Articles tagged as "Epidemiology"

Time to consider older adults on ART

Risk factors for mortality during antiretroviral therapy in older populations in resource-limited settings.

O'Brien D, Spelman T, Greig J, McMahon J, Ssonko C, Casas E, Mesic A, Du Cros P, Ford N. J Int AIDS Soc. 2016 Jan 14;19(1):20665. doi: 10.7448/IAS.19.1.20665. eCollection 2016.

Introduction: An increasing proportion of adult patients initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-limited settings are aged >50 years. Older populations on ART appear to have heightened risk of death, but little is known about factors influencing mortality in this population.

Methods: We performed a retrospective observational multisite cohort study including all adult patients (≥15 years) initiating ART between 2003 and 2013 in programmes supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres across 12 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Patients were stratified into two age groups, >50 years and 15 to 50 years. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to explore factors associated with mortality.

Results: The study included 41 088 patients: 2591 (6.3%) were aged >50 years and 38 497 (93.7%) were aged 15 to 50 years. The mortality rate was significantly higher in the age group >50 years [367 (14.2%) deaths; mortality rate 7.67 deaths per 100 person-years (95% confidence interval, CI: 6.93 to 8.50)] compared to the age group 15 to 50 years [3788 (9.8%) deaths; mortality rate 4.18 deaths per 100 person-years (95% CI: 4.05 to 4.31)], p<0.0001. Higher CD4 levels at baseline were associated with significantly reduced mortality rates in the 15 to 50 age group but this association was not seen in the >50 age group. WHO Stage 4 conditions were more strongly associated with increased mortality rates in the 15 to 50 age group compared to populations >50 years. WHO Stage 3 conditions were associated with an increased mortality rate in the 15 to 50 age group but not in the >50 age group. Programme region did not affect mortality rates in the >50 age group; however being in an Asian programme was associated with a 36% reduced mortality rate in populations aged 15 to 50 years compared to being in an African programme. There was a higher overall incidence of Stage 3 WHO conditions in people >50 years (12.8/100 person-years) compared to those 15 to 50 years (8.1/100 person-years) (p<0.01). The rate of Stage 4 WHO conditions was similar (5.8/100 versus 6.1/100 respectively, p=0.52). Mortality rates on ART associated with the majority of specific WHO conditions were similar between the 15 to 50 and >50 age groups.

Conclusions: Older patients on ART in resource-limited settings have increased mortality rates, but compared to younger populations this appears to be less influenced by baseline CD4 count and WHO clinical stage. HIV treatment programmes in resource-limited settings need to consider risk factors associated with mortality on ART in older populations, which may differ to those related to younger adults.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This article reports on a retrospective multisite cohort analysis that examined mortality rates and factors associated with mortality on ART for older individuals (> 50 years). The authors found that mortality was nearly two times greater in populations aged >50 years compared with people aged 15 to 50 years.

Contrary to other recent research, they did not find that the effect of age on mortality was stronger at lower CD4 cell counts. However, the analysis used pooled data from very diverse settings, with the great majority of patients (77%) from Asian programmes, and only 22% from Africa (and from nine different countries). This makes it difficult to tease out risk factors for mortality.

Interestingly they found that being in an Asian programme was associated with a 36% reduction in mortality (aHR: 0.64, 95%CI 0.59-0.69) among populations between 15 and 50 years compared to being in an African programme. The authors suggest that this might be due to a lower incidence of co-morbidities including opportunistic infections in Asian populations below 50 years compared to African populations.

As little is known about what it is like living with HIV for older people in resource-limited settings, the authors conclude with suggesting further social science research to address this issue. 

Africa, Asia, Europe
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TB still responsible for large proportion of admissions and in-patient deaths among people living with HIV

TB as a cause of hospitalization and in-hospital mortality among people living with HIV worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Ford N, Matteelli A, Shubber Z, Hermans S, Meintjes G, Grinsztejn B, Waldrop G, Kranzer K, Doherty M, Getahun H. J Int AIDS Soc. 2016 Jan 12;19(1):20714. doi: 10.7448/IAS.19.1.20714. eCollection 2016.

Introduction: Despite significant progress in improving access to antiretroviral therapy over the past decade, substantial numbers of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in all regions continue to experience severe illness and require hospitalization. We undertook a global review assessing the proportion of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths because of tuberculosis (TB) in PLHIV.

