Rapid Scale-up of Antiretroviral Therapy at Primary Care Sites in Zambia: Feasibility and Early Outcomes

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Abstract

Context

The Zambian Ministry of Health has scaled-up human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) care and treatment services at primary care clinics in Lusaka, using predominately nonphysician clinicians.

Objective

To report on the feasibility and early outcomes of the program.

Design, Setting, and Patients

Open cohort evaluation of antiretroviral-naive adults treated at 18 primary care facilities between April 26, 2004, and November 5, 2005. Data were entered in real time into an electronic patient tracking system.

Intervention

Those meeting criteria for antiretroviral therapy (ART) received drugs according to Zambian national guidelines.

Main Outcome Measures

Survival, regimen failure rates, and CD4 cell response.

Results

We enrolled 21 755 adults into HIV care, and 16 198 (75%) started ART. Among those starting ART, 9864 (61%) were women. Of 15 866 patients with documented World Health Organization (WHO) staging, 11 573 (73%) were stage III or IV, and the mean (SD) entry CD4 cell count among the 15 336 patients with a baseline result was 143/μL (123/μL). Of 1142 patients receiving ART who died, 1120 had a reliable date of death. Of these patients, 792 (71%) died within 90 days of starting therapy (early mortality rate: 26 per 100 patient-years), and 328 (29%) died after 90 days (post-90-day mortality rate: 5.0 per 100 patient-years). In multivariable analysis, mortality was strongly associated with CD4 cell count between 50/μL and 199/μL (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR], 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0–2.0), CD4 cell count less than 50/μL (AHR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.5–3.1), WHO stage III disease (AHR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3–2.4), WHO stage IV disease (AHR, 2.9; 95% CI, 2.0–4.3), low body mass index (<16; AHR,2.4; 95% CI, 1.8–3.2), severe anemia (<8.0 g/dL; AHR, 3.1; 95% CI, 2.3–4.0), and poor adherence to therapy (AHR, 2.9; 95% CI, 2.2–3.9). Of 11 714 patients at risk, 861 failed therapy by clinical criteria (rate, 13 per 100 patient-years). The mean (SD) CD4 cell count increase was 175/μL (174/μL) in 1361 of 1519 patients (90%) receiving treatment long enough to have a 12-month repeat.

Conclusion

Massive scale-up of HIV and AIDS treatment services with good clinical outcomes is feasible in primary care settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Most mortality occurs early, suggesting that earlier diagnosis and treatment may improve outcomes.

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