Objectives: To assess sustainability of programmatic outcomes in a community-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) service in South Africa during 7 years of scale-up.
Methods: Prospective cohort of treatment-naive patients aged ≥ 15 years enrolled between 2002 and 2008. Data were analyzed by calendar period of ART initiation using time-to-event analysis and logistic regression.
Results: ART was initiated by 3162 patients (67% women; median age, 34 years) who were followed-up for a median of 2.4 years (interquartile range, 1.2-3.8). After 6 years, the cumulative probability of death and loss to follow-up (LTFU) was 37.4%. The probabilities of transfer-out to another ART service and of virological failure were 21.6% and 23.1%, respectively. Low mortality risk and excellent virological and immunological responses during the first year of ART were not associated with calendar period of ART initiation. In contrast, risk of LTFU and virological failure both increased between successive calendar periods in unadjusted and adjusted analyses. The number of patients per member of clinic staff increased markedly over time.
Conclusions: Successful early outcomes (low mortality and good immunological and virological responses) were sustained between sequential calendar periods during 7 years of scale-up. In contrast, the increasing cumulative probabilities of LTFU or virological failure may reflect decreasing capacity to adequately support patients during long-term therapy as clinic caseload escalated.