Introduction: The 2015 WHO recommendation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all HIV-positive persons calls for treatment initiation in millions of persons newly eligible with high CD4+ counts. Efficient and effective care models are urgently needed for this population. We evaluated clinical outcomes of asymptomatic HIV-positive adults and children starting ART with high CD4+ counts using a novel streamlined care model in rural Uganda and Kenya.
Methods: In the 16 intervention communities of the HIV test-and-treat Sustainable East Africa Research for Community Health Study (NCT01864603), all HIV-positive individuals irrespective of CD4 were offered ART (efavirenz [EFV]/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate + emtricitabine (FTC) or lamivudine (3TC). We studied adults (≥fifteen years) with CD4 ≥ 350/μL and children (two to fourteen years) with CD4 > 500/μL otherwise ineligible for ART by country guidelines. Clinics implemented a patient-centred streamlined care model designed to reduce patient-level barriers and maximize health system efficiency. It included (1) nurse-conducted visits with physician referral of complex cases, (2) multi-disease chronic care (including for hypertension/diabetes), (3) patient-centred, friendly staff, (4) viral load (VL) testing and counselling, (5) three-month return visits and ART refills, (6) appointment reminders, (7) tiered tracking for missed appointments, (8) flexible clinic hours (outside routine schedule) and (9) telephone access to clinicians. Primary outcomes were 48-week retention in care, viral suppression (% with measured week 48 VL ≤ 500 copies/mL) and adverse events. Results Overall, 972 HIV-positive adults with CD4+ ≥ 350/μL initiated ART with streamlined care. Patients were 66% female and had median age thirty-four years (IQR, 28-42), CD4+ 608/μL (IQR, 487-788/μL) and VL 6775 copies/mL (IQR, <500-37,003 c/mL). At week 48, retention was 92% (897/972; 2 died/40 moved/8 withdrew/4 transferred care/21/964 [2%] were lost to follow-up). Viral suppression occurred in 778/838 (93%) and 800/972 (82%) in intention-to-treat analysis. Grade III/IV clinical/laboratory adverse events were rare: 95 occurred in 74/972 patients (7.6%). Only 8/972 adults (0.8%) switched ART from EFV to lopinavir (LPV) (n = 2 for dizziness, n = 2 for gynaecomastia, n = 4 for other reasons). Among 83 children, week 48 retention was 89% (74/83), viral suppression was 92% (65/71) and grade III/IV adverse events occurred in 4/83 (4.8%).
Conclusions: Using a streamlined care model, viral suppression, retention and ART safety were high among asymptomatic East African adults and children with high CD4+ counts initiating treatment.
Clinical trial number: NCT01864603.