Methods: Seven databases were searched to identify studies reporting causes of hospitalizations among PLHIV from 1 January 2007 to 31 January 2015 irrespective of age, geographical region or language. The proportion of hospitalizations and in-hospital mortality attributable to TB was estimated using random effects meta-analysis.

Results: From an initial screen of 9049 records, 66 studies were identified, providing data on 35 845 adults and 2792 children across 42 countries. Overall, 17.7% (95% CI 16.0 to 20.2%) of all adult hospitalizations were because of TB, making it the leading cause of hospitalization overall; the proportion of adult hospitalizations because of TB exceeded 10% in all regions except the European region. Of all paediatric hospitalizations, 10.8% (95% CI 7.6 to 13.9%) were because of TB. There was insufficient data among children for analysis by region. In-hospital mortality attributable to TB was 24.9% (95% CI 19.0 to 30.8%) among adults and 30.1% (95% CI 11.2 to 48.9%) among children.

Discussion: TB remains a leading cause of hospitalization and in-hospital death among adults and children living with HIV worldwide.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: The last 30 years have seen radical improvements in outcomes for many people living with HIV. This study reminds us that in some parts of the world HIV-associated infections, tuberculosis (TB) in particular, still have a devastating effect on thousands of lives.

The importance of TB is widely recognised. WHO aim to reduce deaths due to TB by 75% over the next 10 years.  The question remains: do we really know how many people die due to TB?  Death certification has repeatedly been shown to be unreliable, particularly in the parts of the world where TB is most prevalent. Verbal autopsy is used to estimate cause of death in areas with poor notification systems, but poorly differentiates deaths due to TB and other HIV-associated conditions. Similar challenges are faced when counting and classifying morbidity and hospitalisations. Data are sparse, and determining the cause of an admission is not straightforward, even with access to well-maintained hospital records.  

This review, a sub-analysis of data from a broader study of HIV-associated hospital admissions, is by far the largest of its kind. The authors have been rigorous, given the heterogeneity of the studies included, and their findings are sobering. Among adults living with HIV, in all areas except Europe and South America, TB was the cause of 20-33% of admissions, and some 30% of adults and 45% of children who were admitted with TB were thought to have died from it. These findings are limited by the fact that not all reviewed studies reported on mortality and very few stated how causes of death were assigned.

This paper raises more questions than it answers, but they are important questions.  We are left in no doubt that TB is a major contributor to global morbidity and mortality in HIV-positive people, but we need to look closely at how we count and classify ‘TB deaths’ and ‘TB-associated admissions’. The recent systematic review of autopsy studies cited by the authors also found that almost half the TB seen at autopsy was not diagnosed before death. Global autopsy rates are in decline. Without access to more accurate data, how will we know if we’re winning or losing in our efforts to end TB deaths?

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Predicting acute HIV infection in key populations

Targeted screening of at-risk adults for acute HIV-1 infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sanders EJ, Wahome E, Powers KA, Werner L, Fegan G, Lavreys L, Mapanje C, McClelland RS, Garrett N, Miller WC, Graham SM. AIDS. 2015 Dec;29 Suppl 3:S221-30. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000924.

Background: Patients with acute HIV-1 infection (AHI) have elevated infectivity, but cannot be diagnosed using antibody-based testing. Approaches to screen patients for AHI are urgently needed to enable counselling and treatment to reduce onward transmission.

Methods: We pooled data from four African studies of high-risk adults that evaluated symptoms and signs compatible with acute retroviral syndrome and tested for HIV-1 at each visit. AHI was defined as detectable plasma viral load or p24 antigen in an HIV-1-antibody-negative patient who subsequently seroconverted. Using generalized estimating equation, we identified symptoms, signs, and demographic factors predictive of AHI, adjusting for study site. We assigned a predictor score to each statistically significant predictor based on its beta coefficient, summing predictor scores to calculate a risk score for each participant. We evaluated the performance of this algorithm overall and at each site.

Results: We compared 122 AHI visits with 45 961 visits by uninfected patients. Younger age (18-29 years), fever, fatigue, body pains, diarrhoea, sore throat, and genital ulcer disease were independent predictors of AHI. The overall area under the receiver operating characteristics curve (AUC) for the algorithm was 0.78, with site-specific AUCs ranging from 0.61 to 0.89. A risk score of at least 2 would indicate AHI testing for 5-50% of participants, substantially decreasing the number needing testing.

