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AIDS Research and Treatment
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 434375, 5 pages
Clinical Study

Long-Term Outcome of an HIV-Treatment Programme in Rural Africa: Viral Suppression despite Early Mortality

1Department of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, University Medical Centre Utrecht, F02.126, Postbus 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands
2Ndlovu Medical Centre, Elandsdoorn, P.O. Box 1508, Groblersdal 0470, South Africa

Received 10 June 2010; Accepted 18 October 2010

Academic Editor: Esper Kallas

Copyright © 2011 Roos E. Barth et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. To define the long-term (2–4 years) clinical and virological outcome of an antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme in rural South Africa. Methods. We performed a retrospective observational cohort study, including 735 patients who initiated ART. Biannual monitoring, including HIV-RNA testing, was performed. Primary endpoint was patient retention; virological suppression (HIV-RNA < 50 copies/mL) and failure (HIV-RNA > 1000 copies/mL) were secondary endpoints. Moreover, possible predictors of treatment failure were analyzed. Results. 63% of patients (466/735) have a fully suppressed HIV-RNA, a median of three years after treatment initiation. Early mortality was high: 14% died within 3 months after treatment start. 16% of patients experienced virological failure, but only 4% was switched to second-line ART. Male gender and a low performance score were associated with treatment failure; immunological failure was a poor predictor of virological failure. Conclusions. An “all or nothing” phenomenon was observed in this rural South African ART programme: high early attrition, but good virological control in those remaining in care. Continued efforts are needed to enrol patients earlier. Furthermore, the observed viro-immunological dissociation emphasises the need to make HIV-RNA testing more widely available.