Articles tagged as "Gender"

Closing the HIV testing gap with partner-delivered self-testing

Promoting partner testing and couples testing through secondary distribution of HIV self-tests: a randomized clinical trial.

Masters SH, Agot K, Obonyo B, Napierala Mavedzenge S, Maman S, Thirumurthy H. PLoS Med. 2016 Nov 8;13(11):e1002166. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002166. eCollection 2016.

Background: Achieving higher rates of partner HIV testing and couples testing among pregnant and postpartum women in sub-Saharan Africa is essential for the success of combination HIV prevention, including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission. We aimed to determine whether providing multiple HIV self-tests to pregnant and postpartum women for secondary distribution is more effective at promoting partner testing and couples testing than conventional strategies based on invitations to clinic-based testing.

Methods and findings: We conducted a randomized trial in Kisumu, Kenya, between June 11, 2015, and January 15, 2016. Six hundred antenatal and postpartum women aged 18-39 y were randomized to an HIV self-testing (HIVST) group or a comparison group. Participants in the HIVST group were given two oral-fluid-based HIV test kits, instructed on how to use them, and encouraged to distribute a test kit to their male partner or use both kits for testing as a couple. Participants in the comparison group were given an invitation card for clinic-based HIV testing and encouraged to distribute the card to their male partner, a routine practice in many health clinics. The primary outcome was partner testing within 3 mo of enrollment. Among 570 participants analyzed, partner HIV testing was more likely in the HIVST group (90.8%, 258/284) than the comparison group (51.7%, 148/286; difference = 39.1%, 95% CI 32.4% to 45.8%, p < 0.001). Couples testing was also more likely in the HIVST group than the comparison group (75.4% versus 33.2%, difference = 42.1%, 95% CI 34.7% to 49.6%, p < 0.001). No participants reported intimate partner violence due to HIV testing. This study was limited by self-reported outcomes, a common limitation in many studies involving HIVST due to the private manner in which self-tests are meant to be used.

Conclusions: Provision of multiple HIV self-tests to women seeking antenatal and postpartum care was successful in promoting partner testing and couples testing. This approach warrants further consideration as countries develop HIVST policies and seek new ways to increase awareness of HIV status among men and promote couples testing.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02386215.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Despite scale-up of HIV testing services, two in every five people living with HIV remain undiagnosed. World Health Organization (WHO) has just issued updated guidance on HIV testing services (HTS). In an effort to plug this testing gap, it strengthened the recommendation that HIV self-testing (HIVST) should be offered as one of the approaches to HTS. This paper adds to the body of evidence supporting that recommendation and provides more insight into the specific role of partner-delivered self-testing.     

There are challenges with conducting clinical trials of HIVST, one of which is selecting an appropriate outcome measure. In this trial, the primary outcome was participant report of male partner testing within three months of enrolment. Overall, uptake of male partner testing as reported by the participants was surprisingly high. It is worth noting that the participants and their partners may not have been particularly hard-to-reach groups. Almost all were married. The female participants were frequent testers. On average, they had tested three times in the past year. Most participants also reported that their male partner had tested at least once in the past year. It should also be noted that many women that were screened chose not to participate, so the participants may have to some extent pre-selected themselves as more interested and more likely to benefit from the activity.   

There were very few male partners reported as testing HIV positive during follow-up. This study was not able to determine how effectively people linked to care after HIVST. This is one of a number of research questions that remain around the delivery and impact of HIVST. Many of these are being addressed by the large HIV Self-Testing Africa (STAR) Project (http://hivstar.lshtm.ac.uk/). What seems to be beyond debate now though is that HIVST can and should play a role in helping us to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target.   

Africa
Kenya
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Comparing different methods to measure HIV incidence in a sub-Saharan African population

Estimating HIV incidence using a cross-sectional survey: comparison of three approaches in a hyperendemic setting, Ndhiwa sub-county, Kenya, 2012.

