Articles tagged as "Health care delivery"

What works to link people living with HIV to care - a review

Facilitators and barriers in HIV linkage to care interventions: a qualitative evidence review.

Tso LS, Best J, Beanland R, Doherty M, Lackey M, Ma Q, Hall BJ, Yang B, Tucker JD. AIDS. 2016 Apr 6. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: To synthesize qualitative evidence on linkage to care interventions for people living with HIV.

Design: Systematic literature review.

Methods: We searched nineteen databases for studies reporting qualitative evidence on linkage interventions. Data extraction and thematic analysis were used to synthesize findings. Quality was assessed using the CASP tool and certainty of evidence was evaluated using the CERQual approach.

Results: Twenty-five studies from eleven countries focused on adults (24 studies), adolescents (8 studies), and pregnant women (4 Facilitators included community-level factors (i.e. task-shifting, mobile outreach, integrated HIV and primary services, supportive cessation programs for substance users, active referrals, and dedicated case management teams) and individual-level factors (encouragement of peers/family and positive interactions with healthcare providers in transitioning into care). One key barrier for people living with HIV was perceived inability of providers to ensure confidentiality as part of linkage to care interventions. Providers reported difficulties navigating procedures across disparate facilities and having limited resources for linkage to care interventions.

Conclusions: Our findings extend the literature by highlighting the importance of task-shifting, mobile outreach, and integrated HIV and primary services. Both community and individual level factors may increase the feasibility and acceptability of HIV linkage to care interventions. These findings may inform policies to increase the reach of HIV services available in communities.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: As the authors of this paper observe, most evaluations of linkage to care programmes have focused on quantitative assessment. This useful paper provides a thorough overview of the findings from 25 studies which used qualitative methods for assessment. Linkage-to- care programmes feasible in different country settings were identified in this review.  The authors also highlight gaps, most notably a lack of information on linkage-to-care programmes for men. They also note the need for longitudinal assessments that look at changes over time.

This paper is a useful synthesis of findings. But it is also an excellent example of how to carry out a systematic review of qualitative research. The description of the qualitative meta-synthesis the authors performed adds additional value to this paper. 

  • share

HIV genotyping to focus prevention efforts

Near real-time monitoring of HIV transmission hotspots from routine HIV genotyping: an implementation case study.

Poon AF, Gustafson R, Daly P, Zerr L, Demlow SE, Wong J, Woods CK, Hogg RS, Krajden M, Moore D, Kendall P, Montaner JS, Harrigan PR. Lancet HIV. 2016 May;3(5):e231-8. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)00046-1. Epub 2016 Apr 7.

Background: HIV evolves rapidly and therefore infections with similar genetic sequences are likely linked by recent transmission events. Clusters of related infections can represent subpopulations with high rates of transmission. We describe the implementation of an automated near real-time system to monitor and characterise HIV transmission hotspots in British Columbia, Canada.

Methods: In this implementation case study, we applied a monitoring system to the British Columbia drug treatment database, which holds more than 32 000 anonymised HIV genotypes for nearly 9000 residents of British Columbia living with HIV. On average, five to six new HIV genotypes are deposited in the database every day, which triggers an automated reanalysis of the entire database. We extracted clusters of five or more individuals with short phylogenetic distances between their respective HIV sequences. The system generated monthly reports of the growth and characteristics of clusters that were distributed to public health officers.

Findings: In June, 2014, the monitoring system detected the expansion of a cluster by 11 new cases during 3 months, including eight cases with transmitted drug resistance. This cluster generally comprised young men who have sex with men. The subsequent report precipitated an enhanced public health follow-up to ensure linkage to care and treatment initiation in the affected subpopulation. Of the nine cases associated with this follow-up, all had already been linked to care and five cases had started treatment. Subsequent to the follow-up, three additional cases started treatment and most cases achieved suppressed viral loads. During the next 12 months, we detected 12 new cases in this cluster with reduction in the onward transmission of drug resistance.

