A retrospective notes-based review of patients lost to follow-up from anti-retroviral therapy at Mulanje Mission Hospital, Malawi
To analyse patients with HIV who were lost to follow-up from anti-retroviral therapy (ART) at Mulanje Mission Hospital (MMH), Malawi.
All patients on adult antiretroviral combinations at MMH, who were classified as lost to follow-up (LTFU) according to the national guidelines (patients missing a scheduled follow-up visit by more than two months) over a 12-month period, were included in the study and compared against a control group who had never been lost. Variables compared were gender, age, months on ART, time of year, WHO clinical stage, ART regimen, reported side effects, number of doses missed in the previous 12 months, whether the patient has been followed up in the community and if so, the length of time elapsed before follow-up.
In all, 136 patients had been LTFU over the previous 12 months at MMH. Of these, 43 had incomplete or missing ART cards, resulting in 93 LTFU patient’s data that could be analysed. Patients were more likely to get LTFU if they were men (p=0.03), who had been on anti-retroviral therapy for a short duration (p=0.06) and the proportion of patients who missed more than 4 doses in the previous 12 months was higher among LTFU patients (p=0.05). Only 34.4% of those LTFU had been traced in the community at the time of analysis. Of those traced, 27% had moved to another area, 5.5% had died, 5.5% had the wrong documentation and 62% gave no reason as to why they had missed appointments.
This study in MMH has highlighted the importance and feasibility of comprehensive facility-level data-collection, both to identify local patient populations at risk of becoming lost to follow-up and to assess the follow-up measures in place to bring these lost to follow-up patients back into the programme. Even in the short time and with the small sample that was collected, there was evidence that patients most likely to get LTFU in MMH were young men, who had been on anti-retroviral therapy for a short duration and had missed over 4 doses in the last 12 months.