Background: Attrition from HIV testing to antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation is high. Strengthening linkages in care from testing to treatment may reduce attrition. This study addresses the question: can social workers accurately identify symptomatic patients during HIV testing and fast-track them for rapid provision of services?
Methods: This study took place at the Haitian Study Group for Kaposi's Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (GHESKIO) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We compared symptoms reported by social workers at HIV testing using a checklist to diagnoses made by physicians on an intake exam to determine if social workers could accurately identify symptomatic patients.
Results: Among the 437 HIV-positive patients included in the study, social workers reported stage-associated symptoms in 100% of patients diagnosed with WHO stage 3 or 4 conditions and in 87% of patients with WHO stage 1 or 2 conditions. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of social worker-reported symptoms for the diagnosis of a WHO stage 3 or 4 condition was 100%, 47%, 31%, and 100%, respectively.
Conclusions: Social workers can identify symptomatic patients at HIV testing and refer them for fast-tracked services. This strategy may increase the rate of ART initiation among eligible patients.
Keywords: AIDS; Attrition; HIV; Haiti; Human resources; Retention in care.
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