HIV programmatic outcomes following implementation of the 'Treat-All' policy in a public sector setting in Eswatini: a prospective cohort study
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AbstractINTRODUCTION: The Treat-All policy - antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation irrespective of CD4 cell criteria - increases access to treatment. Many ART programmes, however, reported increasing attrition and viral failure during treatment expansion, questioning the programmatic feasibility of Treat-All in resource-limited settings. We aimed to describe and compare programmatic outcomes between Treat-All and standard of care (SOC) in the public sectors of Eswatini. METHODS: This is a prospective cohort study of ≥16-year-old HIV-positive patients initiated on first-line ART under Treat-All and SOC in 18 health facilities of the Shiselweni region, from October 2014 to March 2016. SOC followed the CD4 350 and 500 cells/mm3 treatment eligibility thresholds. Kaplan-Meier estimates were used to describe crude programmatic outcomes. Multivariate flexible parametric survival models were built to assess associations of time from ART initiation with the composite unfavourable outcome of all-cause attrition and viral failure. RESULTS: Of the 3170 patients, 1888 (59.6%) initiated ART under Treat-All at a median CD4 cell count of 329 (IQR 168 to 488) cells/mm3 compared with 292 (IQR 161 to 430) (p < 0.001) under SOC. Although crude programme retention at 36 months tended to be lower under Treat-All (71%) than SOC (75%) (p = 0.002), it was similar in covariate-adjusted analysis (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 1.06, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.23). The hazard of viral suppression was higher for Treat-All (aHR 1.12, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.23), while the hazard of viral failure was comparable (Treat-All: aHR 0.89, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.49). Among patients with advanced HIV disease (n = 1080), those under Treat-All (aHR 1.13, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.44) had a similar risk of an composite unfavourable outcome to SOC. Factors increasing the risk of the composite unfavourable outcome under both interventions were aged 16 to 24 years, being unmarried, anaemia, ART initiation on the same day as HIV care enrolment and CD4 ≤ 100 cells/mm3 . Under Treat-All only, the risk of the unfavourable outcome was higher for pregnant women, WHO III/IV clinical stage and elevated creatinine. CONCLUSIONS: Compared to SOC, Treat-All resulted in comparable retention, improved viral suppression and comparable composite outcomes of retention without viral failure.
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