Antiretroviral outcomes in South African prisoners: a retrospective cohort analysis

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33309. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033309. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Background and methods: Little is known about antiretroviral therapy (ART) outcomes in prisoners in Africa. We conducted a retrospective review of outcomes of a large cohort of prisoners referred to a public sector, urban HIV clinic. The review included baseline characteristics, sequential CD4 cell counts and viral load results, complications and co-morbidities, mortality and loss to follow-up up to 96 weeks on ART.

Findings: 148 inmates (133 male) initiated on ART were included in the study. By week 96 on ART, 73% of all inmates enrolled in the study and 92% of those still accessing care had an undetectable viral load (<400 copies/ml). The median CD4 cell count increased from 122 cells/mm(3) at baseline to 356 cells/mm(3) by 96 weeks. By study end, 96 (65%) inmates had ever received tuberculosis (TB) therapy with 63 (43%) receiving therapy during the study: 28% had a history of TB prior to ART initiation, 33% were on TB therapy at ART initiation and 22% developed TB whilst on ART. Nine (6%) inmates died, 7 in the second year on ART. Loss to follow-up (LTF) was common: 14 (9%) patients were LTF whilst still incarcerated, 11 (7%) were LTF post-release and 9 (6%) whose movements could not be traced. 16 (11%) inmates had inter-correctional facility transfers and 34 (23%) were released of whom only 23 (68%) returned to the ART clinic for ongoing follow-up.

Conclusions: Inmates responded well to ART, despite a high frequency of TB/HIV co-infection. Attention should be directed towards ensuring eligible prisoners access ART programs promptly and that inter-facility transfers and release procedures facilitate continuity of care. Institutional TB control measures should remain a priority.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prisoners*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • South Africa
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis / complications
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Viral Load
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Antitubercular Agents