Articles tagged as "People living with HIV"

Keeping up appearances – the reasons people living with HIV who are not yet ill, give for starting ART

Factors that motivated otherwise healthy HIV-positive young adults to access HIV testing and treatment in South Africa.

Lambert RF, Orrell C, Bangsberg DR, Haberer JE. AIDS Behav. 2017 Feb 11. doi: 10.1007/s10461-017-1704-y. [Epub ahead of print]

The World Health Organization recommends early initiation of HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all those infected with the virus at any CD4 count. Successfully reaching individuals with relatively high CD4 counts depends in large part on healthy individuals seeking testing and treatment; however, little is known about factors motivating this decision. We conducted a qualitative study to explore this issue among 25 young HIV-positive adults (age 18-35) with a CD4 count >350 cells/mm3 who recently started or made the decision to start ART in Gugulethu, South Africa. Using an inductive content analytical approach, we found that most individuals sought testing and treatment early in the disease progression because of a desire to appear healthy thereby avoiding stigma associated with AIDS. Other factors included social support, responsibilities and aspirations, normalcy of having HIV, and accessible services. These findings suggest that maintenance of physical appearance should be included in the development of novel testing and treatment interventions.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: A lot has been written on why people delay entry into care, when they are living with HIV. The guidance that all people living with HIV should now start treatment means that many people who are healthy are being offered treatment. The authors of this paper found that in a small sample of people in South Africa, looking healthy mattered. There was a value in the message that ART could maintain health, and in the words of one participant in their study, to ‘remain beautiful’. In addition, other positive anticipated results of taking ART emerged from the data. Young people saw the benefit in maintaining their health so they can help their family in the future, for example. However, despite the positive messages on appearance and a future role for the family and society, many concerns remained. Participants wanted privacy to live with HIV without others knowing. Fears of stigma, fears of an altered appearance and faltering strength haunted participants. The authors stress the value of the positive messaging of ART as an aid to sustaining a healthy appearance. They suggest that this messaging could be used to encourage people to start ART promptly. 

Africa
South Africa
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Measuring adherence – a promising approach with caregivers of children living with HIV

Improved adherence to antiretroviral therapy observed among HIV-infected children whose caregivers had positive beliefs in medicine in sub-Saharan Africa.

Abongomera G, Cook A, Musiime V, Chabala C, Lamorde M, Abach J, Thomason M, Mulenga V, Kekitiinwa A, Colebunders R, Kityo C, Walker AS, Gibb DM. AIDS Behav. 2017 Feb;21(2):441-449. doi: 10.1007/s10461-016-1582-8.

A high level of adherence to antiretroviral treatment is essential for optimal clinical outcomes in HIV infection, but measuring adherence is difficult. We investigated whether responses to a questionnaire eliciting caregiver beliefs in medicines were associated with adherence of their child (median age 2.8 years), and whether this in turn was associated with viral suppression. We used the validated beliefs in medicine questionnaire (BMQ) to measure caregiver beliefs, and medication event monitoring system caps to measure adherence. We found significant associations between BMQ scores and adherence, and between adherence and viral suppression. Among children initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART), we also found significant associations between BMQ 'necessity' scores, and BMQ 'necessity-concerns' scores, and later viral suppression. This suggests that the BMQ may be a valuable tool when used alongside other adherence measures, and that it remains important to keep caregivers well informed about the long-term necessity of their child's ART.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: How we measure adherence to antiretroviral therapy has long been a challenge within HIV clinical care. We need to know who is struggling with their HIV treatment so that we can provide support to improve their treatment taking behaviour before treatment resistance and other complex clinical problems take hold. This can be an especially relevant concern for children who will need to take HIV treatment throughout their lives. The analysis within this paper proffers a relatively accessible means to identify families who are more likely to encounter adherence problems. This potentially allows people to receive pre-emptive support before clinical problems arise. 

The authors tested their hypothesis that the children of caregivers who had concerns about the overuse and associated toxicity of medicine and/or had strong beliefs in divine intervention as curative, relative to their belief in the necessity of medicines, would be less likely to be virally suppressed. Such beliefs were measured in a validated ‘belief in medicine’ questionnaire. Although this was used within a clinical trial setting it is potentially simple enough to feasibly be used in more general clinical settings. This measure could identify particular ‘at-risk’ caregiver groups to inform not only the provision of tailored adherence support but also at which critical time points such support should be delivered.

