Promising new approach expands use of lifesaving HIV therapy
Despite clear evidence of its positive impact on the health of HIV-positive patients, antiretroviral therapy (ART) remains underused in some areas of Africa. Up to 30 percent of HIV-positive patients who are eligible to use ART either do not begin treatment or start too late to reap its full benefits.
- Low understanding among health workers of the harm in delayed ART use.
- Slow processing of the test used to determine ART eligibility (CD4 cell counts).
- Unnecessary requirements for multiple counseling visits before starting ART.
The researchers found that, among 12,024 ART-eligible patients at 20 clinics across southwestern Uganda, patients at START-ART clinics were much more likely to begin ART compared to clinics offering standard care. START-ART patients fared better than those in the control group at two key milestones:
- They were four times more likely to begin ART on the same day that they became eligible.
- They were two times more likely to begin ART within 14 days of becoming eligible.
It is exciting that the START-ART approach produced these dramatic improvements in ART use — and that it did so in real-world clinic settings. This study has given front-line healthcare workers around the world an effective tool to improve ART use and ultimately the health of HIV-positive patients.