Missed opportunities for retention in pre-ART care in Cape Town, South Africa

BACKGROUND: Few studies have evaluated access to and retention in pre-ART care. Objectives To evaluate the proportion of People Living With HIV (PLWH) in pre-ART and ART care and factors associated with retention in pre-ART and ART care from a community cohort. METHODS: A cross sectional survey was conducted from February - April 2011. Self reported HIV positive, negative or participants of unknown status completed a questionnaire on their HIV testing history, access to pre-ART and retention in pre-ART and ART care. RESULTS: 872 randomly selected adults who reported being HIV positive in the ZAMSTAR 2010 prevalence survey were included and revisited. 579 (66%) reconfirmed their positive status and were included in this analysis. 380 (66%) had initiated ART with 357 of these (94%) retained in ART care. 199 (34%) had never initiated ART of whom 186 (93%) accessed pre-ART care, and 86 (43%) were retained in pre-ART care. In a univariable analysis none of the factors analysed were significantly associated with retention in care in the pre-ART group. Due to the high retention in ART care, factors associated with retention in ART care, were not analysed further. CONCLUSION: Retention in ART care was high; however it was low in pre-ART care. The opportunity exists, if care is better integrated, to engage with clients in primary health care facilities to bring them back to, and retain them in, pre-ART care.