Blaizot S, Kim AA, Zeh C, Riche B, Maman D, DeCock K, Etard JF, Ecochard R. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2016 Dec 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Objectives: Estimating HIV incidence is critical for identifying groups at risk for HIV infection, planning and targeting interventions, and evaluating these interventions over time. The use of reliable estimation methods for HIV incidence is thus of high importance. The aim of this study was to compare methods for estimating HIV incidence in a population-based cross-sectional survey.

Design/methods: The incidence estimation methods evaluated included assay-derived methods, a testing history-derived method, and a probability-based method applied to data from the Ndhiwa HIV Impact in Population Survey (NHIPS). Incidence rates by sex and age and cumulative incidence as a function of age were presented.

Results: HIV incidence ranged from 1.38 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.67-2.09] to 3.30 [95% CI 2.78-3.82] per 100 persons-years overall; 0.59 [95% CI 0.00-1.34] to 2.89 [95% CI 0.11-5.68] in men; and 1.62 [95% CI 0.16-6.04] to 4.03 [95% CI 3.30-4.77] per 100 persons-years in women. Women had higher incidence rates than men for all methods. Incidence rates were highest among women aged 15-24 and 25-34 years and highest among men aged 25-34 years.

Conclusion: Comparison of different methods showed variations in incidence estimates, but they were in agreement to identify most-at-risk groups. The use and comparison of several distinct approaches for estimating incidence are important to provide the best-supported estimate of HIV incidence in the population.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: The estimation of HIV incidence is important both for planning effective HIV prevention strategies, and also to provide a proximal measure of changes in HIV epidemics both in general populations and in higher risk sub-groups. Further development of methods for accurately measuring HIV incidence that can be applied in routine monitoring settings is necessary.

This study compares three assay-based incidence estimation methods with approaches using self-reported testing history and a probabilistic technique on age and sex stratified sero-prevalence data. Two of the assays, BioRad and Lag, use antibody markers and a recent infection testing algorithm (RITA). The BioRad assay allowed for a longer time window for detection post-infection than the Lag. Recent infections were reclassified using results from HIV viral load tests and self-reported ART use, as appropriate. The other assay detected trace levels of HIV RNA in HIV seronegative individuals. The results for the two RITA assays were very similar at 1.38 [95% CI 0.67 – 2.09] infections per 100 person years (PY) for the BioRad and 1.46 [95% CI 0.71 – 2.22] per 100 PY for Lag. Combining these with HIV-RNA results led to small increases in each incidence estimate. The results for the probability-based incidence assays were very close to those derived from the combination of the RITA and HIV-RNA assays. However, the testing history-derived approach estimated incidence as almost double that from the other methods and this is likely to be in large part due to reporting/recall bias.

Despite the limitations of the methods, it was possible to identify population sub-groups defined by age and sex at higher risk of HIV infection. 

Africa
Kenya
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Rape and ARV uptake/adherence

Impact of sexual trauma on HIV care engagement: perspectives of female patients with trauma histories in Cape Town, South Africa.

Watt MH, Dennis AC, Choi KW, Ciya N, Joska JA, Robertson C, Sikkema KJ. AIDS Behav. 2016 Nov 19. [Epub ahead of print]

South African women have disproportionately high rates of both sexual trauma and HIV. To understand how sexual trauma impacts HIV care engagement, we conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with 15 HIV-infected women with sexual trauma histories, recruited from a public clinic in Cape Town. Interviews explored trauma narratives, coping behaviors and care engagement, and transcripts were analyzed using a constant comparison method. Participants reported multiple and complex traumas across their lifetimes. Sexual trauma hindered HIV care engagement, especially immediately following HIV diagnosis, and there were indications that sexual trauma may interfere with future care engagement, via traumatic stress symptoms including avoidance. Disclosure of sexual trauma was limited; no woman had disclosed to an HIV provider. Routine screening for sexual trauma in HIV care settings may help to identify individuals at risk of poor care engagement. Efficacious treatments are needed to address the psychological and behavioral sequelae of trauma.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Few studies have examined the impact of violence exposure on ART uptake and adherence. There is also a paucity of studies from low- and middle-income countries. South African women face a dual burden of HIV and violence risk, especially in areas characterized by extreme poverty, substance abuse and gender inequality. This study used qualitative interviews with 15 women living with HIV with histories of sexual trauma and attending an HIV-treatment clinic. The authors explore the intersections between sexual trauma experience, HIV infection and engagement with HIV care services.

