Tracing People Living With Human Immunodeficiency Virus Who Are Lost to Follow-up at Antiretroviral Therapy Programs in Southern Africa: A Sampling-Based Cohort Study in 6 Countries

Academic Article


  • Background: Attrition threatens the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART). In this cohort study, we examined outcomes of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) who were lost to follow-up (LTFU) during 2014-2017 at ART programs in Southern Africa. Methods: We confirmed LTFU (missed appointment for ≥60 or ≥90 days, according to local guidelines) by checking medical records and used a standardized protocol to trace a weighted random sample of PLHIV who were LTFU in 8 ART programs in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, 2017-2019. We ascertained vital status and identified predictors of mortality using logistic regression, adjusted for sex, age, time on ART, time since LTFU, travel time, and urban or rural setting. Results: Among 3256 PLHIV, 385 (12%) were wrongly categorized as LTFU and 577 (17%) had missing contact details. We traced 2294 PLHIV (71%) by phone calls, home visits, or both: 768 (34% of 2294) were alive and in care, including 385 (17%) silent transfers to another clinic; 528 (23%) were alive without care or unknown care; 252 (11%) had died. Overall, the status of 1323 (41% of 3256) PLHIV remained unknown. Mortality was higher in men than women, higher in children than in young people or adults, and higher in PLHIV who had been on ART <1 year or LTFU ≥1 year and those living farther from the clinic or in rural areas. Results were heterogeneous across sites. Conclusions: Our study highlights the urgent need for better medical record systems at HIV clinics and rapid tracing of PLHIV who are LTFU.
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    Author List

  • Ballif M; Christ B; Anderegg N; Chammartin FCDSCDS; Muhairwe J; Jefferys L; Hector J; Van Dijk J; Vinikoor MJ; Van Lettow M
  • Start Page

  • 171
  • End Page

  • 179
  • Volume

  • 74
  • Issue

  • 2