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Data on attrition due to mortality or loss to follow-up (LTFU) from antiretroviral therapy (ART) eligibility to ART initiation of HIV-infected children are scarce. The aim of this study is to describe attrition before ART initiation of 247 children who were eligible for ART in a cohort study in India. Multivariable analysis was performed using competing risk regression. The cumulative incidence of attrition was 12.6% (95% confidence interval, 8.7-17.3) after five years of follow-up, and the attrition rate was higher during the first months after ART eligibility. Older children (>9 years) had a lower mortality risk before ART initiation than those aged <2 years. Female children had a lower risk of LTFU before ART initiation than males. Children who belonged to scheduled tribes had a higher risk of delayed ART initiation and LTFU. Orphan children had a higher risk of delayed ART initiation and mortality. Children who were >3 months in care before ART eligibility were less likely to be LTFU. The 12-month risk of AIDS, which was calculated using the absolute CD4 cell count and age, was strongly associated with mortality. A substantial proportion of ART-eligible children died or were LTFU before the initiation of ART. These findings can be used in HIV programmes to design actions aimed at reducing the attrition of ART-eligible children in India.
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