Conclusion: Our targeted risk score algorithm based on seven characteristics reduced the number of patients needing AHI testing and had good performance overall. We recommend this risk score algorithm for use by HIV programs in sub-Saharan Africa with capacity to test high-risk patients for AHI.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This analysis adds to the literature around the performance of risk score algorithms to guide testing for acute HIV infection (AHI). The four studies included in this analysis involved key populations in different African settings. In common with previous analyses, genital ulcer disease had by far the strongest association with AHI. The derived algorithm had modest accuracy overall and poor performance in South Africa, where symptoms and signs were particularly infrequent.

Most studies included in this analysis were cohort studies following key individuals. Whether or not algorithms based on recording of symptoms and signs during intensive follow-up for AHI can be translated for use in a real world situation of unselected people presenting for health care remains unproven. Ultimately, we really need evidence about the impact and cost-effectiveness of detecting AHI in different populations. This is in order to define the role of testing for AHI, and in particular whether rationalising testing with algorithms such as this is necessary (especially for key populations).   

Africa
Kenya, Malawi, South Africa
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HIV contributes to stroke among young people

HIV, antiretroviral treatment, hypertension, and stroke in Malawian adults: A case-control study.

Benjamin LA, Corbett EL, Connor MD, Mzinganjira H, Kampondeni S, Choko A, Hopkins M, Emsley HC, Bryer A, Faragher B, Heyderman RS, Allain TJ, Solomon T. Neurology. 2015 Dec 18. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002278. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: To investigate HIV, its treatment, and hypertension as stroke risk factors in Malawian adults.

Methods: We performed a case-control study of 222 adults with acute stroke, confirmed by MRI in 86%, and 503 population controls, frequency-matched for age, sex, and place of residence, using Global Positioning System for random selection. Multivariate logistic regression models were used for case-control comparisons.

Results: HIV infection (population attributable fraction [PAF] 15%) and hypertension (PAF 46%) were strongly linked to stroke. HIV was the predominant risk factor for young stroke (≤45 years), with a prevalence of 67% and an adjusted odds ratio (aOR) (95% confidence interval) of 5.57 (2.43-12.8) (PAF 42%). There was an increased risk of a stroke in patients with untreated HIV infection (aOR 4.48 [2.44-8.24], p < 0.001), but the highest risk was in the first 6 months after starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) (aOR 15.6 [4.21-46.6], p < 0.001); this group had a lower median CD4+ T-lymphocyte count (92 vs 375 cells/mm3, p = 0.004). In older participants (HIV prevalence 17%), HIV was associated with stroke, but with a lower PAF than hypertension (5% vs 68%). There was no interaction between HIV and hypertension on stroke risk.

Conclusions: In a population with high HIV prevalence, where stroke incidence is increasing, we have shown that HIV is an important risk factor. Early ART use in immunosuppressed patients poses an additional and potentially treatable stroke risk. Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome may be contributing to the disease mechanisms.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Stroke incidence is increasing across sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, hypertension accounts for most of the strokes. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, stroke is not uncommon among younger people, among whom the prevalence of hypertension is low. Therefore other factors may play a role.

This article reports on a case-control study with prospective recruitment of cases and community controls, examining the role of HIV, antiretroviral therapy, and the interaction between HIV and hypertension as risk factors for stroke in a setting with high HIV prevalence.

The investigators confirmed 86% of their cases with brain imaging, and found that the majority (78%) had findings consistent with ischemic stroke. Not surprisingly they found that overall, hypertension accounted for about half (46%) of the stroke cases. Interestingly only one-quarter of all people with hypertension in the study (cases and controls) were on hypertensive treatment.

However, among younger people (≤45 years) with stroke, HIV infection was the most important risk factor and accounted for 42% of the cases. HIV-positive people experienced the greatest risk of stroke during their first six months after ART initiation.

The HIV-positive stroke cases had a lower CD4 cell count compared to HIV-positive controls on the same duration of ART. Immunosuppression is a risk factor for immune constitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), and IRIS could thus be a plausible mechanism of stroke among people initiating ART.

The results of this study reinforce the need to start ART before people have advanced immunosuppression, which will reduce IRIS-associated morbidity. The latest WHO guidelines, ‘Treat all’, which recommend starting all HIV-positive people on antiretroviral therapy as soon after diagnosis as possible, have the potential to contribute to this.  

