Evaluation of a community-based ART programme after tapering home visits in rural Sierra Leone: a 24-month retrospective study
Evaluations of community-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes have demonstrated positive outcomes, but little is known about the impact of tapering community-based ART. The objective of this study was to assess 24-month HIV retention outcomes of a community-based ART programme and its tapered visit frequency in Koidu City, Sierra Leone. This retrospective, quasi-experimental study compared outcomes of 52 HIV-infected persons initiated on community-based ART against 91 HIV-infected persons receiving the standard of care from November 2009 to February 2013. The community-based ART pilot programme was designed to strengthen the standard of care through a comprehensive, patient-centred case management strategy. The strategy included medical, educational, psychological, social, and economic support. Starting in October 2011, the frequency of home visits was tapered from twice daily every day per week to once daily three days per week. Outcomes were retention in care at 12 and 24 months and adherence to ART over a three-month time period. Participants who received community-based ART had significantly higher retention than those receiving standard of care. At 12 months, retention rates for community-based ART and standard of care were 61.5% and 31.9%, respectively (p < .01). At 24 months, retention rates for community based ART and standard of care were 73.1% and 44.0%, respectively (p < .01). Significant differences in levels of adherence were observed when comparing community-based ART against persons receiving standard of care (p < .05). No differences in adherence levels were observed between groups of people receiving various frequencies of home visits. Our pilot
programme in Koidu City provides new evidence that community-based ART has the potential to improve retention and adherence outcomes for HIV-infected persons, regardless of the frequency of home visits. Overcoming the barriers to HIV care requires a comprehensive, patient-centred approach that may include clinic-based and community-based interventions.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS; community-based ART programme; adherence; retention in care; Sierra Leone