Women reported complex sexual trauma histories, with repeated abuse from childhood into adulthood. This abuse was usually from family members or ‘lovers’. Sexual violence was usually accompanied by physical and emotional abuse. Women described symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Many associated their HIV infection with their sexual trauma / abusive relationship(s). For some, the HIV diagnosis and taking treatment reminded them of their rape and triggered feelings of shame. Women described their sexual violence experience as more stressful and shameful than their HIV status. None had disclosed their trauma history to their HIV care provider. The findings from this study suggest that women with a sexual trauma history may have poorer uptake and adherence to ARVs than women without. Additional research is necessary in low- and middle-income countries to explore this further. There is insufficient support and counselling services for women who have experienced sexual trauma and other abuse. Implementing such services may relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and support ART uptake and adherence. 

Africa
South Africa
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Conditional cash transfers had no effect on HIV in high school attendance setting

The effect of a conditional cash transfer on HIV incidence in young women in rural South Africa (HPTN 068): a phase 3, randomised controlled trial.

Pettifor A, MacPhail C, Hughes JP, Selin A, Wang J, Gomez-Olive FX, Eshleman SH, Wagner RG, Mabuza W, Khoza N, Suchindran C, Mokoena I, Twine R, Andrew P, Townley E, Laeyendecker O, Agyei Y, Tollman S, Kahn K. Lancet Glob Health. 2016 Dec;4(12):e978-e988. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30253-4. Epub 2016 Nov 1.

Background: Cash transfers have been proposed as an intervention to reduce HIV-infection risk for young women in sub-Saharan Africa. However, scarce evidence is available about their effect on reducing HIV acquisition. We aimed to assess the effect of a conditional cash transfer on HIV incidence among young women in rural South Africa.

Methods: We did a phase 3, randomised controlled trial (HPTN 068) in the rural Bushbuckridge subdistrict in Mpumalanga province, South Africa. We included girls aged 13-20 years if they were enrolled in school grades 8-11, not married or pregnant, able to read, they and their parent or guardian both had the necessary documentation necessary to open a bank account, and were residing in the study area and intending to remain until trial completion. Young women (and their parents or guardians) were randomly assigned (1:1), by use of numbered sealed envelopes containing a randomisation assignment card which were numerically ordered with block randomisation, to receive a monthly cash transfer conditional on school attendance (≥80% of school days per month) versus no cash transfer. Participants completed an Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interview (ACASI), before test HIV counselling, HIV and herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2 testing, and post-test counselling at baseline, then at annual follow-up visits at 12, 24, and 36 months. Parents or guardians completed a Computer-Assisted Personal Interview at baseline and each follow-up visit. A stratified proportional hazards model was used in an intention-to-treat analysis of the primary outcome, HIV incidence, to compare the intervention and control groups. This study is registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT01233531).

Findings: Between March 5, 2011, and Dec 17, 2012, we recruited 10 134 young women and enrolled 2537 and their parents or guardians to receive a cash transfer programme (n=1225) or not (control group; n=1223). At baseline, the median age of girls was 15 years (IQR 14-17) and 672 (27%) had reported to have ever had sex. 107 incident HIV infections were recorded during the study: 59 cases in 3048 person-years in the intervention group and 48 cases in 2830 person-years in the control group. HIV incidence was not significantly different between those who received a cash transfer (1.94% per person-years) and those who did not (1.70% per person-years; hazard ratio 1.17, 95% CI 0.80-1.72, p=0.42).

Interpretation: Cash transfers conditional on school attendance did not reduce HIV incidence in young women. School attendance significantly reduced risk of HIV acquisition, irrespective of study group. Keeping girls in school is important to reduce their HIV-infection risk. 