Africa
Malawi
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Contraception for women on ART – a balancing act

Pregnancy rates in HIV-positive women using contraceptives and efavirenz-based or nevirapine-based antiretroviral therapy in Kenya: a retrospective cohort study.

Patel RC, Onono M, Gandhi M, Blat C, Hagey J, Shade SB, Vittinghoff E, Bukusi EA, Newmann SJ, Cohen CR. Lancet HIV. 2015 Nov;2(11):e474-82. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00184-8. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

Background: Concerns have been raised about efavirenz reducing the effectiveness of contraceptive implants. We aimed to establish whether pregnancy rates differ between HIV-positive women who use various contraceptive methods and either efavirenz-based or nevirapine-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens.

Methods: We did this retrospective cohort study of HIV-positive women aged 15-45 years enrolled in 19 HIV care facilities supported by Family AIDS Care and Education Services in western Kenya between Jan 1, 2011, and Dec 31, 2013. Our primary outcome was incident pregnancy diagnosed clinically. The primary exposure was a combination of contraceptive method and efavirenz-based or nevirapine-based ART regimen. We used Poisson models, adjusting for repeated measures, and demographic, behavioural, and clinical factors, to compare pregnancy rates among women receiving different contraceptive and ART combinations.

Findings: 24 560 women contributed 37 635 years of follow-up with 3337 incident pregnancies. In women using implants, adjusted pregnancy incidence was 1.1 per 100 person-years (95% CI 0.72-1.5) for nevirapine-based ART users and 3.3 per 100 person-years (1.8-4.8) for efavirenz-based ART users (adjusted incidence rate ratio [IRR] 3.0, 95% CI 1.3-4.6). In women using depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, adjusted pregnancy incidence was 4.5 per 100 person-years (95% CI 3.7-5.2) for nevirapine-based ART users and 5.4 per 100 person-years (4.0-6.8) for efavirenz-based ART users (adjusted IRR 1.2, 95% CI 0.91-1.5). Women using other contraceptive methods, except for intrauterine devices and permanent methods, had 3.1-4.1 higher rates of pregnancy than did those using implants, with 1.6-2.8 higher rates in women using efavirenz-based ART.

Interpretation: Although HIV-positive women using implants and efavirenz-based ART had a three-times higher risk of contraceptive failure than did those using nevirapine-based ART, these women still had lower contraceptive failure rates than did those receiving all other contraceptive methods except for intrauterine devices and permanent methods. Guidelines for contraceptive and ART combinations should balance the failure rates for each contraceptive method and ART regimen combination against the high effectiveness of implants.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Contraceptive use by women living with HIV who wish to prevent pregnancy remains a key component of the strategy to eliminate new HIV infections among children. Progesterone-based implants are the most effective reversible contraceptive method, but there is some evidence to suggest that their efficacy may be reduced in women receiving efavirenz (EFV)-based antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Overall contraceptive use in these women of childbearing age was low – 70% of the time women were using no contraception or less effective methods only (condoms or natural methods). Overall pregnancy rates were low with the hormonal implant, broadly equivalent to women with intrauterine devices and much lower than with depot injectable and oral contraceptive methods. There was some evidence that the rate of pregnancy in women using the implant was higher for women on EFV-based ART compared to women on nevirapine-based ART. However, the rate of pregnancy remained lower than with injectable or oral contraceptives.

Although this may provide some support to the evidence of reduced implant efficacy with EFV-based ART, it is clear that this can still be an effective contraceptive method. This evidence seems unlikely to change existing WHO recommendations that all forms of contraception should be available to women living with HIV. The low rate of contraceptive use highlights the need to improve access for women living with HIV to quality integrated sexual and reproductive health services. The data from this study suggest that for women wishing to avoid pregnancy, the choice of contraceptive method may be more important than the choice of ART regimen.  

Africa
Kenya
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ART for people living with TB and HIV: practice still lags behind policy

The impact of HIV status and antiretroviral treatment on TB treatment outcomes of new tuberculosis patients attending co-located TB and ART services in South Africa: a retrospective cohort study.

Nglazi MD, Bekker LG, Wood R, Kaplan R. BMC Infect Dis. 2015 Nov 19;15(1):536. doi: 10.1186/s12879-015-1275-3.