Africa
Uganda, Zambia
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A cohort-based approach to the HIV treatment cascade finds linkage the major bottleneck

From HIV infection to therapeutic response: a population-based longitudinal HIV cascade-of-care study in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Haber N, Tanser F, Bor J, Naidu K, Mutevedzi T, Herbst K, Porter K, Pillay D, Barnighausen T. Lancet HIV. 2017 Jan 30. pii: S2352-3018(16)30224-7. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30224-7. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Standard approaches to estimation of losses in the HIV cascade of care are typically cross-sectional and do not include the population stages before linkage to clinical care. We used individual-level longitudinal cascade data, transition by transition, including population stages, both to identify the health-system losses in the cascade and to show the differences in inference between standard methods and the longitudinal approach.

Methods: We used non-parametric survival analysis to estimate a longitudinal HIV care cascade for a large population of people with HIV residing in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We linked data from a longitudinal population health surveillance (which is maintained by the Africa Health Research Institute) with patient records from the local public-sector HIV treatment programme (contained in an electronic clinical HIV treatment and care database, ARTemis). We followed up all people who had been newly detected as having HIV between Jan 1, 2006, and Dec 31, 2011, across six cascade stages: three population stages (first positive HIV test, HIV status knowledge, and linkage to care) and three clinical stages (eligibility for antiretroviral therapy [ART], initiation of ART, and therapeutic response). We compared our estimates to cross-sectional cascades in the same population. We estimated the cumulative incidence of reaching a particular cascade stage at a specific time with Kaplan-Meier survival analysis.

Findings: Our population consisted of 5205 individuals with HIV who were followed up for 24 031 person-years. We recorded 598 deaths. 4539 individuals gained knowledge of their positive HIV status, 2818 were linked to care, 2151 became eligible for ART, 1839 began ART, and 1456 had successful responses to therapy. We used Kaplan-Meier survival analysis to adjust for censorship due to the end of data collection, and found that 8 years after testing positive in the population health surveillance, 16% had died. Among living patients, 82% knew their HIV status, 45% were linked to care, 39% were eligible for ART, 35% initiated ART, and 33% had reached therapeutic response. Median times to transition for these cascade stages were 52 months, 52 months, 20 months, 3 months, and 9 months, respectively. Compared with the population stages in the cascade, the transitions across the clinical stages were fast. Over calendar time, rates of linkage to care have decreased and patients presenting for the first time for care were, on average, healthier.

Interpretation: HIV programmes should focus on linkage to care as the most important bottleneck in the cascade. Cascade estimation should be longitudinal rather than cross-sectional and start with the population stages preceding clinical care.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: The HIV treatment cascade outlines the stages required to effectively treat HIV, starting with HIV testing and ending with viral suppression. The cascade has become a widely-used framework to evaluate the performance of HIV care programmes, to measure progress towards universal treatment coverage, and to identify gaps in care. However, methods for constructing the HIV treatment cascade vary considerably. The majority of cascade analyses rely on cross-sectional data obtained from different sources. The authors present the first analysis of the HIV treatment cascade that follows individuals longitudinally from the time of HIV infection across all stages of the cascade. By linking data from a demographic surveillance system with electronic clinical records, they are able to describe the cascade for a large population-based cohort of people living with HIV in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  They demonstrate that, once people became eligible for ART, the rates of ART initiation, and of viral suppression after initiation, were high. Half of individuals started ART within three months of becoming eligible, and 94% of people on therapy achieved virologic suppression. In addition, retention in care improved over time. However, a key finding is that rates of HIV diagnosis and linkage to care worsened over time, and less than 50% of people had linked to care within eight years of HIV infection, despite 82% being aware of their status. As illustrated by cascade analyses in other settings, increasing linkage to care remains a major challenge for reaching the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target in sub-Saharan Africa.  