Interpretation: Our findings show the first application of an automated phylogenetic system monitoring a clinical database to detect a recent HIV outbreak and support the ensuing public health response. By making secondary use of routinely collected HIV genotypes, this approach is cost-effective, attains near real-time monitoring of new cases, and can be implemented in all settings in which HIV genotyping is the standard of care.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: HIV genetic sequence data have been used retrospectively to characterise transmission patterns and association with risk factors. This is the first report of the use of such data in real-time to monitor transmission and inform a public health response.  Under current treatment guidelines in British Columbia, an HIV genotype test is routinely done on all individuals at the time of diagnosis.  The results are fed in to an automated monitoring system that can be used detect transmission ‘clusters’ and track their development. The case study demonstrates the value of this system in detecting an outbreak of transmitted drug resistance which was prioritised for public health programmes.  The authors acknowledge the ethical dilemmas associated with using HIV sequence data to inform public health actions. Accordingly, all individuals in the cluster were offered counselling, testing and treatment so as not to focus on any one person. One limitation of the monitoring system is that it relies on information from people who have presented for HIV testing, so people who are undiagnosed or not engaged with care are not represented. Although monitoring based on HIV sequence data is only possible in certain settings, it may provide a cost-effective tool for focused HIV prevention in situations where the data are already being collected as part of the standard care.

Northern America
  • share

Strengthening PMTCT implementation through systems engineering

Impact of a systems engineering intervention on PMTCT service delivery in Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique: a cluster randomized trial.

Rustagi AS, Gimbel S, Nduati R, Cuembelo MF, Wasserheit JN, Farquhar C, Gloyd S, Sherr K, with input from the SST. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 Apr 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Efficacious interventions to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) have not translated well into effective programs. Prior studies of systems engineering applications to PMTCT lacked comparison groups or randomization.

Methods: Thirty-six health facilities in Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, and Mozambique were randomized to usual care or a systems engineering intervention, stratified by country and volume. The intervention guided facility staff to iteratively identify and then rectify barriers to PMTCT implementation. Registry data quantified coverage of HIV testing during first antenatal care visit, antiretrovirals (ARVs) for HIV-positive pregnant women, and screening HIV-exposed infants (HEI) for HIV by 6-8 weeks. We compared the change between baseline (January 2013-January 2014) and post-intervention (January-March 2015) periods using t-tests. All analyses were intent-to-treat.

Results: ARV coverage increased 3-fold (+13.3 percentage points [95% CI: 0.5, 26.0] in intervention vs. +4.1 [-12.6, 20.7] in control facilities) and HEI screening increased 17-fold (+11.6 [-2.6, 25.7] in intervention vs. +0.7 [-12.9, 14.4] in control facilities). In pre-specified sub-group analyses, ARV coverage increased significantly in Kenya (+20.9 [-3.1, 44.9] in intervention vs. -21.2 [-52.7, 10.4] in controls; p=0.02). HEI screening increased significantly in Mozambique (+23.1 [10.3, 35.8] in intervention vs. +3.7 [-13.1, 20.6] in controls; p=0.04). HIV testing did not differ significantly between arms.

Conclusions: In this first randomized trial of systems engineering to improve PMTCT, we saw substantially larger improvements in ARV coverage and HEI screening in intervention facilities compared to controls, which were significant in pre-specified sub-groups. Systems engineering could strengthen PMTCT service delivery and protect infants from HIV.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach to optimise complex processes or systems. In this randomised trial of a systems engineering approach to improving prevention  of mother-to-child HIV transmission programmes, the study programme was a five-step, iterative package of systems analysis and quality improvement tools. In lay terms, the systems engineering activity helped facility staff understand implementation barriers to prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme service delivery, identify bottlenecks and patient dropout along the cascade and develop a facility-specific microintervention to address these issues. This was then repeated in a quality improvement iterative cycle with the overall aim to improve the flow of mother-infant pairs through the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission cascade. Study findings suggest that a systems engineering approach could markedly increase antiretroviral therapy coverage and HIV-exposed infant screening in prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission programmes.  Further studies evaluating a systems engineering approach in the context of programmatic HIV care, especially in resource-poor settings, are required.

Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique
  • share

Pilot integration of HIV and nutrition services shows great potential for health impact

Outcomes and cost-effectiveness of integrating HIV and nutrition service delivery: pilots in Malawi and Mozambique.

Bergmann JN, Legins K, Sint TT, Snidal S, Group UR, Amor YB, McCord GC. AIDS Behav. 2016 Apr 19. [Epub ahead of print]

