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Patient-reported factors associated with reengagement among HIV-infected patients disengaged from care in East Africa



Engagement in care is key to successful HIV treatment in resource-limited settings; yet little is known about the magnitude and determinants of reengagement among patients out of care. We assessed patient-reported reasons for not returning to clinic, identified latent variables underlying these reasons, and examined their influence on subsequent care reengagement.


We used data from the East Africa International Epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS to identify a cohort of patients disengaged from care (>3 months late for last appointment, reporting no HIV care in preceding 3 months) (n = 430) who were interviewed about reasons why they stopped care. Among the 399 patients for whom follow-up data were available, 104 returned to clinic within a median observation time of 273 days (interquartile range: 165-325).


We conducted exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses (EFA, CFA) to identify latent variables underlying patient-reported reasons, then used these factors as predictors of time to clinic return in adjusted Cox regression models.


EFA and CFA findings suggested a six-factor structure that lent coherence to the range of barriers and motivations underlying care disengagement, including poverty, transport costs, and interference with work responsibilities; health system 'failures,' including poor treatment by providers; fearing disclosure of HIV status; feeling healthy; and treatment fatigue/seeking spiritual alternatives to medicine. Factors related to poverty and poor treatment predicted higher rate of return to clinic, whereas the treatment fatigue factor was suggestive of a reduced rate of return.


Certain barriers to reengagement appear easier to overcome than factors such as treatment fatigue. Further research will be needed to identify the easiest, least expensive interventions to reengage patients lost to HIV care systems. Interpersonal interventions may continue to play an important role in addressing psychological barriers to retention.

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