In addition to highlighting linkage as the most important bottleneck in the HIV care cascade in this part of rural KwaZulu-Natal, the study illustrates some of the weaknesses in traditional cascade analyses based on cross-sectional data. The cross-sectional cascade is constructed from snapshots of different groups of people in a particular moment in time, rather than describing what happens to the same group of people over time. The authors illustrate how a cross-sectional analysis can give a misleading impression of improvement in the cascade over time, because it fails to take account of changes in the population. The longitudinal cascade, by following the same group of people, provides important insights into the true progression of the cascade over time, and identification of losses along each stage. However, the individual-level longitudinal data necessary for this type of analysis requires a large investment in data collection, and is unlikely to be feasible in most resource-limited settings.

Africa
South Africa
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Treatment of depression at antiretroviral initiation could have a considerable impact on mortality

Depression at antiretroviral therapy initiation and clinical outcomes among a cohort of Tanzanian women living with HIV.

Sudfeld CR, Kaaya S, Gunaratna NS, Mugusi F, Fawzi WW, Aboud S, Smith Fawzi. AIDS. 2017 Jan 14;31(2):263-271. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001323.

Objective: The objective of the study was to assess the relationship of depression at antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation with mortality and clinical outcomes among Tanzanian women living with HIV.

Design: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 1487 women who initiated ART in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Methods: Symptoms of depression and anxiety were assessed using a Tanzanian-adapted and validated version of the Hopkins Symptom Checklist. Participants attended monthly clinic visits during the first 2 years of ART and CD4 T-cell counts were assessed every 4 months. Proportional hazard models were used to assess the relationship of depression with mortality and clinical outcomes.

Results: Symptoms consistent with depression were prevalent among 57.8% of women at ART initiation. After multivariate adjustment, including social support and stigma, depression at ART initiation was associated with increased risk of mortality [hazard ratio (HR): 1.92; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.15-3.20; P = 0.01] and incidence of severe anemia (hemoglobin <8.5 g/dl; HR: 1.59; 95% CI: 1.07-2.37; P = 0.02). Under the assumption of causality, we estimate 36.1% (95% CI: 13.6-55.1%) of deaths among the study cohort were attributable to depression and its consequences. Depression was not significantly associated with trajectory of CD4 T-cell reconstitution or the risk of immunologic failure (P values >0.05).

Conclusion: Elimination of depression may reduce mortality during the first 2 years of ART by one-third in our study cohort. Randomized trials and rigorous implementation studies are needed to evaluate the individual and population-level effects of integrated mental health interventions and HIV treatment approaches in resource-limited settings.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: People living with HIV are more than twice as likely to have depression than the general population, in both high- and low-income settings. Many studies in high-income countries have illustrated that depression is associated with poor HIV-associated outcomes. There have been relatively few longitudinal studies on this from low-income settings. This study, among women in Tanzania living with HIV, found that over half had symptoms consistent with depression at ART initiation, and this was associated with a two-fold risk of mortality. The results suggest that effective programmes which address depression, such as problem-solving therapy or cognitive behaviour therapy, at ART initiation, could have a considerable impact on mortality. There is a need to evaluate appropriate mental health programmes integrated with HIV strategies in resource-limited settings that address the specific needs of different populations of people living with HIV, such as children and adolescents   

Africa
United Republic of Tanzania
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Increased risk of death associated with perceived barriers to care at HIV diagnosis in South Africa

Barriers to care and 1-year mortality among newly-diagnosed HIV-infected people in Durban, South Africa.

Bassett IV, Coleman SM, Giddy J, MfamMed, Bogart LM, Chaisson CE, Ross D, Flash MJ, Govender T, Walensky RP, Freedberg KA, Losina E. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2017 Apr 1;74(4):432-438.  doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001277. 2016 Dec 30. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Prompt entry into HIV care is often hindered by personal and structural barriers. Our objective was to evaluate the impact of self-perceived barriers to healthcare on 1-year mortality among newly diagnosed HIV-infected individuals in Durban, South Africa.

Methods: Prior to HIV testing at four outpatient sites, adults (≥18y) were surveyed regarding perceived barriers to care including: 1) service delivery; 2) financial; 3) personal health perception; 4) logistical; and 5) structural. We assessed deaths via phone calls and the South African National Population Register. We used multivariable Cox proportional hazards models to determine the association between number of perceived barriers and death within one year.

