Background: For optimal clinical benefit, HIV-infected patients should receive periodic outpatient care indefinitely. However, initially establishing HIV care and subsequent retention in care are problematic. This study examines establishment, retention, and loss to follow-up (LTFU) in a large multi-site cohort over a 2-8 year period.
Methods: Medical record data were reviewed for 22,984 adult HIV patients receiving care at 12 clinics in the HIV Research Network between 2001 and 2009. Three dichotomous outcome measures were based on each patient's history of outpatient visits. Establishment reflects whether the patient made outpatient visits for longer than 6 months after initial enrollment. The retention measure reflects whether the patient had at least 2 outpatient visits separated by 90 days in each year in care. LTFU reflects whether the patient had no outpatient visits for more than 12 months without returning. Multiple logistic regression examined demographic and clinical correlates of each outcome and the combined outcome of meeting all 3 measures.
Results: Overall, 21.7% of patients never established HIV care after an initial visit. Among established patients, 57.4% did not meet the retention criterion in all years, and 34.9% were LTFU. Only 20.4% of all patients met all 3 criteria. The odds of successfully meeting all 3 criteria were higher for women, for older patients, for Hispanics compared with whites, and for those with CD4 levels ≤50 cells per cubic millimeter.
Conclusions: These data highlight the need to improve establishment and retention in HIV care.