Factors associated with attrition, mortality, and loss to follow up after antiretroviral therapy initiation: data from an HIV cohort study in India

Glob Health Action. 2013 Sep 12;6:21682. doi: 10.3402/gha.v6i0.21682.


Background: Studies from sub-Saharan Africa have shown high incidence of attrition due to mortality or loss to follow-up (LTFU) after initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART). India is the third largest country in the world in terms of HIV infected people, but predictors of attrition after ART initiation are not well known.

Design: We describe factors associated with attrition, mortality, and LTFU in 3,159 HIV infected patients who initiated ART between 1 January 2007 and 4 November 2011 in an HIV cohort study in India. The study included 6,852 person-years with a mean follow-up of 2.17 years.

Results: After 5 years of follow-up, the estimated cumulative incidence of attrition was 37.7%. There was no significant difference between attrition due to mortality and attrition due to LTFU. Having CD4 counts <100 cells/µl and being homeless [adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 3.1, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.6-3.8] were associated with a higher risk of attrition, and female gender (aHR 0.64, 95% CI 0.6-0.8) was associated with a reduced risk of attrition. Living near a town (aHR 0.82, 95% CI 0.7-0.999) was associated with a reduced risk of mortality. Being single (aHR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2-2.3), illiteracy (aHR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1-1.6), and age <25 years (aHR 1.3, 95% CI 1-1.8) were associated with an increased risk of LTFU. Although the cumulative incidence of attrition in patients diagnosed with tuberculosis after ART initiation was 47.4%, patients who started anti-tuberculous treatment before ART had similar attrition to patients without tuberculosis (36 vs. 35.2%, P=0.19) after four years of follow-up.

Conclusions: In this cohort study, the attrition was similar to the one found in sub-Saharan Africa. Earlier initiation of ART, improving the diagnosis of tuberculosis before initiating ART, and giving more support to those patients at higher risk of attrition could potentially reduce the mortality and LTFU after ART initiation.

Keywords: attrition; developing countries; highly active antiretroviral therapy; lost to follow up; mortality; rural health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / mortality
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Lost to Follow-Up*
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-HIV Agents