Results: 1899 HIV-infected participants enrolled. Median age was 33 years (IQR: 27-41y), 49% were female, and median CD4 count was 192/µl (IQR: 72-346/µl). 1057 participants (56%) reported no, 370 (20%) reported 1-3, and 460 (24%) reported >3 barriers to care. By one year, 250 (13%, 95% CI: 12%, 15%) participants died. Adjusting for age, sex, education, baseline CD4 count, distance to clinic, and TB status, participants with 1-3 barriers (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR]: 1.49, 95% CI: 1.06, 2.08) and >3 barriers (aHR: 1.81, 95% CI: 1.35, 2.43) had higher 1-year mortality risk compared to those without barriers.

Conclusions: HIV-infected individuals in South Africa who reported perceived barriers to medical care at diagnosis were more likely to die within one year. Targeted structural interventions such as extended clinic hours, travel vouchers, and streamlined clinic operations may improve linkage to care and ART initiation for these people.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Mortality among people living with HIV remains high in South Africa. Suboptimal engagement in HIV care is noted to be a significant contributor to this, with many deaths occurring before people have even started antiretroviral therapy. Potential barriers to care range from personal, such as perceived good health therefore believing antiretroviral therapy is not necessary, to logistical, such as a lack of transportation, to structural barriers such as busy clinics and long waits for care. Barriers perceived by the patient may also be different to barriers perceived by providers of care.

This study sought to explore self-perceived barriers to care at the time of testing for HIV and their impact on one-year mortality. This was in the context of a trial testing whether or not health system navigators improved linkage to and retention in care. Between 2010 and 2013, adults attending for HIV testing across four clinics in Durban, South Africa enrolled in this trial, completed a baseline questionnaire. This examined self-perceived barriers to care, their emotional health and social support. Participants found to be HIV positive were followed up via phone within 12 months. Limited clinical data was sought from clinic notes. Any reported deaths were confirmed by a national register.

Some 1887 participants were enrolled and subsequently diagnosed with HIV. Some 250 people died by 12 months post enrollment. A myriad of barriers were reported, the most common being associated with personal health, service delivery and structural issues. However, it was the sum of barriers that was predictive of risk. People with one or more perceived barriers had a higher one-year mortality risk compared to people without perceived barriers. Furthermore, it was illustrated that the greater the number of perceived barriers, the greater the risk of mortality. The risk for people with greater than three perceived barriers was double that of people with three or less barriers (22% versus 11%). Interestingly, there was no significant impact of emotional and social support as reported at baseline.

Limitations noted by the authors include a possible overestimation of deaths attributable to HIV, since there were no specific data on the cause of death. Data on co-morbidities (apart from tuberculosis) were also not collected and their potential impact on mortality is not addressed. However, it may be fair to assume that any barriers to HIV care would also extend to affecting access to other forms of healthcare. Overall, the study highlights perceived barriers at diagnosis as plausible factors to address when shaping programmes to improve retention in care. 

Africa
South Africa
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People who inject drugs living with HIV in Russia face more mental health issues and diminished quality of life

Psychiatric symptoms, quality of life, and HIV status among people using opioids in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Desrosiers A, Blokhina E, Krupitsky E, Zvartau E, Schottenfeld R, Chawarski M. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Mar 1;172:60-65. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.12.007. Epub 2017 Jan 23.

Background: The Russian Federation is experiencing a very high rate of HIV infection among people who inject drugs (PWID). However, few studies have explored characteristics of people with co-occurring opioid use disorders and HIV, including psychiatric symptom presentations and how these symptoms might relate to quality of life. The current study therefore explored a.) differences in baseline psychiatric symptoms among HIV+ and HIV- individuals with opioid use disorder seeking naltrexone treatment at two treatment centers in Saint Petersburg, Russia and b.) associations between psychiatric symptom constellations and quality of life.

Methods: Participants were 328 adults enrolling in a randomized clinical trial evaluating outpatient treatments combining naltrexone with different drug counseling models. Psychiatric symptoms and quality of life were assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory and The World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF, respectively.

Results: Approximately 60% of participants were HIV+. Those who were HIV+ scored significantly higher on BSI anxiety, depression, psychoticism, somatization, paranoid ideation, phobic anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and GSI indexes (all p<0.05) than those HIV-. A K-means cluster analysis identified three distinct psychiatric symptom profiles; the proportion of HIV+ was significantly greater and quality of life indicators were significantly lower in the cluster with the highest psychiatric symptom levels.

