menu ☰
menu ˟

Treatment Outcomes and Costs of Providing Antiretroviral Therapy at a Primary Health Clinic versus a Hospital-Based HIV Clinic in South Africa

12 Dec 2016

by Lawrence C. Long, Sydney B. Rosen, Alana Brennan, Faith Moyo, Celeste Sauls, Denise Evans, Shookdev L. Modi, Ian Sanne, Matthew P. Fox


In 2010 South Africa revised its HIV treatment guidelines to allow the initiation and management of patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) by nurses, rather than solely doctors, under a program called NIMART (Nurse Initiated and Managed Antiretroviral Therapy). We compared the outcomes and costs of NIMART between the two major public sector HIV treatment delivery models in use in South Africa today, primary health clinics and hospital-based HIV clinics.

Methods and findings

The study was conducted at one hospital-based outpatient HIV clinic and one primary health clinic (PHC) in Gauteng Province. A retrospective cohort of adult patients initiated on ART at the PHC was propensity-score matched to patients initiated at the hospital outpatient clinic. Each patient was assigned a 12-month outcome of alive and in care or died/lost to follow up. Costs were estimated from the provider perspective for the 12 months after ART initiation. The proportion of patients alive and in care at 12 months did not differ between the PHC (76.5%) and the hospital-based site (74.2%). The average annual cost per patient alive and in care at 12 months after ART initiation was significantly lower at the PHC (US$238) than at the hospital outpatient clinic (US$428).


Initiating and managing ART patients at PHCs under NIMART is producing equally good outcomes as hospital-based HIV clinic care at much lower cost. Evolution of hospital-based clinics into referral facilities that serve complicated patients, while investing most program expansion resources into PHCs, may be a preferred strategy for achieving treatment coverage targets.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in PLOS ONE