Objectives To determine the proportion, characteristics and outcomes of patients who transfer-out from an antiretroviral therapy (ART) service in a South African township. Methods This retrospective cohort study included all patients aged [greater than or equal to]15 years who enrolled between September 2002 and December 2009. Follow-up data were censored in December 2010. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was used to describe time to transfer-out and cox proportional hazard analysis was used to determine associated risk factors. Results 4511 patients (4003 ART-naïve and 508 non-naïve at baseline) received ART during the study period. Overall, 597 (13.2%) transferred out. The probability of transferring out by one year of ART steadily increased from 1.4% in 2002/2004 cohort to 8.9% for the 2009 cohort. Independent risk factors for transfer-out were more recent calendar year of enrolment, younger age ([less than or equal to]25 years) and being ART non-naïve at baseline (i.e., having previously transferred into this clinic from another facility). The proportions of patients transferred out who had a CD4 cell count Conclusions With scale-up of ART over time, an increasing proportion of patients are transferring between ART services and information systems are needed to track patients. Approximately one-fifth of these have viral loads 1000 copies/mL around the time of transfer, suggesting the need for careful adherence counseling and assessment of medication supplies among those planning transfer.