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Cash transfers to vulnerable household and/or individuals have been used successfully in a variety of settings as a means to reduce poverty, improve health and achieve other development-associated outcomes. Cash transfers can help address structural drivers of HIV, such as economic and gender inequalities and low levels of education, and have been proposed as a potentially important addition to HIV prevention efforts. However, the evidence of their effectiveness in the context of HIV prevention is mixed. This study is the first randomized controlled trial to examine the effect of cash transfers conditional on school attendance with HIV incidence in adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa. The trial found no evidence that receipt of the conditional cash transfer reduced HIV or HSV-2 incidence.

Staying in education has been highlighted as a key factor for reducing the risk of HIV infection in girls and young women. In this setting, school attendance based on attendance registers was high in both trial arms (95%). This is much higher than in South Africa overall, and higher than in Mpumalanga Province (the study area). Eligibility for the trial was restricted to girls and young women who were currently enrolled in school, so the trial participants may have been more motivated to attend school than those who were not eligible. Interestingly, 75% of individuals who were screened for the trial were found to be ineligible, although the reasons for their exclusion are not given, and it is difficult to know how generalizable the results are. South Africa has a strong social protection system for poor families, and 80% of the study participants were from households that were receiving child support grants. The benefits of additional cash transfers in areas with high coverage of social protection may be minimal. Cash transfers to girls and young women for HIV prevention are likely to have a greater effect in settings with low school attendance and more limited social protection coverage.

Consistent with other studies, the trial found that staying in school was associated with a reduced risk of HIV, irrespective of trial arm. The cash transfer was also associated with a strongly reduced risk of intimate partner violence, and a small effect on reducing some sexual risk behaviours. Cash transfers may work both directly and indirectly, through a variety of different pathways that are likely to vary between settings and between populations. The high-recorded school attendance in both trial arms will have limited the ability to examine education as a pathway through which the cash transfer may have influenced HIV risk. A better understanding of these pathways and how they are affected by the setting may help inform the conditions under which cash transfers may be an effective component of an HIV prevention programme.

Africa
South Africa
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Migrations, even over short distances, substantially increase the risk of HIV acquisition in rural South Africa

Space-time migration patterns and risk of HIV acquisition in rural South Africa: a population-based cohort study.

Dobra A, Barnighausen T, Vandormael A, Tanser F. AIDS. 2016 Oct 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: To quantify the space-time dimensions of human mobility in relationship to the risk of HIV acquisition.

Methods: We used data from the population cohort located in a high HIV-prevalence, rural population in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (2000 - 2014). We geolocated 8006 migration events (representing 1 028 782 km travelled) for 17 743 individuals (≥15 years of age) who were HIV-negative at baseline and followed-up these individuals for HIV acquisition (70 395 person-years). Based on the complete geolocated residential history of every individual in this cohort, we constructed two detailed time-varying migration indices. We then used interval-censored Cox proportional hazards models to quantify the relationship between the migration indices and the risk of HIV acquisition.

Results: 17.4% of participants migrated at least once outside the rural study community during the period of observation (median migration distance = 107.1 km, IQR 18.9-387.5). The two migration indices were highly predictive of hazard of HIV acquisition (p < 0.01) in both men and women. Holding other factors equal, the risk of acquiring HIV infection increased by 50% for migration distances of 40 km (men) and 109 km (women). HIV acquisition risk also increased by 50% when participants spent 44% (men) and 90% (women) of their respective time outside the rural study community.

Conclusion: This in-depth analysis of a population cohort in a rural sub-Saharan African population has revealed a clear non-linear relationship between distance migrated and HIV acquisition. Our findings show that even relatively short distance migration events confer substantial additional risk of acquisition.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Many studies in sub-Saharan African settings have illustrated that migrants have a greater risk of HIV infection and subsequent HIV-associated mortality than their non-migrant peers. The causal mechanisms underlying this enhanced risk and the temporal sequence of the migration and HIV acquisition events are less well understood. This study conducted in rural KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa is a longitudinal analysis linking data on migration episodes and the results of repeated HIV tests for individuals who were HIV negative at baseline. The two places of residence associated with the migration event were geo-coded, enabling the associations between spatiotemporal aspects of the migration and the risk of HIV acquisition to be explored. Two migration indices were calculated - one measuring the length of time spent outside the home residence and the other measuring the sum of the distances associated with the migrations. Both migration indices were significantly associated the risk of HIV acquisition. The association with distance was non-linear, with the risk of acquisition increasing by 50% at relatively short distances (approximately 55km), and the rates of increase of risk declined as the distance of migration increased further. The magnitude of this effect was similar for both sexes. By contrast the effect of time spent away from home on the risk of acquisition of HIV was significantly greater for men than women.

