligibility assessment. Patients were initially considered eligible if CD4 count was <200 cell/μL, and <350 cell/μL from 2012 onwards; Step 3) From eligibility to ART start. We described cumulative probability of being LTP by gender and ART eligibility using Kaplan Meier estimates. We used a Cox proportional hazards model to identify factors associated with being LTP at any stage for all patients and for those with a CD4 count available. Factors considered were age, gender, year of enrollment, and WHO stage. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: After enrollment in our program, cumulatively, a low proportion of patients (30.8 %) were retained and started on ART. The cumulative probability of being LTP was higher in males and patients not eligible for ART. In the multivariable Cox proportional Hazards model, male gender (HR: 1.19 CI 1.12-1.19) and clinical WHO stage 3 and 4 (HR: 1.20 CI 1.13-1.27) were associated with being LTP while older age was protective (HR: 0.98 0.96-0.99). Patients enrolled in the program more recently were also at lower risk of being LTP. In addition, among patients with CD4 count test, patients with higher CD4 count were at higher risk of being LTP. CONCLUSIONS: In our program there has been suboptimal retention of patients in pre-ART care, particularly of patients not eligible for ART. Since the proportion of eligible patients has recently increased due to the higher recommended threshold for ART eligibility (CD4 count > 500 cell/μL in 2014), this could lead to an increase in program retention as more people fall under the recommended threshold and seek care.