Antiretroviral therapy in a community clinic - early lessons from a pilot project
Objectives. To report on operational and clinical problems encountered during the first 6 months of a community-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme.
Methods. ART was implemented in a primary care setting utilising an easily replicable service-delivery model based on a medical officer and nurse. Therapeutic counsellors, themselves HIV-infected, provided counselling and adherence support. Drug and monitoring costs were charitably funded and provincial health authorities supplied the medical infrastructure. The HIV Research Unit, University of Cape Town, supplied training and additional clinical support. Local HIV primary care clinics provided patient referrals. Standardised ART regimens were used with strict entry criteria (AIDS or CD4 count < 200 cells/μl). Results. Demand for the service was high. Referred patients had advanced disease (AIDS 57%, median CD4 count 96/μl) and high pre-treatment mortality (83/100 person-years). Mycobacterial disease was a major contributor to this mortality (40%). Scheduled clinic visit hours were six times higher during recruitment than maintenance. Attributable costs were: drugs 61%, staff 2.7%, viral load and CD4 cell counts 10% and safety monitoring 2%. Viral load after 16 weeks of therapy was < 400 copies/ml in the first 16 patients.
Conclusions. ART can be successfully implemented within a primary care setting. Drug purchases and staff salaries drive programme costing. The service model is capable of managing 250 - 300 patients on chronic ART, but staffing needs to be increased during recruitment. Attention must be given to the diagnosis of tuberculosis during screening and early ART. Incorporating therapeutic counsellors into the programme increased community involvement and utilised a valuable and previously untapped resource.
Copyright remains in the Author’s name. The work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial Works License. Authors are required to complete and sign an Author Agreement form that outlines Author and Publisher rights and terms of publication. The Agreement form should be uploaded along with other submissions files and any submission will be considered incomplete without it [forthcoming].
Material submitted for publication in the SAMJ is accepted provided it has not been published or submitted for publication elsewhere. Please inform the editorial team if the main findings of your paper have been presented at a conference and published in abstract form, to avoid copyright infringement. The SAMJ does not hold itself responsible for statements made by the authors.
Previously published images
If an image/figure has been previously published, permission to reproduce or alter it must be obtained by the authors from the original publisher and the figure legend must give full credit to the original source. This credit should be accompanied by a letter indicating that permission to reproduce the image has been granted to the author/s. This letter should be uploaded as a supplementary file during submission.