Characterizing a Leak in the HIV Care Cascade: Assessing Linkage Between HIV Testing and Care in Tanzania

Richelle Harklerode, Jim Todd, M.M. de Wit, James Beard, Mark Urassa, Richard Machemba, Bernard Maduhu, J. Hargreaves, Geoffrey Somi, Brian Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In Tanzania, HIV testing data are reported aggregately for national surveillance, making it difficult to accurately measure the extent to which newly diagnosed persons are entering care, which is a critical step of the HIV care cascade. We assess, at the individual level, linkage of newly diagnosed persons to HIV care.
Methods: An expanded two-part referral form was developed to include additional variables and unique identifiers. The expanded form contained a corresponding number for matching the two-parts between testing and care. Data were prospectively collected at 16 health facilities in the Magu District of Tanzania.
Results: The records of 1,275 unique people testing HIV positive were identified and included in our analysis. Of these, 1,200 (94.1%) responded on previous testing history, with 184 (15.3%) testing twice or more during the pilot, or having had a previous HIV positive test. Three-quarters (932; 73.1%) of persons were linked to care during the pilot timeframe. Health service provision in the facility carrying out the HIV test was the most important factor for linkage to care; poor linkage occurred in facilities where HIV care was not immediately available.
Conclusions: It is critical for persons newly diagnosed with HIV to be linked to care in a timely manner to maximize treatment effectiveness. Our findings show it is feasible to measure linkage to care using routinely collected data arising from an amended national HIV referral form. Our results illustrate the importance of utilizing individual-level data for measuring linkage to care, as repeat testing is common.
Original languageEnglish
Article number406
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • surveillance
  • Tanzania
  • linkage to care
  • HIV care cascade


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