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Trop Med Int Health. 2012 Aug;17(8):972-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2012.03033.x. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Diversity of patient preparation activities before initiation of antiretroviral therapy in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Centre for Infectious Diseases Epidemiology & Research, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.



To investigate patient education and counseling activities prior to the initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) at public sector services across Cape Town, South Africa.


Key informant interviews and programme reviews were conducted with government bodies and non-governmental organisations involved in patient preparation activities.


All 11 organisations in Cape Town involved in training and managing personnel to prepare patients for ART during 2010 participated. Each organisation reported a different approach to patient preparation within public sector clinics and in each aspect of patient preparation activities. The number of patient education sessions ranged from 3 to 7, and the delays to ART initiation introduced by patient preparation ranged from 3 to 6 weeks. Different patient education materials (pamphlets, posters and flipcharts) were used by various programmes, and all programmes reported that shortages in materials meant that patient preparation often took place without any educational materials. Each programme also reported attention to mental illness and alcohol/substance use disorders, but none employed formal screening tools consistently, and the handling of patients with potential mental health- or substance-related problems varied.


Approaches to prepare patients before ART initiation are wide ranging in one part of South Africa. Their relative value requires investigation, as there is little evidence for the impact of varying approaches. Moreover, the risks associated with delayed ART initiation may outweigh any benefits of patient education before the start of treatment.

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