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Background: Poor linkage to HIV care is impeding achievement of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 targets. This study aims to identify risk factors for poor linkage-to-care after HIV counseling and testing, thereby informing strategies to achieve 90-90-90. Setting: The Thol'impilo trial was a large randomized controlled trial performed between 2012 and 2015 in South Africa, comparing different strategies to improve linkage-to-care among adults aged ≥18 years who tested HIV-positive at mobile clinic HIV counseling and testing. Methods: In this secondary analysis, sociodemographic factors associated with time to linkage-to-care were identified using Cox regression. Results: Of 2398 participants, 61% were female, with median age 33 years (interquartile range: 27-41) and median CD4 count 427 cells/mm3 (interquartile range: 287-595). One thousand one hundred one participants (46%) had clinic verified linkage-to-care within 365 days of testing HIV-positive. In adjusted analysis, younger age [≤30 vs >40 years: adjusted hazard ratio (aHR): 0.58, 95% CI: 0.50 to 0.68; 31-40 vs >40 years: aHR: 0.81, 95% CI: 0.70 to 0.94, test for trend P < 0.001], being male (aHR: 0.86, 95% CI: 0.76 to 0.98, P = 0.028), not being South African (aHR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.66 to 0.96, P = 0.014), urban district (aHR: 0.82, 95% CI: 0.73 to 0.93, P = 0.002), being employed (aHR: 0.81, 95% CI: 0.72 to 0.92, P = 0.001), nondisclosure of HIV (aHR: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.56 to 0.72, P < 0.001), and having higher CD4 counts (test for trend P < 0.001) were all associated with decreased hazard of linkage-to-care. Conclusion: Linkage-to-care was low in this relatively large cohort. Increasing linkage-to-care requires innovative, evidence-based interventions particularly targeting individuals who are younger, male, immigrant, urban, employed, and reluctant to disclose their HIV status.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes

Publication Date





453 - 460