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Open Access Research article

Early severe morbidity and resource utilization in South African adults on antiretroviral therapy

Teresa K Smith de Cherif1, Jan H Schoeman3, Susan Cleary2, Graeme A Meintjes14, Kevin Rebe14 and Gary Maartens3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

2 School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Health Economics Unit, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

3 Department of Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

4 Department of Medicine, GF Jooste Hospital, Duinefontein Road, Mannenberg, 7764, Cape Town, South Africa

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:205  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-205

Published: 15 December 2009

Abstract

Background

High rates of mortality and morbidity have been described in sub-Saharan African patients within the first few months of starting highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). There is limited data on the causes of early morbidity on HAART and the associated resource utilization.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted of medical admissions at a secondary-level hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Patients on HAART were identified from a register and HIV-infected patients not on HAART were matched by gender, month of admission, and age group to correspond with the first admission of each case. Primary reasons for admission were determined by chart review. Direct health care costs were determined from the provider's perspective.

Results

There were 53 in the HAART group with 70 admissions and 53 in the no-HAART group with 60 admissions. The median duration of HAART was 1 month (interquartile range 1-3 months). Median baseline CD4 count in the HAART group was 57 × 106 cells/L (IQR 15-115). The primary reasons for admission in the HAART group were more likely to be due to adverse drug reactions and less likely to be due to AIDS events than the no-HAART group (34% versus 7%; p < 0.001 and 39% versus 63%; p = 0.005 respectively). Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome was the primary reason for admission in 10% of the HAART group. Lengths of hospital stay per admission and inpatient survival were not significantly different between the two groups. Five of the 15 deaths in the HAART group were due to IRIS or adverse drug reactions. Median costs per admission of diagnostic and therapeutic services (laboratory investigations, radiology, intravenous fluids and blood, and non-ART medications) were higher in the HAART group compared with the no-HAART group (US$190 versus US$111; p = 0.001), but the more expensive non-curative costs (overhead, capital, and clinical staff) were not significantly different (US$1199 versus US$1128; p = 0.525).

Conclusions

Causes of early morbidity are different and more complex in HIV-infected patients on HAART. This results in greater resource utilization of diagnostic and therapeutic services.