Background: The implementation of collaborative TB-HIV services is challenging. We, therefore, assessed TB treatment outcomes in relation to HIV infection and antiretroviral therapy (ART) among TB patients attending a primary care service with co-located ART and TB clinics in Cape Town, South Africa.

Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, all new TB patients aged ≥ 15 years who registered and initiated TB treatment between 1 October 2009 and 30 June 2011 were identified from an electronic database. The effects of HIV-infection and ART on TB treatment outcomes were analysed using a multinomial logistic regression model, in which treatment success was the reference outcome.

Results: The 797 new TB patients included in the analysis were categorized as follows: HIV- negative, in 325 patients (40.8 %); HIV-positive on ART, in 339 patients (42.5 %) and HIV-positive not on ART, in 133 patients (16.7 %). Overall, bivariate analyses showed no significant difference in death and default rates between HIV-positive TB patients on ART and HIV-negative patients. Statistically significant higher mortality rates were found among HIV-positive patients not on ART compared to HIV-negative patients (unadjusted odds ratio (OR) 3.25; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.53-6.91). When multivariate analyses were conducted, the only significant difference between the patient categories on TB treatment outcomes was that HIV-positive TB patients not on ART had significantly higher mortality rates than HIV-negative patients (adjusted OR 4.12; 95 % CI 1.76-9.66). Among HIV-positive TB patients (n = 472), 28.2 % deemed eligible did not initiate ART in spite of the co-location of TB and ART services. When multivariate analyses were restricted to HIV-positive patients in the cohort, we found that being HIV-positive not on ART was associated with higher mortality (adjusted OR 7.12; 95 % CI 2.95-18.47) and higher default rates (adjusted OR 2.27; 95 % CI 1.15-4.47).

Conclusions: There was no significant difference in death and default rates between HIV-positive TB patients on ART and HIV negative TB patients. Despite the co-location of services 28.2% of 472 HIV-positive TB patients deemed eligible did not initiate ART. These patients had a significantly higher death and default rates.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: There is clear evidence that for people with TB and HIV, particularly individuals with low CD4+ cell counts (<350 cells/µL), being on antiretroviral therapy (ART) during TB treatment reduces the risk of mortality. However, practice still lags far behind policy in this area, as in 2013, globally, only around a third of known HIV-positive people with TB were treated with ART. This paper from a single health centre in South Africa highlights the impact of this treatment gap, and emphasizes the fact that co-location of TB and HIV services does not always translate to integrated patient-centred care.

The people included in this analysis were treated for TB between 2009 and 2011, which was before South Africa adopted guidelines recommending ART for all people with TB testing positive for HIV. Nevertheless, the majority of the people living with HIV had CD4+ cell counts that would have made them eligible for ART at the time of the study. Although overall outcomes were relatively good, one in six people starting TB treatment died or were lost to follow-up. Mortality among HIV-positive people not on ART was substantially higher than individuals on ART and people who were HIV-negative. One in four people who were ART-eligible did not start ART. It was not clear whether some did not start ART because they had already died or had been lost to follow-up. In this analysis, there was no differentiation between people already on ART at the time of starting TB treatment and people who started ART during TB treatment.

This study illustrates that co-location of HIV and TB services does not necessarily meet peoples’ needs if care remains fragmented. Care was provided by different people, and the HIV and TB programmes had separate organizational structures, as is still common. Workable models of integrated, patient-centred care for HIV and TB are necessary. Furthermore, to achieve targets of ending TB deaths, we still need a deeper understanding of why people die after starting TB treatment.  

Avoid TB deaths
Africa
South Africa
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Client violence against female sex workers in Mexico

Prevalence and correlates of client-perpetrated violence against female sex workers in 13 Mexican cities.

Semple SJ, Stockman JK, Pitpitan EV, Strathdee SA, Chavarin CV, Mendoza DV, Aarons GA, Patterson TL. PLoS One. 2015 Nov 23;10(11):e0143317. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143317. eCollection 2015.

Background: Globally, client-perpetrated violence against female sex workers (FSWs) has been associated with multiple health-related harms, including high-risk sexual behavior and increased exposure to HIV/STIs. This study examined correlates of client-perpetrated sexual, physical, and economic violence (e.g., robbery) against FSWs in 13 cities throughout Mexico.