This paper provides the first estimates of impact and cost-effectiveness for integrated HIV and nutrition service delivery in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV and undernutrition are synergistic co-epidemics impacting millions of children throughout the region. To alleviate this co-epidemic, UNICEF supported small-scale pilot programs in Malawi and Mozambique that integrated HIV and nutrition service delivery. We use trends from integration sites and comparison sites to estimate the number of lives saved, infections averted and/or undernutrition cases cured due to programmatic activities, and to estimate cost-effectiveness. Results suggest that Malawi's program had a cost-effectiveness of $11-29/DALY, while Mozambique's was $16-59/DALY. Some components were more effective than others ($1-4/DALY for Malawi's Male motivators vs. $179/DALY for Mozambique's One stop shops). These results suggest that integrating HIV and nutrition programming leads to a positive impact on health outcomes and should motivate additional work to evaluate impact and determine cost-effectiveness using an appropriate research design.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: This paper presents outcomes and cost-effectiveness of a variety of programmes intended to facilitate integration of HIV treatment and care services with community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) services in Malawi and Mozambique. In Malawi, programmes included SMS reminders to encourage attendance and adherence, “male motivators” who encouraged men to be involved in children’s health, and child health passports. In Mozambique, programmes included one-stop shops where children could access HIV-associated and vaccination services. Flowcharts to facilitate referral between HIV and nutrition services were also tried. Difference in difference estimates indicate substantial improvements in child health outcomes, and cost-effectiveness estimates are in line with other services. The programmes were funded by UNICEF, and not designed for research purposes. The authors therefore acknowledge some limitations in the external validity of their findings.  This paper should be taken as proof of concept rather than a final word on the effectiveness or cost-effectiveness of these activities. However, these preliminary estimates illustrate that there is great potential in facilitating integration of these two services.  Further research into integration of nutritional support services with HIV services is necessary.

Malawi, Mozambique
  • share

Combining community-based HIV testing methods to achieve high testing coverage

A hybrid mobile approach for population-wide HIV testing in rural east Africa: an observational study. 

Chamie G, Clark TD, Kabami J, Kadede K, Ssemmondo E, Steinfeld R, Lavoy G, Kwarisiima D, Sang N, Jain V, Thirumurthy H, Liegler T, Balzer LB, Petersen ML, Cohen CR, Bukusi EA, Kamya MR, Havlir DV, Charlebois ED. Lancet HIV. 2016 Mar;3(3):e111-9. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00251-9. Epub 2016 Jan 26.

Background: Despite large investments in HIV testing, only an estimated 45% of HIV-infected people in sub-Saharan Africa know their HIV status. Optimum methods for maximising population-level testing remain unknown. We sought to show the effectiveness of a hybrid mobile HIV testing approach at achieving population-wide testing coverage.

Methods: We enumerated adult (≥15 years) residents of 32 communities in Uganda (n=20) and Kenya (n=12) using a door-to-door census. Stable residence was defined as living in the community for at least 6 months in the past year. In each community, we did 2 week multiple-disease community health campaigns (CHCs) that included HIV testing, counselling, and referral to care if HIV infected; people who did not participate in the CHCs were approached for home-based testing (HBT) for 1-2 months within the 1-6 months after the CHC. We measured population HIV testing coverage and predictors of testing via HBT rather than CHC and non-testing.

Findings: From April 2, 2013, to June 8, 2014, 168 772 adult residents were enumerated in the door-to-door census. HIV testing was achieved in 131 307 (89%) of 146 906 adults with stable residence. 13 043 of 136 033 (9.6%, 95% CI 9.4-9.8) adults with and without stable residence had HIV; median CD4 count was 514 cells per µL (IQR 355-703). Among 131 307 adults with stable residence tested, 56 106 (43%) reported no previous testing. Among 13 043 HIV-infected adults, 4932 (38%) were unaware of their status. Among 105 170 CHC attendees with stable residence 104 635 (99%) accepted HIV testing. Of 131 307 adults with stable residence tested, 104 635 (80%; range 60-93% across communities) tested via CHCs. In multivariable analyses of adults with stable residence, predictors of non-testing included being male (risk ratio [RR] 1.52, 95% CI 1.48-1.56), single marital status (1.70, 1.66-1.75), age 30-39 years (1.58, 1.52-1.65 vs 15-19 years), residence in Kenya (1.46, 1.41-1.50), and migration out of the community for at least 1 month in the past year (1.60, 1.53-1.68). Compared with unemployed people, testing for HIV was more common among farmers (RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.67-0.79) and students (0.73, 0.69-0.77); and compared with people with no education, testing was more common in those with primary education (0.84, 0.80-0.89).