There are likely to be a number of mechanisms explaining the increased risks for migrants. These include an increase in the number of sexual partners, adoption of higher risk sexual behaviour and a detachment from the social support networks that exist in the home community. Further qualitative studies are necessary to explore these more fully. The authors also recommend that such studies are replicated in other settings to assess the generalisability of the findings. Having established these causal pathways, novel HIV prevention approaches focused towards these highly vulnerable migrant populations will need to be developed as part of efforts to achieve the UNAIDS 90:90:90 treatment target.

Africa
South Africa
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She looks healthy so is she dangerous to me? Unintended consequences of HIV treatment through the eyes of men in the community

They are looking just the same: antiretroviral treatment as social danger in rural Malawi.

Kaler A, Angotti N, Ramaiya A. Soc Sci Med. 2016 Oct;167:71-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.08. 023. Epub 2016 Aug 18.

Research on the social impact of ART pivots on questions of individual adherence and community acceptability of treatment programmes. In this paper we examine unexpected and unintended consequences of the scale-up of treatment in rural Malawi, using a unique dataset of more than 150 observational journals from three sites, spanning 2010 to 2013, focusing on men's everyday conversations. Through thematic content analysis, we explore the emerging perception that the widespread availability of ART constitutes a form of social danger, as treatment makes it difficult to tell who does or does not have AIDS. This ambiguity introduced through ART is interpreted as putting individuals at risk, because it is no longer possible to tell who might be infected - indeed, the sick now look healthier and "plumper" than the well. This ambivalence over the social impact of ART co-exists with individual demand for and appreciation of the benefits of treatment.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Widespread uptake of lifelong antiretroviral therapy means that our focus on its impact on communities should no longer be on its novelty but its consequences. This is a really interesting qualitative paper which reflects on how men in a rural community in Malawi consider the social dangers that women who are on HIV treatment, specifically, pose to men. Through the content analysis of journal entries, which captured men’s informal conversations, the researchers draw out this sub group’s ambivalence towards antiretroviral therapy. Women who have HIV can become appealing sexual partners through projecting a healthy attractiveness. Thus treatment is portrayed as disruptive by putting men, attracted to plump/ healthy women, at risk. It is revealing that two of the key tenets of current prevention policy are relatively silent within these findings. Neither the message of the prevention benefits of treatment, in which people successfully adhering to treatment pose a minimal transmission risk, nor the message that sex should be protected, because anyone’s status should be considered unknown, appears to have a significant influence on either discourse or practice. By paying attention to the ‘hum’ and ‘chatter’ of everyday life we can learn about how treatment opportunities are interpreted. We can also gain insights into how they are understood in accordance with concerns around sexual opportunities and sexual appeal. These may change but they continue to be heavily shaped by gender.  

Africa
Malawi
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Violence and HIV among poor urban women in the USA

Physical and sexual violence predictors: 20 years of the women's interagency HIV study cohort.

Decker MR, Benning L, Weber KM, Sherman SG, Adedimeji A, Wilson TE, Cohen J, Plankey MW, Cohen MH, Golub ET. Am J Prev Med. 2016 Nov;51(5):731-742. pii: S0749-3797(16)30253-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2016.07.005. [Epub 2016 Aug 29]. 

Introduction: Gender-based violence (GBV) threatens women's health and safety. Few prospective studies examine physical and sexual violence predictors. Baseline/index GBV history and polyvictimization (intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual assault, and childhood sexual abuse) were characterized. Predictors of physical and sexual violence were evaluated over follow-up.

