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Open Access Research article

Contrasting predictors of poor antiretroviral therapy outcomes in two South African HIV programmes: a cohort study

Mison Dahab123, Salome Charalambous2, Alan S Karstaedt4, Katherine L Fielding5, Robin Hamilton2, Lettie La Grange6, Gavin J Churchyard123 and Alison D Grant1*

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Research Unit, Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

2 Aurum Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa

3 Collaborative Programme for AIDS Research in South Africa, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

4 Adult HIV Clinic, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa

5 Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

6 Anglo Platinum, Safety, Health & Environment, Johannesburg, South Africa

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:430  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-430

Published: 22 July 2010

Abstract

Background

Many national antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes encourage providers to identify and address baseline factors associated with poor treatment outcomes, including modifiable adherence-related behaviours, before initiating ART. However, evidence on such predictors is scarce, and providers judgement may often be inaccurate. To help address this evidence gap, this observational cohort study examined baseline factors potentially predictive of poor treatment outcomes in two ART programmes in South Africa, with a particular focus on determinants of adherence.

Methods

Treatment-naïve patients starting ART were enrolled from a community and a workplace ART programme. Potential baseline predictors associated with poor treatment outcomes (defined as viral load > 400 copies/ml or having discontinued treatment by six months) were assessed using logistic regression. Exposure variables were organised for regression analysis using a hierarchical framework.

Results

38/227 (17%) of participants in the community had poor treatment outcomes compared to 47/117 (40%) in the workplace. In the community, predictors of worse outcomes included: drinking more than 20 units of alcohol per week, having no prior experience of chronic medications, and consulting a traditional healer in the past year (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 15.36, 95% CI 3.22-73.27; aOR 2.30, 95%CI 1.00-5.30; aOR 2.27, 95% CI 1.00-5.19 respectively). Being male and knowing someone on ART were associated with better outcomes (aOR 0.25, 95%CI 0.09-0.74; aOR 0.44, 95%CI 0.19-1.01 respectively). In the workplace, predictors of poor treatment outcomes included being uncertain about the health effects of ART and a traditional healer's ability to treat HIV (aOR 7.53, 95%CI 2.02-27.98; aOR 4.40, 95%CI 1.41-13.75 respectively). Longer pre-ART waiting time (2-12 weeks compared to <2 weeks) predicted better treatment outcomes (aOR 0.13, 95% CI 0.03-0.56).

Conclusion

Baseline predictors of poor treatment outcomes were largely unique to each programme, likely reflecting different populations and pathways to HIV care. In the workplace, active promotion of HIV testing may have extended ART to individuals who, without provider initiation, would not have spontaneously sought care. As provider-initiated testing makes ART available to individuals less motivated to seek care, patients may need additional adherence support, especially addressing uncertainty about the health benefits of ART.