Few studies have systematically described population-level differences comparing men and women across the continuum of routine HIV care. This study quantifies differentials in HIV care, treatment and mortality outcomes for men and women over time in South Africa.
We analysed population-wide linked anonymized data, including vital registration linkage, for the Western Cape Province, from the time of first CD4 count. Three antiretroviral therapy guideline eligibility periods were defined: 1 January 2008 to 31 July 2011 (CD4 cell count <200 cells/µL), 1 August 2011 to 31 December 2014 (<350 cells/µL), 1 January 2015 to 31 August 2016 (<500 cells/µL). We estimated care uptake based on service attendance, and modelled associations for men and women with ART initiation and overall, pre-ART and ART mortality. Separate Cox proportional hazard models were built for each outcome and eligibility period, adjusted for tuberculosis, pregnancy, CD4 count and age.
Adult men made up 49% of the population and constituted 37% of those living with HIV. In 2009, 46% of men living with HIV attended health services, rising to 67% by 2015 compared to 54% and 77% of women respectively. Men contributed <35% of all CD4 cell counts over 10 years and presented with more advanced disease (39% of all first presentation CD4 cell counts from men were <200 cells/µL compared to 25% in women). ART access was lower in men compared to women (AHR 0.79 (0.77 to 0.80) summarized for Period 2) over the entire study). Mortality was greater in men irrespective of ART (AHR 1.08 (1.01 to 1.16) Period 3) and after ART start (AHR 1.15 (1.05 to 1.20) Period 3) with mortality differences decreasing over time.
Compared to women, men presented with more advanced disease, were less likely to attend health care services annually, were less likely to initiate ART and had higher mortality overall and while receiving ART care. People living with HIV were more likely to initiate ART if they had acute reasons to access healthcare beyond HIV, such as being pregnant or being co-infected with tuberculosis. Our findings point to missed opportunities for improving access to and outcomes from interventions for men along the entire HIV cascade.