Conclusion: Higher levels of psychiatric symptoms and lower quality of life indicators among HIV+ (compared to HIV-) individuals injecting drugs support the potential importance of combining interventions that target improving psychiatric symptoms with drug treatment, particularly for HIV+ patients.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: The higher prevalence of mental health disorders among people living with HIV is well known. This paper focuses on the association of mental health disorders and HIV among people who inject drugs, in St Petersburg, Russian Federation – the city with the highest prevalence of HIV and drug use in the Russian Federation. HIV positive people who inject drugs had significantly higher prevalence of mental health problems than HIV negative people who inject drugs. They had a lower quality of life according to a validated scale, underscoring the need for strong, combination public health programmes to support this vulnerable group. The population studied was selected through existing service provision. Since these individuals were already seeking treatment on their own, there could be many more who are not engaged in care either for HIV treatment or drug use support. This suggests the need to strengthen awareness and services, especially in areas where clean needles and other risk management methods are not yet available.

Europe
Russian Federation
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Improving education about HIV transmission among health workers could reduce stigmatizing attitudes

Another generation of stigma? Assessing healthcare student perceptions of HIV-positive patients in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Aggarwal S, Lee DH, Minteer WB, Fenning RT, Raja SK, Bernstein ME, Raman KR, Denny SP, Patel PA, Lieber M, Farfel AO, Diamond CA. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2017 Feb;31(2):87-95. doi: 10.1089/apc.2016.0175. Epub 2017 Jan 18.

HIV-related stigma remains a persistent global health concern among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) in developing nations. The literature is lacking in studies about healthcare students' perceptions of PLWA. This study is the first effort to understand stigmatizing attitudes toward HIV-positive patients by healthcare students in Mwanza, Tanzania, not just those who will be directly treating patients but also those who will be indirectly involved through nonclinical roles, such as handling patient specimens and private health information. A total of 208 students were drawn from Clinical Medicine, Laboratory Sciences, Health Records and Information Management, and Community Health classes at the Tandabui Institute of Health Sciences and Technology for a voluntary survey that assessed stigmatizing beliefs toward PLWA. Students generally obtained high scores on the overall survey instrument, pointing to low stigmatizing beliefs toward PLWA and an overall willingness to treat PLWA with the same standard of care as other patients. However, there are gaps in knowledge that exist among students, such as a comprehensive understanding of all routes of HIV infection. The study also suggests that students who interact with patients as part of their training are less likely to exhibit stigmatizing beliefs toward PLWA. A comprehensive course in HIV infection, one that includes classroom sessions focused on the epidemiology and routes of transmission as well as clinical opportunities to directly interact with PLWA-perhaps through teaching sessions led by PLWA-may allow for significant reductions in stigma toward such patients and improve clinical outcomes for PLWA around the world.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: This paper reports on a survey of students who were undergoing training in Clinical Medicine, Laboratory Sciences, Health Records and Information Management, Nursing, and Community Health in Mwanza, Tanzania. The survey aimed to explore attitudes about people living with HIV. The authors report that their results illustrate low stigmatizing beliefs towards people living with HIV. However, around a quarter believed that HIV is a punishment for bad behaviour. A third believed that people who acquired HIV from drug use or sex deserved to become infected. Further to this, nearly three quarters believed that individuals who were HIV positive could have avoided infection if they wanted to. A quarter believed that people living with HIV have been promiscuous. There were no differences in response by gender but students under 24 were more likely to have negative attitudes. The authors suggest that this could be due to lower education levels than the older students, although they had not measured this. Students studying Clinical Medicine were less likely to have negative attitudes. On a positive note the students reported that they would treat people living with HIV as equal with other people.

The students displayed some lack of knowledge about routes of HIV infection beyond sex and drug use, especially mother-to-child HIV transmission. The authors suggest that better education in this area may reduce the negative attitudes about people living with HIV, reported by many of the students. Overall, this survey reveals some gaps in education, that if addressed could reduce stigma by health workers against people living with HIV.