Interpretation: A hybrid, mobile approach of multiple-disease CHCs followed by HBT allowed for flexibility at the community and individual level to help reach testing coverage goals. Men and mobile populations remain challenges for universal testing.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Achieving high levels of HIV testing coverage remains a challenge in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Conventional facility-based HIV testing models are insufficient to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets and maximise the prevention benefits of treatment. This study was able to achieve extremely high levels of HIV testing coverage in a short period of time by strategically combining two community-based testing approaches. By offering testing through multiple-disease community health campaigns (CHC), followed by focused home-based testing (HBT) for individuals who did not attend the CHCs, nearly 90% of adult stable residents accepted HIV testing. This near-universal coverage was achieved in all 32 communities (range 84%‒95%) across two countries, in a variety of settings with different rates of HIV prevalence and of previous testing. Testing uptake in the CHCs varied considerably across the communities (52%‒82%), demonstrating the value of this hybrid approach to expand coverage. Non-stable residents, who were 13% of the population, had low rates of testing uptake (22%). High rates of mobility remain a particular challenge for universal HIV testing coverage, and additional strategies are necessary to engage this group. A potential limitation of a focused approach to HBT is the need for community enumeration.  Still the results illustrate that achieving high HIV testing coverage is feasible with a combination of community-based approaches.

Kenya, Uganda
  • share

Option B+: the way forward for Malawi

Comparative cost-effectiveness of Option B+ for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Malawi.

Tweya H, Keiser O, Haas AD, Tenthani L, Phiri S, Egger M, Estill J. AIDS. 2016 Mar 27;30(6):953-62. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001009.

Objective: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV with lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) for pregnant and breastfeeding women ('Option B+') compared with ART during pregnancy or breastfeeding only unless clinically indicated ('Option B').

Design: Mathematical modelling study of first and second pregnancy, informed by data from the Malawi Option B+ programme.

Methods: Individual-based simulation model. We simulated cohorts of 10 000 women and their infants during two subsequent pregnancies, including the breastfeeding period, with either Option B+ or B. We parameterized the model with data from the literature and by analysing programmatic data. We compared total costs of antenatal and postnatal care, and lifetime costs and disability-adjusted life-years of the infected infants between Option B+ and Option B.

Results: During the first pregnancy, 15% of the infants born to HIV-infected mothers acquired the infection. With Option B+, 39% of the women were on ART at the beginning of the second pregnancy, compared with 18% with Option B. For second pregnancies, the rates MTCT were 11.3% with Option B+ and 12.3% with Option B. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio comparing the two options ranged between about US$ 500 and US$ 1300 per DALY averted.

Conclusion: Option B+ prevents more vertical transmissions of HIV than Option B, mainly because more women are already on ART at the beginning of the next pregnancy. Option B+ is a cost-effective strategy for PMTCT if the total future costs and lost lifetime of the infected infants are taken into account.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Nearly a quarter of a million children acquire HIV from their mothers every year. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) in pregnant women greatly reduces the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission to less than two percent. Malawi was the first country to introduce ‘Option B+’, a programme eliminating new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive, in which all pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV start lifelong ART regardless of CD4 count or clinical staging. This study compares the cost-effectiveness of Option B+ in Malawi, with Option B, in which ART is recommended only for the duration of pregnancy or breastfeeding, unless the woman qualifies for ART for her own health. Both options have been recommended by World Health Organisation prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission strategies.

The model simulated a cohort of 10 000 women pregnant for the first time, from conception to the time when the infants were two years old. The authors found that although the total costs of implementing Option B+ were higher than those of Option B, the former can reduce the costs of HIV care and treatment in the future by preventing new infections. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of Option B+ compared to Option B, ranged from USD 500 to USD 1300 per disability-adjusted life-years averted, depending on key assumptions around survival and care. The results support the implementation of Option B+ as it is likely to be a cost-effective strategy in the long term and the authors suggest it should be considered as the preferred strategy in low-income, high-fertility settings.

Like all models, this model has some limitations. It only considers women’s first two pregnancies, but the fertility rate in Malawi is high (5.5 births per woman). The model limits itself to mother-to-child HIV transmission, and does not take into account sexual transmission, which is likely to be lower in Option B+. Further research in these two areas would be worthwhile. The landscape is quickly changing, as World Health Organization guidelines now suggest testing and treatment strategies. However, until that policy is fully implemented and absorbed across the world, Option B+ will remain a key element in the HIV response.

  • share

Near-patient TB test reduces hospital deaths in HIV-positive adults

Effect on mortality of point-of-care, urine-based lipoarabinomannan testing to guide tuberculosis treatment initiation in HIV-positive hospital inpatients: a pragmatic, parallel-group, multicountry, open-label, randomised controlled trial. 

