Outcomes from the Implementation of a Counselling Model Supporting Rapid Antiretroviral Treatment Initiation in a Primary Healthcare Clinic in Khayelitsha, South Africa
Background: Lengthy antiretroviral treatment (ART) preparation contributes to high losses to care between communicating ART eligibility and initiating ART. To address this shortfall, Médecins Sans Frontières implemented a revised approach to ART initiation counselling preparation (integrated for TB co-infected patients), shifting the emphasis from pre-initiation sessions to addressing common barriers to adherence and strengthening post-initiation support in a primary healthcare facility in Khayelitsha, South Africa.
Methods: An observational cohort study was conducted using routinely collected data for all ART-eligible patients attending their first counselling session between 23 July 2012 and 30 April 2013 to assess losses to care prior to and post ART initiation. Viral load completion and suppression rates of those retained on ART were also calculated.
Results: Overall, 449 patients enrolled in the study, of whom 3.6% did not return to the facility to initiate ART. Of those who were initiated, 96.7% were retained at their first ART refill visit and 85.9% were retained 6 months post ART initiation. Of those retained, 80.2% had a viral load taken within 6 months of initiating ART, with 95.4% achieving viral load suppression.
Conclusions: Adapting counselling to enable rapid ART initiation is feasible and has the potential to reduce losses to care prior to ART initiation without increasing short-term losses thereafter or compromising patient adherence.
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