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Open Access Research

Mortality and loss to programme before antiretroviral therapy among HIV-infected children eligible for treatment in The Gambia, West Africa

Uduak Okomo1*, Toyin Togun1, Francis Oko1, Kevin Peterson2 and Assan Jaye13

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Research Council (UK) Laboratories, Atlantic Road, Fajara, P.O. Box 273, Banjul, The Gambia

2 Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nationalestraat 155, 2000, Antwerp, Belgium

3 WAPHIR Network, Universite Cheikh Anta Diop Laboratoire de Bacteriologie Virologie, Hopital A. le Dantec, 30 Avenue Pasteur, Dakar, Senegal

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AIDS Research and Therapy 2012, 9:28  doi:10.1186/1742-6405-9-28

Published: 2 October 2012

Abstract

Background

HIV infection among children, particularly those under 24 months of age, is often rapidly progressive; as a result guidelines recommend earlier access to combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) for HIV infected children. Losses to follow-up (LTFU) and death in the interval between diagnosis and initiation of ART profoundly limit this strategy. This study explores correlates of LTFU and death prior to ART initiation among children.

Methods

The study is based on 337 HIV-infected children enrolled into care at an urban centre in The Gambia, including those alive and in care when antiretroviral therapy became available and those who enrolled later. Children were followed until they started ART, died, transferred to another facility, or were LTFU. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to determine the hazard of death or LTFU according to the baseline characteristics of the children.

Results

Overall, 223 children were assessed as eligible for ART based on their clinical and/or immunological status among whom 73 (32.7%) started treatment, 15 (6.7%) requested transfer to another health facility, 105 (47.1%) and 30 (13.5%) were lost to follow-up and died respectively without starting ART. The median survival following eligibility for children who died without starting treatment was 2.8 months (IQR: 0.9 - 5.8) with over half (60%) of all deaths occurring at home. ART-eligible children less than 2 years of age and those in WHO stage 3 or 4 were significantly more likely to be LTFU when compared with their respective comparison groups. The overall pre-treatment mortality rate was 25.7 per 100 child-years of follow-up (95% CI 19.9 - 36.8) and the loss to programme rate was 115.7 per 100 child-years of follow-up (95% CI 98.8 - 137). In the multivariable Cox proportional hazard model, significant independent predictors of loss to programme were being less than 2 years of age and WHO stage 3 or 4. The Adjusted Hazard Ratio (AHR) for loss to programme was 2.06 (95% CI 1.12 – 3.83) for being aged less than 2 years relative to being 5 years of age or older and 1.92 (95% CI 1.05 - 3.53) for being in WHO stage 3 or 4 relative to WHO stage 1 or 2.

Conclusions

Earlier enrolment into HIV care is key to achieving better outcomes for HIV infected children in developing countries. Developing strategies to ensure early diagnosis, elimination of obstacles to prompt initiation of therapy and instituting measures to reduce losses to follow-up, will improve the overall outcomes of HIV-infected children.

Keywords:
Paediatrics; HIV; Pre-antiretroviral therapy; Loss to follow-up; Mortality; Retention; Sub-Saharan Africa