Short-term treatment outcomes of children starting antiretroviral therapy in the intensive care unit, general medical wards and outpatient HIV clinics at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa: A retrospective cohort study
Background: Many HIV-infected children are initiated on antiretroviral therapy (ART) during hospitalisation in South Africa (SA). No published data on these outcomes exist.
Objectives: To assess the short-term outcomes of children initiated on ART in the intensive care unit (ICU), general medical wards (GMWs) and outpatient HIV clinics (OHCs) at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH), Cape Town, SA.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of HIV-infected children aged <13 years commenced on first-line ART between January 2008 and December 2011. Outcomes included death, virological suppression and changes in CD4 count. Kaplan-Meier estimates, multivariate Cox proportional hazard ratios and logistic regression were used to estimate outcomes at 6 months.
Results: One hundred and six children were commenced on ART in the ICU, 509 in the GMWs and 127 in the OHCs; 65.7% of all children were <12 months old. Of children qualifying for rapid ART initiation according to the 2013 national treatment guidelines, 182 (24.9%) started therapy within 7 days of diagnosis. Overall mortality was 6.4% (95% confidence interval (CI) 4.9 - 8.4). Of children remaining in care at RCWMCH, 51.0% achieved a CD4 percentage ≥25% and 62.3% a viral load ≤50 copies/mL 6 months after ART initiation. Mortality was higher in the ICU cohort (13.2%) than in the GMW and OHC cohorts (5.5% and 3.9%, respectively, log-rank p=0.004). Predictors of mortality included moderate underweight (adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 2.4; 95% CI 1.1 - 5.2), severe underweight (aHR 3.2; 95% CI 1.6 - 6.5), absence of caregiver counselling sessions (aHR 2.9; 95% CI 1.4 - 6.0) and ART initiation in the ICU (aHR 2.6; 95% CI 1.4 - 4.9).
Conclusion: These results highlight the importance of understanding the context in which children are initiated on ART, when comparing outcomes in different settings.