Peter JG, Zijenah LS, Chanda D, Clowes P, Lesosky M, Gina P, Mehta N, Calligaro G, Lombard CJ, Kadzirange G, Bandason T, Chansa A, Liusha N, Mangu C, Mtafya B, Msila H, Rachow A, Hoelscher M, Mwaba P, Theron G, Dheda K. Lancet. 2016 Mar 19;387(10024):1187-97. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01092-2. Epub 2016 Mar 10.

Background: HIV-associated tuberculosis is difficult to diagnose and results in high mortality. Frequent extra-pulmonary presentation, inability to obtain sputum, and paucibacillary samples limits the usefulness of nucleic-acid amplification tests and smear microscopy. We therefore assessed a urine-based, lateral flow, point-of-care, lipoarabinomannan assay (LAM) and the effect of a LAM-guided anti-tuberculosis treatment initiation strategy on mortality.

Methods: We did a pragmatic, randomised, parallel-group, multicentre trial in ten hospitals in Africa--four in South Africa, two in Tanzania, two in Zambia, and two in Zimbabwe. Eligible patients were HIV-positive adults aged at least 18 years with at least one of the following symptoms of tuberculosis (fever, cough, night sweats, or self-reported weight loss) and illness severity necessitating admission to hospital. Exclusion criteria included receipt of any anti-tuberculosis medicine in the 60 days before enrolment. We randomly assigned patients (1:1) to either LAM plus routine diagnostic tests for tuberculosis (smear microscopy, Xpert-MTB/RIF, and culture; LAM group) or routine diagnostic tests alone (no LAM group) using computer-generated allocation lists in blocks of ten. All patients were asked to provide a urine sample of at least 30 mL at enrolment, and trained research nurses did the LAM test in patients allocated to this group using the Alere Determine tuberculosis LAM Ag lateral flow strip test (Alere, USA) at the bedside on enrolment. On the basis of a positive test result, the nurses made a recommendation for initiating anti-tuberculosis treatment. The attending physician made an independent decision about whether to start treatment or not. Neither patients nor health-care workers were masked to group allocation and test results. The primary endpoint was 8-week all-cause mortality assessed in the modified intention-to-treat population (those who received their allocated intervention). This trial is registered with, number NCT01770730.

Findings: Between Jan 1, 2013, and Oct 2, 2014, we screened 8728 patients and randomly assigned 2659 to treatment (1336 to LAM, 1323 to no LAM). 108 patients did not receive their allocated treatment, mainly because they did not meet the inclusion criteria, and 23 were excluded from analysis, leaving 2528 in the final modified intention-to-treat analysis (1257 in the LAM group, 1271 in the no LAM group). Overall all-cause 8-week mortality occurred in 578 (23%) patients, 261 (21%) in LAM and 317 (25%) in no LAM, an absolute reduction of 4% (95% CI 1-7). The risk ratio adjusted for country was 0.83 (95% CI 0.73-0.96), p=0.012, with a relative risk reduction of 17% (95% CI 4-28). With the time-to-event analysis, there were 159 deaths per 100 person-years in LAM and 196 per 100 person-years in no LAM (hazard ratio adjusted for country 0.82 [95% CI 0.70-0.96], p=0.015). No adverse events were associated with LAM testing.

Interpretation: Bedside LAM-guided initiation of anti-tuberculosis treatment in HIV-positive hospital in-patients with suspected tuberculosis was associated with reduced 8-week mortality. The implementation of LAM testing is likely to offer the greatest benefit in hospitals where diagnostic resources are most scarce and where patients present with severe illness, advanced immunosuppression, and an inability to self-expectorate sputum.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: TB is a leading cause of hospitalization and in-hospital death among people living with HIV worldwide. This randomised controlled trial in southern Africa provides strong evidence of the impact of a simple, urine-based test in HIV-positive adults admitted to hospital with symptoms of TB. Use of the lateral flow lipoarabinomannan (LAM) test, in addition to a package of routine TB diagnostic tests, led to a modest reduction in all-cause mortality. This reduction in mortality occurred despite only a small increase in the proportion starting TB treatment, suggesting that LAM testing might have enabled more precision in the identification of people with TB.

Half of all deaths occurred in people with CD4 cell count ≤50 cells/µL and the impact of the urinary LAM test was greatest in this group, as suggested by previous studies. This may lead to strengthening of WHO policy recommendations to use the lateral flow LAM test to assist with TB diagnosis in people admitted to hospital with advanced HIV and with symptoms and signs of TB. There is still no strong evidence to suggest a role for LAM testing at more peripheral levels of the health system or in people who are not seriously ill.

