Tracing of patients lost to follow-up and HIV transmission: Mathematical modelling study based on two large ART programmes in Malawi.
Apr 15 2014
OBJECTIVES: Treatment as prevention depends on retaining HIV-infected patients in care. We investigated the effect on HIV transmission of bringing patients lost to follow up (LTFU) back into care.
DESIGN: Mathematical model.
METHODS: Stochastic mathematical model of cohorts of 1000 HIV-infected patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART), based on data from two clinics in Lilongwe, Malawi. We calculated cohort viral load (CVL; sum of individual mean viral loads each year) and used a mathematical relationship between viral load and transmission probability to estimate the number of new HIV infections. We simulated four scenarios: 'no LTFU' (all patients stay in care); 'no tracing' (patients LTFU are not traced); 'immediate tracing' (after missed clinic appointment); and, 'delayed tracing' (after six months).
RESULTS: About 440 of 1000 patients were LTFU over five years. CVL (million copies/ml per 1000 patients) were 3.7 (95% prediction interval [PrI] 2.9-4.9) for no LTFU, 8.6 (95% PrI 7.3-10.0) for no tracing, 7.7 (95% PrI 6.2-9.1) for immediate, and 8.0 (95% PrI 6.7-9.5) for delayed tracing. Comparing no LTFU with no tracing the number of new infections increased from 33 (95% PrI 29-38) to 54 (95% PrI 47-60) per 1000 patients. Immediate tracing prevented 3.6 (95% PrI -3.3-12.8) and delayed tracing 2.5 (95% PrI -5.8-11.1) new infections per 1000. Immediate tracing was more efficient than delayed tracing: 116 and to 142 tracing efforts, respectively, were needed to prevent one new infection.
CONCLUSION: Tracing of patients LTFU enhances the preventive effect of ART, but the number of transmissions prevented is small.