Background: In resource-poor settings, mortality is at its highest during the first 3 months after combination antiretroviral treatment (cART) initiation. A clear predictor of mortality during this period is having a low CD4 count at the time of treatment initiation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect on survival and clinic retention of a nurse-based rapid assessment clinic for high-risk individuals initiating cART in a resource-constrained setting.
Methods: The USAID-AMPATH Partnership has enrolled more than 140,000 patients at 25 clinics throughout western Kenya. High Risk Express Care (HREC) provides weekly or bi-weekly rapid contacts with nurses for individuals initiating cART with CD4 counts of ≤100 cells/mm3. All HIV-infected individuals aged 14 years or older initiating cART with CD4 counts of ≤100 cells/mm3 were eligible for enrolment into HREC and for analysis. Adjusted hazard ratios (AHRs) control for potential confounding using propensity score methods.
Results: Between March 2007 and March 2009, 4,958 patients initiated cART with CD4 counts of ≤100 cells/mm3. After adjusting for age, sex, CD4 count, use of cotrimoxazole, treatment for tuberculosis, travel time to clinic and type of clinic, individuals in HREC had reduced mortality (AHR: 0.59; 95% confidence interval: 0.45-0.77), and reduced loss to follow up (AHR: 0.62; 95% CI: 0.55-0.70) compared with individuals in routine care. Overall, patients in HREC were much more likely to be alive and in care after a median of nearly 11 months of follow up (AHR: 0.62; 95% CI: 0.57-0.67).
Conclusions: Frequent monitoring by dedicated nurses in the early months of cART can significantly reduce mortality and loss to follow up among high-risk patients initiating treatment in resource-constrained settings.