Antiretroviral Therapy in the Malawi Defence Force: Access, Treatment Outcomes and Impact on Mortality
Background HIV/AIDS affects all sectors of the population and the defence forces are not exempt. A national survey was conducted in all public and private sectors in Malawi that provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) to determine the uptake of ART by army personnel, their outcomes while on treatment, and the impact of ART on mortality in the Malawi Defence Force. Methodology/Principal Findings A retrospective cohort analysis was carried out, collecting data on access and retention on treatment from all 103 public and 38 private sector ART clinics in Malawi, using standardised patient master cards and clinic registers. Observations were censored on December 31st 2006. Independent data on mortality trends in army personnel from all causes between 2002 and 2006 were available from army records. By December 31st 2006, there were 85,168 patients ever started on ART in both public and private sectors, of whom 547 (0.7%) were army personnel. Of these, 22% started ART in WHO clinical stage 1 or 2 with a CD4-lymphocyte count of ≤250/mm3 and 78% started in stage 3 or 4. Treatment outcomes of army personnel by December 31st 2006 were:−365 (67%) alive and on ART at their registration facility, 98 (18%) transferred out to another facility, 71 (13%) dead, 9 (2%) lost to follow-up, and 4 (<1%) stopped treatment. The probability of being alive on ART at 6-, 12- and 18-months was 89.8%, 83.4% and 78.8% respectively. All-cause mortality in army personnel declined dramatically over the five year period from 2002–2006. Conclusion/Significance There has been a good access of army personnel to ART during the last five years with excellent outcomes, and this should serve as an example for other defence forces and large companies in the region.