Long-term experience providing antiretroviral drugs in a fee-for-service HIV clinic in Uganda: evidence of extended virologic and CD4+ cell count responses

Kabugo, C.; Bahendeka, S.; Mwebaze, R.; Malamba, S.; Katuntu, D.; Downing, R.; Mermin, J.; Weidle, P.J.

Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 38(5): 578-583


ISSN/ISBN: 1525-4135
PMID: 15793369
Accession: 004224173

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Objective: To describe the long-term experience of providing antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, including CD4+ cell count and virologic response, at St. Francis Hospital, Nsambya, Uganda. Methods: The HIV clinic established in 1998 is a fee-for-service model where patients pay for ARVs. The care of patients who started ARVs from August 1, 1998 until October 31, 2000 was evaluated through December 31, 2002. Data were collected at the HIV clinic on standardized clinical forms. These patients had free CD4+ cell count and viral load testing performed at times determined by the physician. All persons who had >=1 CD4+ cell count or viral load done >=90 days after starting therapy were evaluated. Results: Three hundred twenty-one patients (49% women, 66% ARV naive, median age=38 years, median CD4+ cell count=79 cells/mm3, and median viral load=249 489 copies/mL) attended the HIV clinic. Two hundred sixty-three (82%) patients returned at least once after the initial visit, of whom 54 (21%) had an interruption in therapy for >1 year. One hundred thirty-five patients were in care in 2002, 69 were known to have died (9 of whom died in 2002), and 68 were lost to follow-up. The probability of remaining alive and in care at 1 year was 0.56 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.50-0.61), 0.46 (95% CI: 0.41-0.51) at 2 years, 0.40 (95% CI: 0.34-0.45) at 3 years, and 0.35 (95% CI: 0.29-0.41) at 4 years. In an on-treatment analysis, the median CD4+ cell count increase during year 1 was +55 cells/mm3, +112 cells/mm3 during year 2, +142 cells/mm3 during year 3, and +131 cells/mm3 during year 4. The median log viral load change from baseline during year 1 was -1.4 copies/mL, -1.32 copies/mL during year 2, -1.9 copies/mL during year 3, and -1.51 copies/mL during year 4. Conclusions: This fee-for-service HIV clinic providing ARV treatment has successfully operated and managed patients for more than 4 years. Those who survived and remained on therapy derived long-term virologic and immunologic responses to ARV drugs in a manner similar to that observed in industrialized countries. Strategies to reduce the financial burden and other barriers to uninterrupted care as well as incentives to increase such practice models should be further explored in the African context.