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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2009 Jun 1;51(2):135-9.

Loss to care and death before antiretroviral therapy in Durban, South Africa.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



To examine the loss to care and mortality rates before starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) among ART eligible HIV-infected patients in Durban, South Africa.


Retrospective cohort study.


We reviewed data from ART eligible adults (> or = 18 years) at an urban HIV clinic that charges a monthly fee from July to December 2006. ART eligibility was based on CD4 count < or = 200 cells per microliter or clinical criteria and a psychosocial assessment. Patients who did not start ART and were lost within 3 months were phoned. Correlates of loss to care were evaluated using logistic regression.


During the study period, 501 patients registered for ART training. Mean time from initial CD4 count to first ART training was 3.6 months (interquartile range 2.3-3.9 months). Four hundred eight patients (81.4%) were in care and on ART at 3-month follow-up, and 11 (2.2%) were in care but had not initiated ART. Eighty-two ART eligible patients (16.4%) were lost before ART initiation. Of these, 28 (34.1%) had died; two thirds of deaths occurred before or within 2 months after the first ART training. Despite multiple attempts, 32 patients (39%) were unreachable by phone. Lower baseline CD4 counts (< or = 100 cells/microL) and unemployment were independently associated with being lost.


Loss to care and death occur frequently before starting ART at an HIV clinic in Durban, South Africa. This delay from CD4 count to ART training, even among those with the lowest CD4 counts, highlights the need for interventions that improve linkage to care and prioritize ART initiation for those with low baseline CD4 counts.

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