Africa
United Republic of Tanzania
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Are the pills going to make you live long Mum? Questions children ask once they learn their mother is living with HIV

Communication about HIV and death: maternal reports of primary school-aged children's questions after maternal HIV disclosure in rural South Africa.

Rochat TJ, Mitchell J, Lubbe AM, Stein A, Tomlinson M, Bland RM. Soc Sci Med. 2017 Jan;172:124-134. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.10.031. Epub 2016 Nov 21.

Introduction: Children's understanding of HIV and death in epidemic regions is under-researched. We investigated children's death-related questions post maternal HIV-disclosure. Secondary aims examined characteristics associated with death-related questions and consequences for children's mental health.

Methods: HIV-infected mothers (N = 281) were supported to disclose their HIV status to their children (6-10 years) in an uncontrolled pre-post intervention evaluation. Children's questions post-disclosure were collected by maternal report, 1-2 weeks post-disclosure. 61/281 children asked 88 death-related questions, which were analysed qualitatively. Logistic regression analyses examined characteristics associated with death-related questions. Using the parent-report Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), linear regression analysis examined differences in total CBCL problems by group, controlling for baseline.

Results: Children's questions were grouped into three themes: 'threats'; 'implications' and 'clarifications'. Children were most concerned about the threat of death, mother's survival, and prior family deaths. In multivariate analysis variables significantly associated with asking death-related questions included an absence of regular remittance to the mother (AOR 0.25 [CI 0.10, 0.59] p = 0.002), mother reporting the child's initial reaction to disclosure being "frightened" (AOR 6.57 [CI 2.75, 15.70] p≤0.001) and level of disclosure (full/partial) to the child (AOR 2.55 [CI 1.28, 5.06] p = 0.008). Controlling for significant variables and baseline, all children showed improvements on the CBCL post-intervention; with no significant differences on total problems scores post-intervention (β   -0.096 SE1.366  t = -0.07 p = 0.944).

Discussion: The content of questions children asked following disclosure indicate some understanding of HIV and, for almost a third of children, its potential consequence for parental death. Level of maternal disclosure and stability of financial support to the family may facilitate or inhibit discussions about death post-disclosure. Communication about death did not have immediate negative consequences on child behaviour according to maternal report.

Conclusion: In sub-Saharan Africa, given exposure to death at young ages, meeting children's informational needs could increase their resilience.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This is an unusual study examining the experience of the disclosure conversation between mother and child about the mother’s HIV positive status in Kwazulu-Natal. The paper examines the death-associated questions that mothers reported children (aged 6-10 years old, HIV exposed but uninfected) asked up to one week after the ‘disclosure event’. The findings indicate that although the treatability and chronic nature of HIV is complex, children’s questions suggest that they are attempting understand the implications of their mother’s HIV positive status for them, their mother’s and their care. Much research has illustrated that disclosure of both the parents or the child’s own HIV positive status is commonly delayed. This delay may exacerbate the challenges a young person has in adapting to this knowledge. We also know that parents, like a large proportion of people living with HIV, are daunted and feel ill equipped to manage disclosure to others, especially children. However little evidence is currently available evaluating the impact of programmes that are designed to support parents to disclose their own HIV status to their children. Therefore, this programme and study is very welcome.

The focus on death-questions is particularly interesting. This provides some illustration of how children are reportedly processing the information that they have been given. Many questions indicate a prior knowledge of HIV, illness and/ or death. It also suggests that children are managing this new knowledge within this broader context. Within this high HIV-prevalence context, a discursive emphasis on the efficacy of HIV treatment to reduce the risk of HIV-associated mortality within the delivery of timely, age-appropriate education information may be critical.  This can reduce fears around maternal death and supporting children to manage and adapt to their situations. A clear direction for further enquiry would be to follow up these families to assess the impact of full/ partial disclosure over time on the children and the mothers.     

Africa
South Africa
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Assisted partner services a safe, effective strategy to identify undiagnosed HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa

Assisted partner services for HIV in Kenya: a cluster randomised controlled trial.

