Introduction: As countries move toward universal HIV treatment, many individuals fail to link to care after diagnosis of HIV. Efficient and effective linkage strategies are needed.
Methods: We implemented a patient-centered, multicomponent linkage strategy in the SEARCH "test-and-treat" trial (NCT 01864603) in Kenya and Uganda. After population-based, community-wide HIV testing, eligible participants were (1) introduced to clinic staff after testing, (2) provided a telephone "hot-line" for enquiries, (3) provided an appointment reminder phone call, (4) given transport reimbursement on linkage, and (5) tracked if linkage appointment was missed. We estimated the proportion linked to care within 1 year and evaluated factors associated with linkage at 7, 30, and 365 days after diagnosis.
Results: Among 71,308 adults tested, 6811 (9.6%) were HIV-infected; of these, 4760 (69.9%) were already in HIV care, and 30.1% were not. Among 2051 not in care, 58% were female, median age was 32 (interquartile range 26-40) years, and median CD4 count was 493 (interquartile range 331-683) cells/µL. Half (49.7%) linked within 1 week, and 73.4% linked within 1 year. Individuals who were younger [15-34 vs. >35 years, adjusted Risk Ratio (aRR) 0.83, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.74 to 0.94], tested at home vs. community campaign (aRR = 0.87, 95% CI: 0.81 to 0.94), had a high HIV-risk vs. low-risk occupation (aRR = 0.81, 95% CI: 0.75 to 0.88), and were wealthier (aRR 0.90, 95% CI: 0.83 to 0.97) were less likely to link. Linkage did not differ by marital status, stable residence, level of education, or having a phone contact.
Conclusions: Using a multicomponent linkage strategy, high proportions of people living with HIV but not in care linked rapidly after HIV testing.