Brief counselling after home-based HIV counselling and testing strongly increases linkage to care: a cluster-randomized trial in Uganda
The aim of this study was to determine whether counselling provided subsequent to HIV testing and referral for care increases linkage to care among HIV-positive persons identified through home-based HIV counselling and testing (HBHCT) in Masaka, Uganda.
The study was an open-label cluster-randomized trial. 28 rural communities were randomly allocated (1:1) to intervention (HBHCT, referral and counselling at one and two months) or control (HBHCT and referral only). HIV-positive care-naïve adults (≥18 years) were enrolled. To conceal participants’ HIV status, one HIV-negative person was recruited for every three HIV-positive participants. Primary outcomes were linkage to care (clinic-verified registration for care) status at six months, and time to linkage. Primary analyses were intention-to-treat using random effects logistic regression or Cox regression with shared frailty, as appropriate.
Three hundred and two(intervention, n = 149; control, n = 153) HIV-positive participants were enrolled. Except for travel time to the nearest HIV clinic, baseline participant characteristics were generally balanced between trial arms. Retention was similar across trial arms (92% overall). One hundred and twenty-seven (42.1%) participants linked to care: 76 (51.0%) in the intervention arm versus 51 (33.3%) in the control arm [odds ratio = 2.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.26–3.78; p = 0.008)]. There was evidence of interaction between trial arm and follow-up time (p = 0.009). The probability of linkage to care, did not differ between arms in the first two months of follow-up, but was subsequently higher in the intervention arm versus the control arm [hazard ratio = 4.87, 95% CI = 1.79–13.27, p = 0.002].
Counselling substantially increases linkage to care among HIV-positive adults identified through HBHCT and may enhance efforts to increase antiretroviral therapy coverage in sub-Saharan Africa.