Retention in Care and Outpatient Costs for Children Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy in Zambia: A Retrospective Cohort Analysis

By Callie A. Scott  Hari Iyer  Deophine Lembela Bwalya  Kelly McCoy  Professor Gesine Meyer-Rath  Crispin Moyo  Carolyn Bolton-Moore  Bruce Larson  Professor Sydney Rosen  |  | 


Background: There are few published estimates of the cost of pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Africa. Our objective was to estimate the outpatient cost of providing ART to children remaining in care at six public sector clinics in Zambia during the first three years after ART initiation, stratified by service delivery site and time on treatment. Methods: Data on resource utilization (drugs, diagnostics, outpatient visits, fixed costs) and treatment outcomes (in care, died, lost to follow up) were extracted from medical records for 1,334 children at six sites who initiated ART at ,15 years of age between 2006 and 2011. Fixed and variable unit costs (reported in 2011 USD) were estimated from the provider’s perspective using site level data. Results: Median age at ART initiation was 4.0 years; median CD4 percentage was 14%. One year after ART initiation, 73% of patients remained in care, ranging from 60% to 91% depending on site. The average annual outpatient cost per patient remaining in care was $209 (95% CI, $199–$219), ranging from $116 (95% CI, $107–$126) to $516 (95% CI, $499–$533) depending on site. Average annual costs decreased as time on treatment increased. Antiretroviral drugs were the largest component of all outpatient costs (.50%) at four sites. At the two remaining sites, outpatient visits and fixed costs together accounted for .50% of outpatient costs. The distribution of costs is slightly skewed, with median costs 3% to 13% lower than average costs during the first year after ART initiation depending on site. Conclusions: Outpatient costs for children initiating ART in Zambia are low and comparable to reported outpatient costs for adults. Outpatient costs and retention in care vary widely by site, suggesting opportunities for efficiency gains. Taking advantage of such opportunities will help ensure that targets for pediatric treatment coverage can be met.