Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine
On-line version ISSN 2078-6751
Print version ISSN 1608-9693
MORSHEIMER, M M; DRAMOWSKI, A; RABIE, H and COTTON, M F. Paediatric ART outcomes in a decentralised model of care in Cape Town, South Africa. South. Afr. j. HIV med. (Online) [online]. 2014, vol.15, n.4, pp.148-153. ISSN 2078-6751. http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/sajhivmed.1084.
BACKGROUND: Although subSaharan Africa faces the world's largest paediatric HIV epidemic, only 1 in 4 children has access to combination antiretroviral therapy (ART). A decentralised approach to HIV care is advocated, but programmes in resource-limited settings encounter many challenges to community-initiated paediatric ART implementation. METHODS: A retrospective cohort analysis of 613 children receiving ART between 2004 and 2009 was performed in seven physician-run primary healthcare (PHC) clinics in Cape Town. Baseline characteristics, serial CD4+, viral load (VL) levels and status at study closure were collected. RESULTS: Two subgroups were identified: children who were initiated on ART in a PHC clinic (n=343) and children who were down-referred from tertiary hospitals (n=270). The numbers of children initiated on ART in PHC increased sevenfold over the study period. Down-referred children were severely ill at ART initiation, with higher VLs, lower CD4+ counts and higher rates of tuberculosis co-infection (25.3% v. 16.9%; p=0.01). Median time to virological suppression was 29 weeks in PHC-ART initiates and 44 weeks in children down-referred (p<0.0001). Children down-referred to PHC either maintained or gained virological suppression. Longitudinal cohort analysis demonstrated sustained VL suppression >80%, high rates of immune reconstitution and low mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Increasing numbers of children are initiated on ART in PHC settings and achieve comparable immunological, virological and survival outcomes, suggesting successful decentralisation of paediatric HIV care. Down-referral of children with adherence-related virological failure may assist with attainment of virological suppression and sparing use of second-line medications.