Methods: HIV-infected and uninfected participants (n=2838) in the Women's Interagency HIV Study provided GBV history; 2669 participants contributed 26 363 person years of follow-up from 1994 to 2014. In 2015-2016, multivariate log-binomial/Poisson regression models examined violence predictors, including GBV history, substance use, HIV status, and transactional sex.

Results: Overall, 61% reported index GBV history; over follow-up, 10% reported sexual and 21% reported physical violence. Having experienced all three forms of past GBV posed the greatest risk (adjusted incidence rate ratio [AIRR]physical=2.23, 95% CI=1.57, 3.19; AIRRsexual=3.17, 95% CI=1.89, 5.31). Time-varying risk factors included recent transactional sex (AIRRphysical=1.29, 95% CI=1.03, 1.61; AIRRsexual=2.98, 95% CI=2.12, 4.19), low income (AIRRphysical=1.22, 95% CI=1.01, 1.45; AIRRsexual=1.38, 95% CI=1.03, 1.85), and marijuana use (AIRRphysical=1.43, 95% CI=1.22, 1.68; AIRRsexual=1.57, 95% CI=1.19, 2.08). For physical violence, time-varying risk factors additionally included housing instability (AIRR=1.37, 95% CI=1.15, 1.62); unemployment (AIRR=1.38, 95% CI=1.14, 1.67); exceeding seven drinks/week (AIRR=1.44, 95% CI=1.21, 1.71); and use of crack, cocaine, or heroin (AIRR=1.76, 95% CI=1.46, 2.11).

Conclusions: Urban women living with HIV and their uninfected counterparts face sustained GBV risk. Past experiences of violence create sustained risk. Trauma-informed care, and addressing polyvictimization, structural inequality, transactional sex, and substance use treatment, can improve women's safety.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Gender-based violence results in physical, sexual and mental health morbidities, including HIV risk behaviours and HIV infection. There is limited prospective research on risk factors for physical and sexual violence. This study characterised leading violence forms – that is, intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual assault and childhood sexual assault – among a cohort of low-income women living in six American cities, some of whom are living with HIV. It also examined predictors of violence experience during follow-up. This study found extensive gender-based violence of all types, listed above, among this cohort of 2838 HIV positive and HIV negative women. Lifetime gender-based violence history was highly prevalent among white women (72%), non-heterosexual women (74%), homeless / unstably housed women (80%) and among women with a sex work history (81%). Experience of different types of gender-based violence by baseline conferred significant risk for subsequent physical and sexual violence. HIV status did not confer risk for violence victimisation indicating that low-income women in this setting are at considerable risk for violence, regardless of their HIV status.

This study presents data from the largest ongoing prospective cohort study among American women living with HIV and includes a demographically matched HIV negative comparison group. The key limitation of this study was the non-probability sample, which limits generalisability of these results. The results are best generalised to urban American women in high-HIV prevalence settings. Additional cohort studies are necessary in other settings and contexts. However, the findings demonstrate the need to understand and address different forms of violence experienced by the same woman for violence prevention and health promotion. They support the USA 2015 National HIV/AIDS strategy recommendations to address violence and trauma for women both at risk for and living with HIV. 

Northern America
United States of America
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The limits of HIV disclosure for women in 27 countries

The association between HIV disclosure status and perceived barriers to care faced by women living with HIV in Latin America, China, central/eastern Europe, and western Europe/Canada.

Loutfy M, Johnson M, Walmsley S, Samarina A, Vasquez P, Hao-Lan H, Madihlaba T, Martinez-Tristani M, van Wyk J. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2016 Sep;30(9):435-44. doi: 10.1089/apc.2016.0049. Epub 2016 Aug 23.

