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Telehealth Combined with Differentiated ART Delivery Improves ART Pick Up during COVID 19 at a Large HIV Treatment Facility in Trinidad and Tobago

N. Lyons, W. Samaroo Francis, J. Edwards, O. Lavia

Abstract: Objective: To describe the implementation and outcomes of using telehealth in combination with a differentiated ART delivery model to improve HIV antiretroviral therapy pick up at a large treatment facility in Trinidad and Tobago during COVID-19. Design and Methods: Beginning in April 2020, a list of patients was generated daily prior to their scheduled ART appointments. Nurses, doctors and social workers conducted telephone consultations to first screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms, conducted brief medical and behavioural health screenings, and helped patients to identify barriers to ART retention. Patients were recommended for 1) fast track ART refill collection at facility, 2) community ART refills, and 3) ART pick-up through patient peers. The uptake and outcomes of telehealth and ART pick up were compared with the corresponding period in 2019. Data was analyzed using SPSS 21.0. Results: During the period April-June 2020, 1361 patients were identified for telephone consultations, 1084 (80%) were successfully contacted and 984 patients (88%) participated in phone session. The independent t test showed a significant increase in ART pick-up when compared to the corresponding period in 2019. 59% of patients collected via fast-track ART refill, 30% had community refills, and 11% pick-up medications through patient peers. Conclusion: Telehealth is an integral component of DSD as part of the COVID-19 response at the MRF. Understanding the medium and longer-term outcomes of Telehealth can provide additional insights on the scale up of telehealth as a component of DSD to improve ART outcomes for patients in the context of the developing countries of the Caribbean.
Keywords: HIV / COVID 19 / Telehealth / Depression

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