The heterogeneity in effect between countries is notable, although the trial was not powered to detect mortality differences at each site. The availability and use of other diagnostics (which could include sputum smear microscopy, Xpert®, chest X-ray, ultrasound and computed tomography), and the level of physician input in clinical management, differed substantially across sites and could have modified the effect of LAM testing. Additional exploration of data from this trial and from other ongoing studies should help to further define the role of urine LAM in the TB diagnostic bundle in different health care settings.

  • share

High TB mortality among people living with HIV in eastern Europe: a growing concern

Tuberculosis-related mortality in people living with HIV in Europe and Latin America: an international cohort study. 

Podlekareva DN, Efsen AM, Schultze A, Post FA, Skrahina AM, Panteleev A, Furrer H, Miller RF, Losso MH, Toibaro J, Miro JM, Vassilenko A, Girardi E, Bruyand M, Obel N, Lundgren JD, Mocroft A, Kirk O, TB:HIV study group in EuroCoord. Lancet HIV. 2016 Mar;3(3):e120-31. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00252-0. Epub 2016 Feb 2.

Background: Management of tuberculosis in patients with HIV in eastern Europe is complicated by the high prevalence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, low rates of drug susceptibility testing, and poor access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). We report 1 year mortality estimates from a multiregional (eastern Europe, western Europe, and Latin America) prospective cohort study: the TB:HIV study.

Methods: Consecutive HIV-positive patients aged 16 years or older with a diagnosis of tuberculosis between Jan 1, 2011, and Dec 31, 2013, were enrolled from 62 HIV and tuberculosis clinics in 19 countries in eastern Europe, western Europe, and Latin America. The primary endpoint was death within 12 months after starting tuberculosis treatment; all deaths were classified according to whether or not they were tuberculosis related. Follow-up was either until death, the final visit, or 12 months after baseline, whichever occurred first. Risk factors for all-cause and tuberculosis-related deaths were assessed using Kaplan-Meier estimates and Cox models.

Findings: Of 1406 patients (834 in eastern Europe, 317 in western Europe, and 255 in Latin America), 264 (19%) died within 12 months. 188 (71%) of these deaths were tuberculosis related. The probability of all-cause death was 29% (95% CI 26-32) in eastern Europe, 4% (3-7) in western Europe, and 11% (8-16) in Latin America (p<0.0001) and the corresponding probabilities of tuberculosis-related death were 23% (20-26), 1% (0-3), and 4% (2-8), respectively (p<0.0001). Patients receiving care outside eastern Europe had a 77% decreased risk of death: adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 0.23 (95% CI 0.16-0.31). In eastern Europe, compared with patients who started a regimen with at least three active antituberculosis drugs, those who started fewer than three active antituberculosis drugs were at a higher risk of tuberculosis-related death (aHR 3.17; 95% CI 1.83-5.49) as were those who did not have baseline drug-susceptibility tests (2.24; 1.31-3.83). Other prognostic factors for increased tuberculosis-related mortality were disseminated tuberculosis and a low CD4 cell count. 18% of patients were receiving ART at tuberculosis diagnosis in eastern Europe compared with 44% in western Europe and 39% in Latin America (p<0.0001); 12 months later the proportions were 67% in eastern Europe, 92% in western Europe, and 85% in Latin America (p<0.0001).

Interpretation: Patients with HIV and tuberculosis in eastern Europe have a risk of death nearly four-times higher than that in patients from western Europe and Latin America. This increased mortality rate is associated with modifiable risk factors such as lack of drug susceptibility testing and suboptimal initial antituberculosis treatment in settings with a high prevalence of drug resistance. Urgent action is needed to improve tuberculosis care for patients living with HIV in eastern Europe.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Eastern Europe is experiencing one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics globally. Within this, the number of HIV-positive people with tuberculosis (TB) is also rising rapidly, posing a significant public health challenge. The authors have previously reported retrospective data illustrating 30% mortality at one year among HIV-positive people with TB in eastern Europe. This was noted to be at least three times higher than mortality among people from western Europe and Argentina. Within this study they go further to provide prospective data with comparison across multiple regions. They also highlight prognostic markers associated with death.

The study spans across eastern Europe, western Europe and Latin America with a cohort of 1406 people. It robustly demonstrates a significant excess of TB-associated mortality in HIV-positive people with TB receiving care in eastern Europe. The cumulative probability of TB-associated death at 12 months in eastern Europe was 23% (95% confidence interval [CI] 20 – 26), versus 1% (95% CI 0 - 3) in western Europe and 4% (95% CI 2-8) in Latin America. Prognostic markers associated with an increased risk of death included multidrug-resistant TB, disseminated TB and modifiable factors such as choice of initial anti-TB regimen and a lack of baseline drug susceptibility tests.