Methods: FSWs (N = 1089) who were enrolled in a brief, evidence-based, sexual risk reduction intervention for FSWs (Mujer Segura) were interviewed about their work context, including experiences of violence perpetrated by clients, sexual risk and substance use practices, financial need, and social supports. Three broad categories of factors (sociodemographic, work context, behavioral and social characteristics of FSWs) were examined as correlates of sexual, physical, and economic violence.

Results: The prevalence of different types of client-perpetrated violence against FSWs in the past 6 months was: sexual (11.7%), physical (11.8%), economic (16.9%), and any violence (22.6%). Greater financial need, self-identification as a street worker, and lower perceived emotional support were independently associated with all three types of violence. Alcohol use before or during sex with clients in the past month was associated with physical and sexual violence. Using drugs before or during sex with clients, injection drug use in the past month, and population size of city were associated with sexual violence only, and FSWs' alcohol use score (AUDIT-C) was associated with economic violence only.

Conclusions: Correlates of client-perpetrated violence encompassed sociodemographic, work context, and behavioral and social factors, suggesting that approaches to violence prevention for FSWs must be multi-dimensional. Prevention could involve teaching FSWs strategies for risk avoidance in the workplace (e.g., avoiding use of alcohol with clients), enhancement of FSWs' community-based supports, development of interventions that deliver an anti-violence curriculum to clients, and programs to address FSWs' financial need by increasing their economic opportunities outside of the sex trade.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Violence against women who sell sex is receiving increasing attention. Perpetrators include clients, police, strangers, local thugs and husbands or intimate (non-paying) partners. This study from Mexico examined physical, sexual and emotional violence by clients among female sex workers in 13 cities in Mexico. Violence by clients was common (22.6% any violence, past six months) and similar to rates reported in other countries. Violence exposure was associated with greater financial need, street sex work, and lower perceived emotional support. Sexual and physical violence were also associated with alcohol use. Alcohol use, street sex work and debt have been associated with violence exposure among female sex workers in other low and middle income settings. This research supports a growing body of evidence which suggests that violence prevention should be a key element in services designed for and with female sex workers. Successful violence and HIV prevention programming will need to address the broader structural determinants of vulnerability such as poverty, sex work structure (typology), stigma and discrimination, and associated alcohol and drug use.  

Latin America
Mexico
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Vulnerabilities of children living with HIV positive adults

Children living with HIV-infected adults: estimates for 23 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Short SE, Goldberg RE. PLoS One. 2015 Nov 17; 10(11): e0142580.

Background: In sub-Saharan Africa many children live in extreme poverty and experience a burden of illness and disease that is disproportionately high. The emergence of HIV and AIDS has only exacerbated long-standing challenges to improving children's health in the region, with recent cohorts experiencing pediatric AIDS and high levels of orphan status, situations which are monitored globally and receive much policy and research attention. Children's health, however, can be affected also by living with HIV-infected adults, through associated exposure to infectious diseases and the diversion of household resources away from them. While long recognized, far less research has focused on characterizing this distinct and vulnerable population of HIV-affected children.

Methods: Using Demographic and Health Survey data from 23 countries collected between 2003 and 2011, we estimate the percentage of children living in a household with at least one HIV-infected adult. We assess overlaps with orphan status and investigate the relationship between children and the adults who are infected in their households.

Results: The population of children living in a household with at least one HIV-infected adult is substantial where HIV prevalence is high; in Southern Africa, the percentage exceeded 10% in all countries and reached as high as 36%. This population is largely distinct from the orphan population. Among children living in households with tested, HIV-infected adults, most live with parents, often mothers, who are infected; nonetheless, in most countries over 20% live in households with at least one infected adult who is not a parent.

Conclusion: Until new infections contract significantly, improvements in HIV/AIDS treatment suggest that the population of children living with HIV-infected adults will remain substantial. It is vital to on-going efforts to reduce childhood morbidity and mortality to consider whether current care and outreach sufficiently address the distinct vulnerabilities of these children.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This paper is an important contribution to the literature on the impact of the HIV epidemic. Using Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data from 23 countries it highlights the considerable number of children living with HIV-positive adults in sub-Saharan Africa. However, notable exceptions from the analysis (no DHS data available) included South Africa. This, coupled with specific issues related to DHS data collection methods and response rates, means that the number of children living with HIV-positive adults is much higher. Reductions in mortality from HIV due to increased treatment availability and the addition of adults newly acquiring HIV means that population of children living with an HIV-positive adult will continue to increase in the near future.