Generally, women are less likely than men to disclose their HIV status. This analysis examined the relationship between HIV disclosure and (1) perceived barriers to care and (2) quality of life (QoL) for women with HIV. The ELLA (EpidemioLogical study to investigate the popuLation and disease characteristics, barriers to care, and quAlity of life for women living with HIV) study enrolled HIV-positive women aged ≥18 years. Women completed the 12-item Barriers to Care Scale (BACS) questionnaire. QoL was assessed using the Health Status Assessment. BACS and QoL were stratified by dichotomized HIV disclosure status (to anyone outside the healthcare system). Multilevel logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with disclosure. Of 1945 patients enrolled from Latin America, China, central/eastern Europe, and western Europe/Canada between July 2012 and September 2013, 1929 were included in the analysis (disclosed, n = 1724; nondisclosed, n = 205). Overall, 55% of patients lived with a husband/partner, 53% were employed, and 88% were receiving antiretroviral therapy. Patients who were with a serodiscordant partner were more likely to disclose (p = 0.0003). China had a disproportionately higher percentage of participants who did not disclose at all (nearly 30% vs. <15% for other regions). Mean BACS severity scores for medical/psychological service barriers and most personal resource barriers were significantly lower for the disclosed group compared with the nondisclosed group (p ≤ 0.02 for all). Compared with the disclosed group, the nondisclosed group reported statistically significantly higher (p ≤ 0.03) BACS item severity scores for 8 of the 12 potential barriers to care. The disclosed group reported better QoL. Overall, HIV nondisclosure was associated with more severe barriers to accessing healthcare by women with HIV.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This study drew women participants from Latin America, China, central and eastern Europe and from western Europe and Canada.  China was the only Asian country included and no African countries were included. This is important background information since the first sentence of the abstract ‘women are less likely than men to disclose HIV status’ is less likely to be true for, for example, parts of Africa. The study did not include men. So, no comparison can therefore be made with men’s disclosure behaviour. Nevertheless, the paper draws on data from 27 countries. Most women in the study did have access to ‘efficacious, well-tolerated’ antiretroviral therapy. A number of women, most notably in China, did not disclose their HIV status outside the health care system. Many women disclosed their status to a limited extent (only to some family and close friends). Non-disclosure affected access to health care as well as more general support. This pattern of non- or limited disclosure and barriers to access to care is replicated in many other places. The findings in this paper point to the importance globally of tackling stigma and providing a supportive health care and social setting for people living with HIV, so they can benefit fully from the treatment and care that is available.

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Pregnancy and intimate partner violence among women living with HIV

Intimate partner violence experienced by HIV-infected pregnant women in South Africa: a cross-sectional study.

Bernstein M, Phillips T, Zerbe A, McIntyre JA, Brittain K, Petro G, Abrams EJ, Myer L. BMJ Open. 2016 Aug 16;6(8):e011999. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011999.

Objectives: Intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy may be common in settings where HIV is prevalent but there are few data on IPV in populations of HIV-infected pregnant women in Southern Africa. We examined the prevalence and correlates of IPV among HIV-infected pregnant women.

Setting: A primary care antenatal clinic in Cape Town, South Africa.

Participants: 623 consecutive HIV-infected pregnant women initiating lifelong antiretroviral therapy.

Measures: IPV, depression, substance use and psychological distress were assessed using the 13-item WHO Violence Against Women questionnaire, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Alcohol and Drug Use Disorders Identification Tests (AUDIT/DUDIT) and the Kessler 10 (K-10) scale, respectively.

Results: The median age in the sample was 28 years, 97% of women reported being in a relationship, and 70% of women reported not discussing and/or agreeing on pregnancy intentions before conception. 21% of women (n=132) reported experiencing ≥1 act of IPV in the past 12 months, including emotional (15%), physical (15%) and sexual violence (2%). Of those reporting any IPV (n=132), 48% reported experiencing 2 or more types. Emotional and physical violence was most prevalent among women aged 18-24 years, while sexual violence was most commonly reported among women aged 25-29 years. Reported IPV was less likely among married women, and women who experienced IPV were more likely to score above threshold for substance use, depression and psychological distress. In addition, women who reported not discussing and/or not agreeing on pregnancy intentions with their partner prior to conception were significantly more likely to experience violence.

Conclusions: HIV-infected pregnant women in the study reported experiencing multiple forms of IPV. While the impact of IPV on maternal and child health outcomes in the context of HIV infection requires further research attention, IPV screening and support services should be considered within the package of routine care for HIV-infected pregnant women.