Cherutich P, Golden MR, Wamuti B, Richardson BA, Asbjornsdottir KH, Otieno FA, Ng'ang'a A, Mutiti PM, Macharia P, Sambai B, Dunbar M, Bukusi D, Farquhar C. Lancet HIV. 2016 Nov 29. pii: S2352-3018(16)30214-4. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30214-4. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Assisted partner services for index patients with HIV infections involves elicitation of information about sex partners and contacting them to ensure that they test for HIV and link to care. Assisted partner services are not widely available in Africa. We aimed to establish whether or not assisted partner services increase HIV testing, diagnoses, and linkage to care among sex partners of people with HIV infections in Kenya.

Methods: In this cluster randomised controlled trial, we recruited non-pregnant adults aged at least 18 years with newly or recently diagnosed HIV without a recent history of intimate partner violence who had not yet or had only recently linked to HIV care from 18 HIV testing services clinics in Kenya. Consenting sites in Kenya were randomly assigned (1:1) by the study statistician (restricted randomisation; balanced distribution in terms of county and proximity to a city) to immediate versus delayed assisted partner services. Primary outcomes were the number of partners tested for HIV, the number who tested HIV positive, and the number enrolled in HIV care, in those who were interviewed at 6 week follow-up. Participants within each cluster were masked to treatment allocation because participants within each cluster received the same intervention. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01616420.

Findings: Between Aug 12, 2013, and Aug 31, 2015, we randomly allocated 18 clusters to immediate and delayed HIV assisted partner services (nine in each group), enrolling 1305 participants: 625 (48%) in the immediate group and 680 (52%) in the delayed group. 6 weeks after enrolment of index patients, 392 (67%) of 586 partners had tested for HIV in the immediate group and 85 (13%) of 680 had tested in the delayed group (incidence rate ratio 4.8, 95% CI 3.7-6.4). 136 (23%) partners had new HIV diagnoses in the immediate group compared with 28 (4%) in the delayed group (5.0, 3.2-7.9) and 88 (15%) versus 19 (3%) were newly enrolled in care (4.4, 2.6-7.4). Assisted partner services did not increase intimate partner violence (one intimate partner violence event related to partner notification or study procedures occurred in each group).

Interpretation: Assisted partner services are safe and increase HIV testing and case-finding; implementation at the population level could enhance linkage to care and antiretroviral therapy initiation and substantially decrease HIV transmission.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: One of the greatest challenges to achieving goals such as the UNAIDS 90:90:90 treatment target is the development of more effective strategies to enable people undiagnosed living with HIV to be tested and engaged with care. One strategy for achieving this in high-income settings, albeit with a very limited evidence base, is assisted partner services. In this approach, health-care workers identify and attempt to contact the sexual partners of people recently diagnosed with HIV. These partners are then encouraged to be tested and engaged with care. This pragmatic cluster randomised study, conducted in Kenya, aimed to assess whether assisted partner services were feasible in a sub-Saharan African setting and if so, to measure the effectiveness in terms of additional individuals testing for HIV, receiving new HIV diagnoses and engaging with care as a result of the programme.

The results were striking, in that six weeks after enrolment almost five times as many partners of index cases in the immediate group (partners contacted  at enrolment) had been tested for HIV compared to the delayed group (partners contacted  six weeks after enrolment). There were five times as many new HIV diagnoses in the immediate group compared to the delayed group. There were also four times as many partners newly engaged with care in the immediate arm compared to the delayed arm. There was also no evidence that the tracing of sexual partners led to an increase in intimate partner violence.

These results illustrate that assisted partner services can make an important contribution to identifying people living with HIV who are undiagnosed, enabling people to get tested and engaged with care in a low-income setting. A major challenge, identified by the study authors, is whether the human resources would be available in already highly stretched settings to implement this strategy. They suggest that task shifting from professional healthcare providers to a less highly educated cadre of workers would be feasible and point to other areas of care such as safe male circumcision and ART delivery, where this has been successfully achieved. 

Africa
Kenya
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ART has dramatically improved life expectancy for people living with HIV in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Trends in the burden of HIV mortality after roll-out of antiretroviral therapy in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: an observational community cohort study.

