African health services have shortages of clinical staff. We showed previously, in a cluster-randomized trial, that a home-based strategy using trained lay-workers is as effective as a clinic-based strategy. It is not known whether home-based care is suitable for patients with advanced HIV disease.
The trial was conducted in Jinja, Uganda. One thousand, four hundred and fifty-three adults initiating ART between February 2005 and January 2009 were randomized to receive either home-based care or routine clinic-based care, and followed up for about 3 years. Trained lay workers, supervised by clinical staff based in a clinic, delivered the home-based care. In this sub-analysis, we compared survival between the two strategies for those who presented with CD4+ cell count less than 50 cells/μl and those who presented with higher CD4+ cell counts. We used Kaplan–Meier methods and Poisson regression.
Four hundred and forty four of 1453 (31%) participants had baseline CD4+ cell count less than 50 cells/μl. Overall, 110 (25%) deaths occurred among participants with baseline CD4+ cell count less than 50 cells/μl and 87 (9%) in those with higher CD4+ cell count. Among participants with CD4+ cell count less than 50 cells/μl, mortality rates were similar for the home and facility-based arms; adjusted mortality rate ratio 0.80 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53–1.18] compared with 1.22 (95% CI 0.78–1.89) for those who presented with higher CD4+ cell count.
HIV home-based care, with lay workers playing a major role in the delivery of care including providing monthly adherence support, leads to similar survival rates as clinic-based care even among patients who present with very low CD4+ cell count. This emphasises the critical role of adherence to antiretroviral therapy.