Objective: We report rates and risk factors for attrition in the first cohort of patients followed through all stages from HIV testing to antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation.
Design: Cohort study of all patients diagnosed with HIV between January and June 2009.
Methods: We calculated the proportion of patients who completed CD4 cell counts and initiated ART or remained in pre-ART care during 2 years of follow-up and assessed predictors of attrition.
Results: Of 1427 patients newly diagnosed with HIV, 680 (48%) either initiated ART or were retained in pre-ART care for the subsequent 2 years. One thousand eighty-three patients (76%) received a CD4 cell count, and 973 (90%) returned for result; 297 (31%) had CD4 cell count <200 cells per microliter, and of these, 256 (86%) initiated ART. Among 429 patients with CD4 >350 cells per microliter, 215 (50%) started ART or were retained in pre-ART care. Active tuberculosis was associated with not only lower odds of attrition before CD4 cell count [odds ratio (OR): 0.08; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.03 to 0.25] but also higher odds of attrition before ART initiation (OR: 2.46; 95% CI: 1.29 to 4.71). Lower annual income (≤US $125) was associated with higher odds of attrition before CD4 cell count (OR: 1.65; 95% CI: 1.25 to 2.19) and before ART initiation among those with CD4 cell count >350 cells per microliter (OR: 1.74; 95% CI: 1.20 to 2.52). After tracking patients through a national database, the retention rate increased to only 57%.
Conclusions: Fewer than half of patients newly diagnosed with HIV initiate ART or remain in pre-ART care for 2 years in a clinic providing comprehensive services. Additional efforts to improve retention in pre-ART are critically needed.