Trial registration number: NCT01933477.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Intimate partner violence among women in sub-Saharan Africa is >30%. There is limited research examining intimate partner violence among women living with HIV. Research is important as intimate partner violence may impact on a woman’s ability to adhere to antiretroviral therapy. Among pregnant women, this includes during pregnancy and post-partum. This study describes the prevalence of recent intimate partner violence, and examines associations between recent intimate partner violence and demographic, relationship and psychological variables.

The study was set in a township in Cape Town, South Africa, where the majority of residents have low socio-economic status and HIV infection among women is approximately 30%. Some 21% percent of 623 participants reported any recent intimate partner violence in the past 12 months.  Fifteen percent reported emotional violence, 15% physical violence (7% severe physical) and two percent sexual violence. Recent violence was associated with hazardous alcohol use, psychological distress and depression. It was more likely among unmarried women, and among women who had not discussed/agreed pregnancy prior to conception. There was no evidence to suggest intimate partner violence was elevated among women newly diagnosed with HIV.

These data suggest significant intimate partner violence experience among pregnant women living with HIV, living in this township. This study adds to the limited literature, examining intimate partner violence in the context of pregnancy and HIV. Longitudinal studies, and studies which examine the impact of intimate partner violence on ART uptake and adherence, including during pregnancy and post-partum, are necessary. 

Africa
South Africa
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Updated evidence that DMPA increases HIV risk among women

Update on hormonal contraceptive methods and risk of HIV acquisition in women: a systematic review of epidemiological evidence, 2016.

Polis CB, Curtis KM, Hannaford PC, Phillips SJ, Chipato T, Kiarie JN, Westreich DJ, Steyn PS. AIDS. 2016 Aug 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective and design: Some studies suggest that specific hormonal contraceptive (HC) methods (particularly depot medroxyprogesterone acetate [DMPA]) may increase women's HIV acquisition risk. We updated a systematic review to incorporate recent epidemiological data.

Methods: We searched for articles published between 1/15/2014-1/15/2016, and hand-searched reference lists. We identified longitudinal studies comparing users of a specific HC method against either (1) non-users of HC, or (2) users of another specific HC method. We added newly identified studies to those in the previous review, assessed study quality, created forest plots to display results, and conducted a meta-analysis for data on DMPA versus no HC.

Results: We identified ten new reports: five were considered "unlikely to inform the primary question". We focus on the other five reports, along with 9 from the previous review, considered "informative but with important limitations". The preponderance of data for oral contraceptive pills, injectable norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN), and levonorgestrel implants do not suggest an association with HIV acquisition, though data for implants are limited. The new, higher-quality studies on DMPA (or non-disaggregated injectables), which had mixed results in terms of statistical significance, had hazard ratios (HR) between 1.2 and 1.7, consistent with our meta-analytic estimate for all higher-quality studies of HR 1.4.

Conclusions: While confounding in these observational data cannot be excluded, new information increases concerns about DMPA and HIV acquisition risk in women. If the association is causal, the magnitude of effect is likely ≤HR 1.5. Data for other hormonal contraceptive methods, including NET-EN, are largely reassuring.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: For several years there has been debate about whether the risk of HIV acquisition in women may be increased by the use of hormonal contraception. A systematic review published in 2014 included a meta-analysis of data from 22 studies, and this paper adds 10 new studies to the analysis. While these new papers carried some of the previous review’s limitations which cannot be ignored, the new data also lends further strength to the evidence and renewed analysis. The authors found some encouraging results which suggest that there is no significant increased risk of HIV with the use of oral contraceptives and the NET-EN injectable. However, this analysis does suggest that there is an increased risk of 1.4-1.5 of HIV with the use of DMPA. This is particularly concerning given the widespread use of this product throughout the world, and especially in areas where high rates of new HIV infections continue to persist, such as sub-Saharan Africa. Studies continue to explore this association of risk, and will hopefully produce evidence in the near future to definitively provide guidance as to how clinicians should direct the use of DMPA in women at risk of HIV. 

Africa, Northern America
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