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AIDS Care. 2014;26(7):850-6. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2013.869535. Epub 2013 Dec 20.

The challenge of referring HIV-positive pregnant women with treatment indication from PMTCT to ART services: a retrospective follow-up study in Mbeya, Tanzania.

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a Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health , Charité-Universitätsmedizin , Berlin , Germany.


Providing full antiretroviral therapy (ART) to all HIV-positive, pregnant women with treatment indication could significantly reduce overall mother-to-child transmission. However, the effectiveness of referring HIV-positive antenatal care (ANC) clients with a treatment indication to ART services has rarely been assessed to date. We retrospectively followed-up data of a cohort of treatment-eligible ANC clients in Mbeya Region, Tanzania by retracing and merging registries of ANC, Care and Treatment Centers (CTC), and Infant Care. ART initiation and ART duration before delivery served as primary outcome indicators to assess referral effectiveness. We retraced data of 60 ANC clients with treatment indication: 39 (65%) started predelivery ART and 21 (35%) remained untreated during pregnancy. Eight (13.3%) did not initiate ART at all within the observation period. Women starting ART before delivery had significantly lower CD4-cell counts at enrollment than nonstarters (medians: 207.5 vs. 292 cells/µl; p = 0.013). Predelivery ART starters had experienced a significantly shorter duration between staff-declared "ART readiness" and actual ART start (medians: 0 vs. 28 days; p = 0.0004). The median ART duration prior to delivery was 57 days; only eight women (13.3%) accomplished ≥90 days ART intake during pregnancy. Early enrollment in ANC at ≤24 gestational weeks was associated with longer duration of predelivery ART. At maternity wards, 24.3% of treatment-eligible mothers and newborns with retraceable delivery data had received no or inadequate antiretrovirals. Within 6 months postdelivery, women attended on average 3.5 out of 6 requested CTC visits. Concluding, every third treatment-eligible woman in this cohort was not covered through ART before delivery, and predelivery ART duration was mostly suboptimal regarding vertical transmission prevention. HIV-positive women need to be encouraged to approach ANC early in pregnancy, and health services need to address unnecessary time gaps before ART initiation. In addition, inclusive ART services for HIV-positive ANC clients should be seriously discussed.


ART; PMTCT; pregnant women with treatment indication; referral; service linkage

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