Open Access Open Badges Research article

Timing of antiretroviral therapy and regimen for HIV-infected patients with tuberculosis: the effect of revised HIV guidelines in Malawi

Hannock Tweya123*, Anne Ben-Smith4, Mike Kalulu2, Andreas Jahn567, Wingston Ng’ambi2, Elizabeth Mkandawire2, Layout Gabriel2 and Sam Phiri2

Author Affiliations

1 The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Paris, France

2 The Lighthouse Trust, P.O. Box 106, Lilongwe, Malawi

3 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

4 Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Pittsburg, P.O. Box 31563, Lilongwe, Malawi

5 Central Monitoring and Evaluation Division/Department for HIV and AIDS, Ministry of Health, Lilongwe, Malawi

6 International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), Lilongwe, Malawi

7 University of Washington, Seattle, USA

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:183  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-183

Published: 20 February 2014



In July 2011, the Malawi national HIV program implemented the integrated antiretroviral therapy (ART) and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) guidelines. Among the principle goals of the guidelines were increasing ART uptake among TB/HIV co-infected patients and treating TB/HIV patients with a different drug regimen. We, therefore, assessed the effects of the new guidelines on ART uptake, the factors associated with ART uptake and the frequency of ARV-related adverse events in TB/HIV co-infected patients.


This was an observational cohort study using routine program data. All ART-naïve adult TB/HIV co-infected patients starting TB treatment over the six months preceding and following implementation of 2011 integrated ART/PMTCT guidelines were included.


A total of 685 adult TB/HIV co-infected patients were registered in the study; 377 (55%) before and 308 (45%) after the implementation of the new guidelines. ART uptake increased from 70% (240/308) before implementation of the new guidelines to 78% (262/377) after the inception of the new guidelines (P=0.013). The proportion of TB patients initiating ART within two weeks of starting TB treatment increased from 30% before implementation of the new guidelines to 46% after implementation of the new guidelines (p <0.001). The median time from the start of TB treatment to ART initiation dropped from 16 days (IQR 14-31) before the new guidelines to 14 days (IQR 9-20; p = 0.004) after implementing the new guidelines. Factors associated with ART uptake were enrolment in HIV care before starting TB treatment and being a retreatment TB patient. The overall frequency of ARV-related adverse events was higher in patients on d4T/3TC/NVP (35%) than those on TDF/3TC/EFV (25%) but not significantly different (P=0.052).


Implementation of the 2011 Malawi Integrated ART/PMTCT guidelines was associated with an overall increase in ART uptake among TB/HIV patients and with an increase in the number of patients initiating ART within two weeks of starting their TB treatment. However, the reduction in time between initiating TB treatment and starting ART was small suggesting that further measures must be implemented to facilitate ART uptake. Early enrolment in HIV care provides opportunities for timely ART initiation among TB patients.

TB/HIV co-infected; Antiretroviral therapy; ART/PMTCT guidelines