Children living with HIV-positive adults are clearly vulnerable and like all vulnerable children should be focussed on in efforts to promote child wellbeing. The authors suggest, however, that children living with HIV-positive adults may have distinct vulnerabilities that need to be considered. These include direct exposure to opportunistic infections, social stigma and disrupted networks, as well as increases in poverty. The challenge for many countries is how to identify these children and ensure that focussed programmes are delivered effectively.

Africa
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Testing for acute HIV infection feasible but impact remains uncertain

Incorporating acute HIV screening into routine HIV testing at sexually transmitted infection clinics and HIV testing and counseling centers in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Rutstein SE, Pettifor AE, Phiri S, Kamanga G, Hoffman IF, Hosseinipour MC, Rosenberg NE, Nsona D, Pasquale D, Tegha G, Powers K, Phiri M, Tembo B, Chege W, Miller WC. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Sep 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Background and objectives: Integrating acute HIV infection (AHI) testing into clinical settings is critical to prevent transmission and realize potential treatment-as-prevention benefits. We evaluated acceptability of AHI testing and compared AHI prevalence at sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV testing and counseling (HTC) clinics in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Methods: We conducted HIV RNA testing for HIV-seronegative patients visiting STI and HTC clinics. AHI was defined as positive RNA and negative/discordant rapid antibody tests. We evaluated demographic, behavioral, and transmission-risk differences between STI and HTC patients and assessed performance of a risk-score for targeted screening.

Results: Nearly two-thirds (62.8%, 9280/14 755) of eligible patients consented to AHI testing. We identified 59 persons with AHI (prevalence=0.64%) - a 0.9% case-identification increase. Prevalence was higher at STI (1.03% (44/4255)) than HTC clinics (0.3% (15/5025), p<0.01), accounting for 2.3% of new diagnoses, vs 0.3% at HTC. Median viral load (VL) was 758 050 copies/ml; 25% (15/59) had VL ≥10 000 000 copies/ml. Median VL was higher at STI (1 000 000 copies/ml) compared to HTC (153 125 copies/ml, p=0.2). Among persons with AHI, those tested at STI clinics were more likely to report genital sores compared to those tested at HTC (54.6% versus 6.7%, p<0.01). The risk score algorithm performed well in identifying persons with AHI at HTC (sensitivity=73%, specificity=89%).

Conclusions: The majority of patients consented to AHI testing. AHI prevalence was substantially higher in STI clinics than HTC. Remarkably high VLs and concomitant genital sores demonstrates the potential for transmission. Universal AHI screening at STI clinics, and targeted screening at HTC centers, should be considered.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Acute HIV infection (AHI) is defined as the time from HIV acquisition to the appearance of detectable antibodies. Individuals with AHI are highly infectious, at least partly due to high viral load. Effective strategies to identify and treat people with AHI could increase the impact of treatment as prevention strategies, although there continues to be debate around the contribution of AHI to HIV transmission at population level.

This study in Malawi was part of a clinical trial evaluating the impact of behavioural and antiretroviral programmes during AHI. The study was done in four high-volume urban facilities. Pooled HIV RNA testing was performed on blood from participants with negative or discordant rapid HIV tests, according to the routine testing algorithm (discordant defined as one positive and two negative tests). Overall participation rates were relatively low, with only one in three individuals with negative or discordant rapid HIV tests included. Most of the loss was due to potentially eligible persons not being screened. The reasons for this are not mentioned, although more than a third that were screened did not consent. Overall, one in 150 participants had AHI. This was higher, at one in 100, at the STI clinics. The proportion with AHI was lower than previous research in Malawi, which could reflect a decline in HIV incidence at population level.

The potential risk of HIV transmission during AHI is highlighted by the characteristics of the people with AHI. Almost half had HIV RNA >6 log10 copies/ml, a similar proportion had genital ulcers, and only one in five reported condom use at last sex. The algorithm for focussing AHI testing, previously developed in the same setting, had suboptimal performance across all sites. 

