Background. The effect of tracing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected patients who are lost to follow-up (LTFU) on reengagement has not been rigorously assessed. We carried out an ex post analysis of a surveillance study in which LTFU patients were randomly selected for tracing to identify the effect of tracing on reengagement. Methods. We evaluated HIV-infected adults on antiretroviral therapy who were LTFU (>90 days late for last visit) at 14 clinics in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. A random sample of LTFU patients was selected for tracing by peer health workers. We assessed the effect of selection for tracing using Kaplan-Meier estimates of reengagement among all patients as well as the subset of LTFU patients who were alive, contacted in person by the tracer, and out of care. Results. Of 5781 eligible patients, 991 (17%) were randomly selected for tracing. One year after selection for tracing, 13.3% (95% confidence interval [CI], 11.1%–15.3%) of those selected for tracing returned compared with 10.0% (95% CI, 9.1%–10.8%) of those not randomly selected, an adjusted risk difference of 3.0% (95% CI, .7%–5.3%). Among patients found to be alive, personally contacted, and out of care, tracing increased the absolute probability of return at 1 year by 22% (95% CI, 7.1%–36.2%). The effect of tracing on rate of return to clinic decayed with a half-life of 7.0 days after tracing (95% CI, 2.6 %–12.9%). Conclusions. Tracing interventions increase reengagement, but developing methods for targeting LTFU patients most likely to benefit can make this practice more efficient.
- Antiretroviral therapy
- Loss to follow-up