COVID-19 represents an unprecedented health, social and economic challenge in Australia and around the world. Support Burnet’s COVID-19 emergency response today.
BACKGROUND: Understanding retention and loss to follow up in HIV care, in particular the number of people with unknown outcomes, is critical to maximise the benefits of antiretroviral therapy. Individual-level data are not available for these outcomes in Australia, which has an HIV epidemic predominantly focused amongst men who have sex with men. METHODS AND FINDINGS: A network of the 6 main HIV clinical care sites was established in the state of Victoria, Australia. Individuals who had accessed care at these sites between February 2011 and June 2013 as assessed by HIV viral load testing but not accessed care between June 2013 and February 2014 were considered individuals with potentially unknown outcomes. For this group an intervention combining cross-referencing of clinical data between sites and phone tracing individuals with unknown outcomes was performed. 4966 people were in care in the network and before the intervention estimates of retention ranged from 85.9%-95.8% and the proportion with unknown outcomes ranged from 1.3-5.5%. After the intervention retention increased to 91.4-98.8% and unknown outcomes decreased to 0.1-2.4% (p<.01 for all sites for both outcomes). Most common reasons for disengagement from care were being too busy to attend or feeling well. For those with unknown outcomes prior to the intervention documented active psychiatric illness at last visit was associated with not re-entering care (p = 0.04). CONCLUSIONS: The network demonstrated low numbers of people with unknown outcomes and high levels of retention in care. Increased levels of retention in care and reductions in unknown outcomes identified after the intervention largely reflected confirmation of clinic transfers while a smaller number were successfully re-engaged in care. Factors associated with disengagement from care were identified. Systems to monitor patient retention, care transfer and minimize disengagement will maximise individual and population-level outcomes for populations with HIV.