Geographic Mobility and HIV Care Engagement among People Living with HIV in Rural Kenya and Uganda

Trop Med Infect Dis. 2023 Nov 10;8(11):496. doi: 10.3390/tropicalmed8110496.


Introduction: Human mobility is a critical aspect of existence and survival, but may compromise care engagement among people living with HIV (PLHIV). We examined the association between various forms of human mobility with retention in HIV care and antiretroviral treatment (ART) interruptions.

Methods: In a cohort of adult PLHIV in Kenya and Uganda, we collected surveys in 2016 about past 6-month travel and lifetime migration histories, including reasons and locations, and engagement in HIV care defined as (1) discontinuation of care, and (2) history of a treatment interruption among those who remained in care. We estimated associations between mobility and these care engagement outcomes via logistic regression, adjusted for sex, prior mobility, age, region, marital status, household wealth, and education.

Results: Among 1081 participants, 56 (5%) reported having discontinued care; among those in care, 104 (10%) reported treatment interruption. Past-year migration was associated with a higher risk of discontinuation of care (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.98, 95% CI 1.08-3.63). In sex-stratified models, the association was somewhat attenuated in women, but remained robust among men. Past-year migration was associated with reduced odds of having a treatment interruption among men (aOR 0.51, 95% CI 0.34-0.77) but not among women (aOR 2.67, 95% CI 0.78, 9.16). Travel in the past 6 months was not associated with discontinuation of care or treatment interruptions.

Conclusions: We observed both negative and protective effects of recent migration on care engagement and ART use that were most pronounced among men in this cohort. Migration can break ties to ongoing care, but for men, who have more agency in the decision to migrate, may foster new care and treatment strategies. Strategies that enable health facilities to support individuals throughout the process of transferring care could alleviate the risk of care disengagement.

Keywords: HIV; human mobility; retention in care; sex differences; treatment adherence.