Diversity of patient preparation activities before initiation of antiretroviral therapy in Cape Town, South Africa

Centre for Infectious Diseases Epidemiology & Research, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
Tropical Medicine & International Health (Impact Factor: 2.33). 07/2012; 17(8):972-7. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2012.03033.x
Source: PubMed


To investigate patient education and counseling activities prior to the initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) at public sector services across Cape Town, South Africa.
Key informant interviews and programme reviews were conducted with government bodies and non-governmental organisations involved in patient preparation activities.
All 11 organisations in Cape Town involved in training and managing personnel to prepare patients for ART during 2010 participated. Each organisation reported a different approach to patient preparation within public sector clinics and in each aspect of patient preparation activities. The number of patient education sessions ranged from 3 to 7, and the delays to ART initiation introduced by patient preparation ranged from 3 to 6 weeks. Different patient education materials (pamphlets, posters and flipcharts) were used by various programmes, and all programmes reported that shortages in materials meant that patient preparation often took place without any educational materials. Each programme also reported attention to mental illness and alcohol/substance use disorders, but none employed formal screening tools consistently, and the handling of patients with potential mental health- or substance-related problems varied.
Approaches to prepare patients before ART initiation are wide ranging in one part of South Africa. Their relative value requires investigation, as there is little evidence for the impact of varying approaches. Moreover, the risks associated with delayed ART initiation may outweigh any benefits of patient education before the start of treatment.

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    • "In most settings, the systems for adult ART initiation are focused on the needs of the general adult population of non-pregnant women and men, as pregnant women comprise only a small fraction of new patients. [4,13] In the general population of non-pregnant adults, systemic delays in ART initiation are routinely used to allow time for patient education and psychosocial preparation before treatment [14], based on the idea that patient preparation before initiation may improve retention in care and treatment adherence over time [15-17], although evidence for this is lacking [18]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation in eligible HIV-infected pregnant women is an important intervention to promote maternal and child health. Increasing the duration of ART received before delivery plays a major role in preventing vertical HIV transmission, but pregnant women across Africa experience significant delays in starting ART, partly due the perceived need to deliver ART counseling and patient education before ART initiation. We examined whether delaying ART to provide pre-ART counseling was associated with improved outcomes among HIV-infected women in Cape Town, South Africa. Methods We undertook a retrospective cohort study of 490 HIV-infected pregnant women referred to initiate treatment at an urban ART clinic. At this clinic all patients including pregnant women are screened by a clinician and then undergo three sessions of counseling and patient education prior to starting treatment, commonly introducing delays of 2–4 weeks before ART initiation. Data on viral suppression and retention in care after ART initiation were taken from routine clinic records. Results A total of 382 women initiated ART before delivery (78%); ART initiation before delivery was associated with earlier gestational age at presentation to the ART service (p < 0.001). The median delay between screening and ART initiation was 21 days (IQR, 14–29 days). Overall, 84.7%, 79.6% and 75.0% of women who were pregnant at the time of ART initiation were retained in care at 4, 8 and 12 months after ART initiation, respectively. Among those retained, 91% were virally suppressed at each follow-up visit. However the delay from screening to ART initiation was not associated with retention in care and/or viral suppression throughout the first year on ART in unadjusted or adjusted analyses. Conclusions A substantial proportion of eligible pregnant women referred for ART do not begin treatment before delivery in this setting. Among women who do initiate ART, delaying initiation for patient preparation is not associated with improved maternal outcomes. Given the need to maximize the duration of ART before delivery for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, there is an urgent need for new strategies to help expedite ART initiation in eligible pregnant women.
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