AFYA I STUDY (2013-2016)

Cash versus food assistance to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy among HIV-infected adults in Tanzania: a randomized trial.

Objective: We evaluated the effectiveness of short-term cash and food assistance to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and retention in care among people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Shinyanga,Tanzania.

Methods: At three clinics, 805 participants were randomized to three groups in a 3:3:1 ratio, stratified by site: nutrition assessment and counseling (NAC) plus cash transfers (~$11/month, n=347), NAC plus food baskets (n=345), and NAC-only (comparison group, n=113, clinicaltrials.gov NCT01957917). Eligible PLHIV were: ≥18 years, initiated ART ≤90 days prior, and food insecure. Cash or food was provided for ≤6 consecutive months, conditional on visit attendance. The primary outcome was medication possession ratio (MPR) ≥95% at 6 months. Secondary outcomes were appointment attendance and loss to follow-up (LTFU) at 6 and 12 months.

Results: The primary intent-to-treat analysis included 800 participants. Achievement of MPR≥95% at 6 months was higher in the NAC+cash group compared to NAC-only (85.0% vs. 63.4%), a 21.6 percentage point difference (95% confidence interval (CI): 9.8, 33.4, p<0.01). MPR≥95% was also significantly higher in the NAC+food group versus NAC-only (difference=15.8, 95% CI: 3.8, 27.9, p<0.01). When directly compared, MPR≥95% was similar in the NAC+cash and NAC+food groups (difference=5.7, 95% CI: −1.2, 12.7, p=0.15). Compared to NAC-only, appointment attendance and LTFU were significantly higher in both the NAC+cash and NAC+food groups at 6 months. At 12 months, the effect of NAC+cash, but not NAC+food, on MPR≥95% and retention was sustained.

Conclusions: Short-term conditional cash and food assistance improves ART possession and appointment attendance and reduces LTFU among food-insecure ART initiates in Tanzania.