This study adds to a body of evidence that suggests testing for AHI is feasible and will increase the overall yield of HIV testing by a small amount. We now need more evidence around whether programmatic implementation of AHI testing would have an impact on HIV transmission, and on the cost-effectiveness of different testing strategies. Data from treatment as prevention trials, none of which have included specific strategies to diagnose AHI, will also indirectly inform whether this should become a higher priority for public health programmes. 

Africa
Malawi
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AIDS and bacterial disease remain leading causes of hospital admission

Causes of hospital admission among people living with HIV worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Ford N, Shubber Z, Meintjes G, Grinsztejn B, Eholie S, Mills EJ, Davies MA, Vitoria M, Penazzato M, Nsanzimana S, Frigati L, O'Brien D, Ellman T, Ajose O, Calmy A, Doherty M. Lancet HIV. 2015 Oct;2(10):e438-44. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00137-X. Epub 2015 Aug 11.

Background: Morbidity associated with HIV infection is poorly characterised, so we aimed to investigate the contribution of different comorbidities to hospital admission and in-hospital mortality in adults and children living with HIV worldwide.

Methods: Using a broad search strategy combining terms for hospital admission and HIV infection, we searched MEDLINE via PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, LILACS, AIM, IMEMR and WPIMR from inception to Jan 31, 2015, to identify studies reporting cause of hospital admission in people living with HIV. We focused on data reported after 2007, the period in which access to antiretroviral therapy started to become widespread. We estimated pooled proportions of hospital admissions and deaths per disease category by use of random-effects models. We stratified data by geographical region and age.

Findings: We obtained data from 106 cohorts, with reported causes of hospital admission for  313 006 adults and 6182 children living with HIV. For adults, AIDS-related illnesses (25 119 patients, 46%, 95% CI 40-53) and bacterial infections (14 034 patients, 31%, 20-42) were the leading causes of hospital admission. These two categories were the most common causes of hospital admission for adults in all geographical regions and the most common causes of mortality. Common region-specific causes of hospital admission included malnutrition and wasting, parasitic infections, and haematological disorders in the Africa region; respiratory disease, psychiatric disorders, renal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, and liver disease in Europe; haematological disorders in North America; and respiratory, neurological, digestive and liver-related conditions, viral infections, and drug toxicity in South and Central America. For children, AIDS-related illnesses (783 patients, 27%, 95% CI 19-34) and bacterial infections (1190 patients, 41%, 26-56) were the leading causes of hospital admission, followed by malnutrition and wasting, haematological disorders, and, in the African region, malaria. Mortality in individuals admitted to hospital was 20% (95% CI 18-23, 12 902 deaths) for adults and 14% (10-19, 643 deaths) for children.

Interpretation: This review shows the importance of prompt HIV diagnosis and treatment, and the need to reinforce existing recommendations to provide chemoprophylaxis and vaccination against major preventable infectious diseases to people living with HIV to reduce serious AIDS and non-AIDS morbidity.

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Editor’s notes: Despite the widening availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV-associated disease remains an important cause of illness and death. In this systematic review the authors summarise published data concerning causes of hospital admission among HIV-positive people since 2007. This date was selected on the basis that access to ART was limited prior to 2007.

Overall the most common causes of admission among adults, across all geographical regions, were AIDS-associated illness and bacterial infections. Tuberculosis was the most common cause among adults, accounting for 18% of all admissions, followed by bacterial pneumonia (15%). Among children, similarly AIDS-associated illnesses (particularly tuberculosis and Pneumocystis pneumonia) and bacterial infections were the most common causes of admission. Among the 20% of adults who died during their admission, the most common causes of death were tuberculosis, bacterial infections, cerebral toxoplasmosis and cryptococcal meningitis. Among children the most common causes of death were tuberculosis, bacterial infections and Pneumocystis pneumonia. Tuberculosis is likely to have been underestimated in these studies. Autopsy studies consistently illustrate that around half of HIV-positive people who have tuberculosis identified at autopsy had not been diagnosed prior to death.

The review highlights that the majority of severe HIV-associated disease remains attributable to advanced immunosuppression. This is reflected by a median CD4 count at admission among adults of 168 cells per µl. Some 30% of people first tested HIV positive at the time of the admission. The review underlines the need to promote HIV testing so that HIV-positive people can access ART, and prevent the complications of advanced HIV disease. It also underscores the need for better coverage of screening for tuberculosis and preventive therapy for people without active disease.  

Avoid TB deaths
Comorbidity, Epidemiology
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