Research

Where have we come from and where are we going? The paediatric HIV programme in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 2004 to 2018: A retrospective analysis of programme trends

J L Dunlop, R R Lilian, C L Tait, M Mabitsi, H Struthers, J A McIntyre, K Rees

Abstract


Background. The paediatric HIV treatment programme in South Africa (SA) has grown since its inception in 2004. Despite this impressive scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in children, the proportion of children started on ART and retained in care remains unacceptably low, with only 47% of the 340 000 HIV-positive children in SA on ART in 2020. Johannesburg is one of the districts in SA with the largest number of children living with HIV who are not on ART, and is a priority district for paediatric case finding and retention.

Objectives. To describe the dynamics of the paediatric HIV programme in Johannesburg, SA.

Methods. A secondary analysis was conducted on patient-level HIV treatment data from TIER.Net, the nationally mandated HIV/ART database. Children aged <15 years who received ART between January 2004 and June 2019 at public health facilities in Johannesburg were included. We reported the number of children on ART and the number who entered and exited the programme by age group over time, and analysed the trends of these indicators.

Results. By December 2018, 7 630 children aged <15 years remained in Johannesburg’s paediatric ART programme: 82.5% were aged 5 - <15 years, with 54.1% of these being 10 - <15 years old. During the study period, 19 850 children were newly initiated on ART. New initiations slowed from 2013, to range from 1 172 to 1 373 yearly. In 2018, 34.2% of initiators were aged <1 year, 24.2% 1 - <5 years and 41.6% 5 - <15 years. Despite these initiations, the number of children on ART only grew by 97 in 2018, owing to programme losses. In 2018, 924  children (12.1%) aged out, 35 (0.5%) died and 983 (12.9%) were lost to follow-up (LTFU), the latter having increased from 10.7% in 2017. Of children who aged out of the paediatric ART programme, 56.3% remained in care at the same facility.

Conclusion. Early in the SA ART roll-out, many children were found to be HIV infected and started on ART. This number started to slow in 2013, after which the growth rate of the paediatric HIV programme also began to slow. Scale-up of methods for identifying older children with HIV is needed. While ageing out of the paediatric programme is a consideration, the number of children LTFU remains unacceptably high. Further interrogation of barriers to paediatric retention is needed to help realise the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90:90:90 goals for children in SA.


Authors' affiliations

J L Dunlop, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Community Paediatrics, School of Paediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

R R Lilian, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa

C L Tait, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa

M Mabitsi, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa

H Struthers, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa; Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

J A McIntyre, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa; School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

K Rees, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa; School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

Paediatric; Antiretroviral; HIV; Health programme

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2022;112(5):328-334.

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-04-30
Date published: 2022-04-30

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