Introduction: Decentralization of antiretroviral therapy (ART) services faces decreasing quality when increasing ART coverage. This study compares nurse initiated and managed patients to doctor managed patients under these circumstances, using retention in care as a crude measure of quality of care.
Methods: This was an observational retrospective cohort study. A simple data abstraction tool was used to collect baseline patient data from medical records of HIV positive patients (N=871) initiating ART at Mbabane Government Hospital and four of its outreach clinics, between 1st January and 30th June 2011. Descriptive summary statistics and comparison of the two cohorts using multivariate analysis was done.
Results There was no statistically significant difference in retention rates between the doctors and nurses cohorts at 69.1% and 70.9%, respectively (P was 0.56). After adjusting for sex, haemoglobin, CD4 cell count, weight and WHO stage, the odds of being retained in care were similar between the two groups, adjusted OR: 1.11(95% CI: 0.72, 1.69), with a p value of 0.64. Haemoglobin and weight were positively associated with retention in care, while male sex was negatively associated with retention in care.
Discussion: The similar retention rates between the two cohorts suggest that in terms of retention in care the service provided by the nurses was comparable to that provided by doctors. This is important to ART program managers as they scale-up ART decentralization.
Conclusion: Task-shifting of ART initiation from doctors to nurses is feasible as nurse initiated and managed antiretroviral therapy is comparable to doctor initiated and managed treatment.