Reniers G, Blom S, Calvert C, Martin-Onraet A, Herbst AJ, Eaton JW, Bor J, Slaymaker E, Li ZR, Clark SJ, Barnighausen T, Zaba B, Hosegood V Lancet HIV. 2016 Dec 9. pii: S2352-3018(16)30225-9. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30225-9

Background: Antiretroviral therapy (ART) substantially decreases morbidity and mortality in people living with HIV. In this study, we describe population-level trends in the adult life expectancy and trends in the residual burden of HIV mortality after the roll-out of a public sector ART programme in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, one of the populations with the most severe HIV epidemics in the world.

Methods: Data come from the Africa Centre Demographic Information System (ACDIS), an observational community cohort study in the uMkhanyakude district in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We used non-parametric survival analysis methods to estimate gains in the population-wide life expectancy at age 15 years since the introduction of ART, and the shortfall of the population-wide adult life expectancy compared with that of the HIV-negative population (ie, the life expectancy deficit). Life expectancy gains and deficits were further disaggregated by age and cause of death with demographic decomposition methods.

Findings: Covering the calendar years 2001 through to 2014, we obtained information on 93 903 adults who jointly contribute 535 428 person-years of observation to the analyses and 9992 deaths. Since the roll-out of ART in 2004, adult life expectancy increased by 15.2 years for men (95% CI 12.4-17.8) and 17.2 years for women (14.5-20.2). Reductions in pulmonary tuberculosis and HIV-related mortality account for 79.7% of the total life expectancy gains in men (8.4 adult life-years), and 90.7% in women (12.8 adult life-years). For men, 9.5% is the result of a decline in external injuries. By 2014, the life expectancy deficit had decreased to 1.2 years for men (-2.9 to 5.8) and to 5.3 years for women (2.6-7.8). In 2011-14, pulmonary tuberculosis and HIV were responsible for 84.9% of the life expectancy deficit in men and 80.8% in women.

Interpretation: The burden of HIV on adult mortality in this population is rapidly shrinking, but remains large for women, despite their better engagement with HIV-care services. Gains in adult life-years lived as well as the present life expectancy deficit are almost exclusively due to differences in mortality attributed to HIV and pulmonary tuberculosis.

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Editor’s notes: Health and demographic surveillance system (HDSS) sites allow for monitoring of population health through the collection of detailed data on tens of thousands of individuals. Such sites in countries with high HIV prevalence have played an important role in measuring the effects of large-scale programmes, such as the global roll-out of antiretroviral therapy (ART). The data presented in this paper, from the Africa Centre Demographic Information System (ACDIS) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, span 13 years (2001–14) and represent over 93 000 individuals living in an area with extremely high HIV prevalence (29% in adults aged 15–49 years in 2011). At least 15 000 of people studied were HIV-positive, of whom at least 2000 died. ART was first made available to people living with HIV (PLHIV) in this area in 2004.

Among adults aged 15–49 years, the authors report an overall reduction in death rate from 2001–14.  This translates into large increases in life expectancy (i.e., the expected number of years lived from age 15) of 15 and 17 years for men and women, respectively, between 2001 and 2014.  The changes in life expectancy are greater in people who were confirmed HIV-positive: 18 and 21 years for men and women, respectively, from 2007–14.  The large difference in life expectancies between the sexes that still exists (31 versus 44 years in HIV-positive men and women, respectively) are consistent with previously published estimates from Rwanda and Uganda. This study, however, illustrates that HIV-positive men are catching up to their HIV-negative counterparts faster than women are. The ‘deficit’ in 2014 - the gap in life expectancies between HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals, was 1.2 years in men but still 5.3 years in women.

The authors propose that increased access to ART is the primary driver of the gains in life expectancy seen in this cohort. To further support this, they include data from verbal autopsies (VAs), which suggest that reductions in deaths due to HIV and pulmonary tuberculosis were responsible for 80% and 90% of the increases in life expectancy in men and women, respectively. VAs have limitations, however, particularly in areas of high HIV prevalence, but the overall mortality patterns suggested by these findings are likely to be accurate, even if the precise estimates differ.

The dramatic increases in life expectancy, in only seven years, for HIV-positive individuals in this cohort add to the encouraging observations from other low- and middle-income countries that many people receiving ART can expect to live for nearly as long as HIV-negative individuals.  Of course, people with advanced disease starting ART are still at high risk of death and there remain considerable challenges in getting treatment to all people in need of it. 

Africa
South Africa
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