These findings highlight the hugely detrimental impact of the fragmented system of HIV and TB services within eastern Europe. Such inequality in outcomes emphasises the need for urgent strategic change. Co-ordinated care across HIV and TB services, alongside timely and appropriate diagnostics and treatment, is of paramount importance.

Europe, Latin America
  • share

Fear of HIV test deters Ethiopians from getting malaria treatment

Concerns about covert HIV testing are associated with delayed presentation in Ethiopian adults with suspected malaria: a cross-sectional study.

Tadesse F, Deressa W, Fogarty AW. BMC Public Health. 2016 Feb 1;16(1):102. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-2773-y

Background: Although early diagnosis and prompt treatment is important in preventing mortality from malaria, presentation of symptomatic individuals is often relatively late. One possible contributing factor is that fear of covert human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing delays presentation in adults. We aimed to survey the magnitude of such concerns and their association with delayed presentation with suspected malaria.

Methods: The study design was a health facility-based cross-sectional survey. The study population consisted of adults with suspected malaria who presented to health centres in central Ethiopia. Data were collected on attitudes to HIV testing and the duration between onset of symptoms and treatment seeking for suspected malaria.

Results: Eight hundred and ten individuals provided data. Of these, 406 (50 %) perceived that HIV testing was routinely done on blood donated for malaria diagnosis, and 327 (40 %) considered that community members delayed seeking medical advice because of these concerns. Concerns about HIV testing were associated with delays in attending for malaria diagnosis and treatment, with 117 individuals (29 %) of those with concerns about covert HIV testing waiting for 4 days or more, compared to 89 (22 %) of those who did not have any such concerns (p = 0.03). One hundred and twenty nine (16 %) individuals stated that concern about HIV testing was the main reason for the delay in seeking treatment, and 46 % of these individuals presented after experiencing symptoms of malaria infection for three days or more compared to 22 % of the 681 individuals who had no such concerns (p < 0.001). Analysis stratified by health centre demonstrated that these associations were a consequence of Meki health centre (odds ratio for duration of symptoms greater than 3 days if patient has concerns about HIV testing was 8.72; 95 % confidence intervals 3.63 to 20.97).

Conclusions: In adults living in central Ethiopia, the perception that HIV testing accompanied the investigation of suspected malaria was common. This is likely to impede presentation for early medical treatment in some areas and represents a reversible risk factor that deserves further study.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This study addresses a relatively under-studied issue of concerns about HIV testing among adults with malaria. Previously, the authors of this paper found that about half of guardians of children with malaria symptoms in central Ethiopia thought the children’s blood samples were tested for HIV without consent. Guardians who believed this were more likely to delay bringing children for treatment. In this paper, the authors illustrate that the same is true for adults. In a representative survey of adults presenting with malaria symptoms at five health centres, about half of participants were concerned that their blood sample was secretly tested for HIV without their consent and about one in three thought that many or almost all members of their community believed this. Concern about covert HIV testing was associated with delayed presentation for management of suspected malaria overall, although this was largely due to the issue in one specific health centre. Electricity in the home, better education and urban versus rural home were not associated with this belief, although people in rural areas were more likely to delay treatment-seeking.

Beliefs about health care are culturally specific, so the results may not be generalizable to other contexts, but the belief that blood taken at health centres is secretly tested for HIV has been found in different cultural settings. Prompt treatment for suspected malaria is key and strategies to address these concerns are necessary. Possible strategies include investigations to clarify whether, in fact, blood is being tested for HIV without fully informed consent, and improved confidentiality of blood test results. 

  • share

Understanding barriers and facilitators to uptake and adherence of ART under Option B+ in Lilongwe, Malawi

Why did I stop? Barriers and facilitators to uptake and adherence to ART in option B+ HIV care in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Kim MH, Zhou A, Mazenga A, Ahmed S, Markham C, Zomba G, Simon K, Kazembe PN, Abrams EJ. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 22;11(2):e0149527. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149527. eCollection 2016.

