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People living with HIV (PLHIV) need lifelong medical care. However, retention in HIV care is not measured uniformly, making it challenging to compare or pool data. The objective of this study within a review (SWAR) is to describe the assortment of definitions used for retention in HIV care in randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We conducted a SWAR, drawing data from an overview of systematic reviews on interventions to improve the HIV care cascade. Ethics review was not required for this analysis of secondary data. We identified RCTs of interventions used to improve retention in care for PLHIV, including all age groups and extracted the definitions used and their characteristics. We identified 50 trials that measured retention published between 2007 and 2021 and provided 59 definitions for retention in care. The definitions consisted of nine different characteristics with follow-up time (n = 47), and clinical visits (n = 36) most used. The definitions of retention in HIV care are highly heterogeneous. In this study, we present the pros and cons of characteristics used to measure retention in HIV care.

Original publication




Journal article


AIDS Patient Care STDS

Publication Date





192 - 198


HIV care, human immunodeficiency virus, randomized controlled trial, retention, study within a review, Humans, HIV Infections, Systematic Reviews as Topic, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic