BACKGROUND:In 2011 an experienced HIV nurse from the UK was deployed for 3 months to act as a mentor to nurses learning to initiate antiretroviral therapy (ART) in primary care clinics in a small town in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. METHODS:A review of existing pre-ART patient files (N=286) was carried out and lost-to-follow-up (LTFU) HIV patients were recalled. RESULTS:Only 24% of patients had attended the clinics within the preceding 6 months and 20% had not attended for longer than 2 years. Two lay counsellors visited 222 patients to encourage them to return to care; 65/286 (23%) were untraceable, 11/286 (4%) had relocated, 30/286 (10%) declined, and 8/286 (3%) had died. In the 6 weeks following recall, 51/286 patients (18%) returned to the clinics. CD4 count testing was repeated and screening for tuberculosis (TB) and other opportunistic infections was performed for all patients; ART was initiated in 13/51 (25%), 1 patient tested positive for TB, and isionazid (INH) prophylaxis was initiated in 23/51 (45%). The cost of recall was R130/patient. Within 6 months, all clinics began providing full ART services, 17 professional nurses were mentored and they initiated ART in 55 patients. CONCLUSIONS:Mentoring plays an important role in professional nurse training and support. Recall of LTFU patients is feasible and effective in improving ART services in rural settings.