Causes for loss-to-follow-up, including early refusals of and stopping antiretroviral therapy (ART), in Malawi's Option B+ program are poorly understood. This study examines the main barriers and facilitators to uptake and adherence to ART under Option B+. In depth interviews were conducted with HIV-infected women who were pregnant or postpartum in Lilongwe, Malawi (N = 65). Study participants included women who refused ART initiation (N = 10), initiated ART and then stopped (N = 26), and those who initiated ART and remained on treatment (N = 29). The barriers to ART initiation were varied and included concerns about partner support, feeling healthy, and needing time to think. The main reasons for stopping ART included side effects and lack of partner support. A substantial number of women started ART after initially refusing or stopping ART. There were several facilitators for re-starting ART, including encouragement from community health workers, side effects subsiding, decline in health, change in partner, and fear of future sickness. Amongst those who remained on ART, desire to prevent transmission and improve health were the most influential facilitators. Reasons for refusing and stopping ART were varied. ART-related side effects and feeling healthy were common barriers to ART initiation and adherence. Providing consistent pre-ART counseling, early support for patients experiencing side effects, and targeted efforts to bring women who stop treatment back into care may improve long term health outcomes.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Option B+ is a policy recommendation of World Health Organisation (WHO) that offers all pregnant and breast-feeding women living with HIV, life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART), regardless of CD4 count or clinical stage. Few studies have examined the challenges faced by pregnant and breast-feeding women, as they navigate the prevention of mother-to-child transmission cascade. The objective of this study was to identify the main barriers and facilitators to uptake and adherence to ART under Option B+ in Lilongwe, Malawi. This was done by conducting qualitative interviews (n=65) with women living with HIV who were pregnant or post-partum and had initiated ART, and women who refused or had stopped treatment.

The most important facilitator for initially starting and remaining on ART was the need to prevent transmission to their infants and to maintain health (prevent illness). Furthermore, ART was viewed as a solution to women’s health issues. This was especially the case when women believed that their health problems were associated with their HIV infection. There were a number of reasons that emerged for refusing ART. For most women the urgency of having to initiate ART under Option B+ was a major challenge. Women felt that they needed time, either to discuss their status with their partner or to accept their own status. In particular, the desire to speak to their partners emerged quite prominently reflecting a fear of disclosure and concern about their partner’s reaction. Another reason was generally feeling healthy before initiating treatment. Women wanted to wait until their health declined before initiating treatment. Religious beliefs did not play a significant role for most women. Only one woman refused because she believed that God, not healthcare providers, would tell her when she needed to start treatment. Side effects were the most commonly reported reason for stopping ART. Half of the 26 (N = 13) respondents who stopped ART did so because they experienced side effects, which included dizziness, nausea or vomiting, nightmares and hallucinations (9%). Women who had side effects also expressed challenges with food security. Side effects made some women question the efficacy of ART. The lack of partner support was another important barrier to ART adherence as women reported fear of disclosing their status to their husbands. Interestingly, although partner support was factored into women’s decision making, in most cases it was not the main consideration. The majority of partners (n=44) accepted their wives’ status, often sending reminders to take ART every night. However, many women did not return to the clinic even though their partners accepted their status (N = 17). One woman, for instance, took the money her husband gave her for transport to the clinic and spent it on other things. Forgetting to take pills or losing pills were other reasons given for lack of adherence. Stigma within the community was acknowledged as an issue, but there were few reports of overt discrimination. Further, even though some women refused or stopped ART, many of them re-started for reasons such as, feeling encouraged by a community health worker (CHW) or someone like a CHW. This was through their monthly home visits to check on women’s use of ART and to provide treatment support such as explaining the side-effects, counselling husbands and encouraging women to re-start. Decline in health, fear of future sickness, as well as reduction in side-effects were mentioned as reasons for re-starting on ART.

Overall, study authors mention that in the context of Option B+, inadequate time in preparing to initiate ART, as well as side effects emerged as more significant barriers as compared to previous studies on barriers and facilitators in non-Option B+ contexts. Economic barriers to care did not emerge as very significant in this study when comparted to other studies; however, a lack of food affects the severity of side effects. This suggests that economic barriers may manifest as an indirect mechanism that affects ART use. A strength of this study is the use of in-depth interviews with a range of women; not just women who stayed on ART, but also women who refused, stopped and re-started in the context of Option B+. Even though there might be overlap between the findings here and other qualitative research, particular barriers become more salient for women initiating ART in the context of Option B+. In prior assessments, women were only initiated on ART after being immunologically compromised, an assessment which often took longer than a month. This gave women time to reflect and accept their condition and communicate with their partner. In the case of Option B+ women felt they needed this time to prepare. The study demonstrates that challenges with uptake and adherence to ART remain. More time and support for women in decision-making, consistent pre-ART counselling, and support with side-effects may contribute to improvements in the long-run. As ART becomes increasingly normalised, some of these barriers may disappear.

  • share