Articles tagged as "HIV Treatment"

Poor adherence during the first three months post-delivery among women on Option B+

Adherence to antiretroviral therapy during and after pregnancy: cohort study on women receiving care in Malawi's Option B+ program.

Haas AD, Msukwa MT, Egger M, Tenthani L, Tweya H, Jahn A, Gadabu OJ, Tal K, Salazar-Vizcaya L, Estill J, Spoerri A, Phiri N, Chimbwandira F, van Oosterhout JJ, Keiser O. Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Nov 1;63(9):1227-1235. Epub 2016 Jul 26.

Background: Adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is crucial to preventing mother-to-child transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and ensuring the long-term effectiveness of ART, yet data are sparse from African routine care programs on maternal adherence to triple ART.

Methods: We analyzed data from women who started ART at 13 large health facilities in Malawi between September 2011 and October 2013. We defined adherence as the percentage of days "covered" by pharmacy claims. Adherence of ≥90% was deemed adequate. We calculated inverse probability of censoring weights to adjust adherence estimates for informative censoring. We used descriptive statistics, survival analysis, and pooled logistic regression to compare adherence between pregnant and breastfeeding women eligible for ART under Option B+, and nonpregnant and nonbreastfeeding women who started ART with low CD4 cell counts or World Health Organization clinical stage 3/4 disease.

Results: Adherence was adequate for 73% of the women during pregnancy, for 66% in the first 3 months post partum, and for about 75% during months 4-21 post partum. About 70% of women who started ART during pregnancy and breastfeeding adhered adequately during the first 2 years of ART, but only about 30% of them had maintained adequate adherence at every visit. Risk factors for inadequate adherence included starting ART with an Option B+ indication, at a younger age, or at a district hospital or health center.

Conclusions: One-third of women retained in the Option B+ program adhered inadequately during pregnancy and breastfeeding, especially soon after delivery. Effective interventions to improve adherence among women in this program should be implemented.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: To maximize the impact of antiretroviral therapy (ART), people living with HIV should be diagnosed early, enrolled and retained in pre-ART care, initiated on ART and retained in ART care.  Long-term adherence to achieve and maintain viral load suppression is the last step in the continuum of HIV care.

“Option B+” is the programmatic option for preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission, pioneered by Malawi, in which combination ART is started during pregnancy and continued life-long. This manuscript describes adherence to ART among pregnant women in the Option B+ programme in Malawi. The authors had access to prospectively-collected pharmacy data, and created an adherence measure that estimates the percentage of days ARVs were actually available to women during a time period. Therefore, this indicator measures the maximum number of days that ART could have been taken, but does not measure how much of the treatment was actually consumed. In this study, about a quarter of women started on ART with an Option B+ indication were lost to follow-up during the first year of ART. Among women retained, 30% adhered inadequately during pregnancy and breastfeeding, especially during the first three months after delivery. Unreported transfers of care to other clinics after delivery, postnatal depression, or difficulties with travelling to the facilities may be explanations for this temporary decline in adherence.

The authors validated their pharmacy-based adherence measure against viral load data in a subsample of about 500 people. They found that their adherence measure correlated well with the viral load measurement, and suggest that if access to viral load testing is limited, pharmacy-based adherence measures might be useful to identify people with adherence problems for targeted viral load testing.

These data are consistent with other studies reporting suboptimal retention particularly among women starting ART during pregnancy. Suboptimal adherence to ART during breastfeeding increases the risk of post-natal transmission, and the risk of the emergence of resistant virus in both mother and infant, as well as compromising the mother’s treatment outcome. Programmes need to address these issues in order to support adherence and retention in the early post-natal period. 

Africa
Malawi
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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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Needle-syringe programmes and treatment will dramatically reduce HIV epidemic among people who inject drugs in Russia and Ukraine

Reducing HIV infection in people who inject drugs is impossible without targeting recently-infected subjects.

Vasylyeva TI, Friedman SR, Lourenco J, Gupta S, Hatzakis A, Pybus OG, Katzourakis A, Smyrnov P, Karamitros T, Paraskevis D, Magiorkinis G. AIDS. 2016 Nov 28;30(18):2885-2890.

Objective: Although our understanding of viral transmission among people who inject drugs (PWID) has improved, we still know little about when and how many times each injector transmits HIV throughout the duration of infection. We describe HIV dynamics in PWID to evaluate which preventive strategies can be efficient.

Design: Due to the notably scarce interventions, HIV-1 spread explosively in Russia and Ukraine in 1990s. By studying this epidemic between 1995 and 2005, we characterized naturally occurring transmission dynamics of HIV among PWID.

Method: We combined publicly available HIV pol and env sequences with prevalence estimates from Russia and Ukraine under an evolutionary epidemiology framework to characterize HIV transmissibility between PWID. We then constructed compartmental models to simulate HIV spread among PWID.

Results: In the absence of interventions, each injector transmits on average to 10 others. Half of the transmissions take place within 1 month after primary infection, suggesting that the epidemic will expand even after blocking all the post-first month transmissions. Primary prevention can realistically target the first month of infection, and we show that it is very efficient to control the spread of HIV-1 in PWID. Treating acutely infected on top of primary prevention is notably effective.

Conclusion: As a large proportion of transmissions among PWID occur within 1 month after infection, reducing and delaying transmissions through scale-up of harm reduction programmes should always form the backbone of HIV control strategies in PWID. Growing PWID populations in the developing world, where primary prevention is scarce, constitutes a public health time bomb

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This paper presents powerful findings from a mathematical model that sought to estimate how much prevalence of HIV will increase among people who inject drugs in 10-20 years’ time in the absence of HIV treatment and needle-syringe programmes. Findings suggest HIV prevalence will reach 86% in 20 years in the absence of programmes. The paper provides important new information to the growing body of evidence that estimates the impact of needle-syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy in reducing HIV transmission among people who inject drugs, in the region. The authors focus on the impact of needle-syringe programmes and of the prevention benefits of treatment, reducing transmission among individuals recently acquiring HIV where infectivity is higher in the first month of infection. The estimates provide projections of programme impact in the realities of the current policy environment, given the prohibition of opioid substitution therapy in the Russian Federation. The model focusses on injection transmission routes only and does not consider sexual transmission among people who inject drugs. Therefore, projected estimates of HIV are likely to be underestimates. The paper is important in highlighting the urgent need for needle-syringe programmes and treatment among people who inject drugs in the region and highlighting the crisis in relation to HIV among people who inject drugs in Russia and Ukraine. Modelling estimates such as these are powerful tools to persuade policy makers of the urgent need for programmes.  Importantly the authors recognize the need for structural programmes. They highlight the need to create an enabling environment in which needle-syringe programmes can operate. This environment needs to include supportive policing practices and reducing stigma. 

Europe
Russian Federation, Ukraine
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Disbelief, stigma, ‘strong blood’ and inevitability affect seroconversion among HIV serodiscordant couples in Uganda

'People say that we are already dead much as we can still walk': a qualitative investigation of community and couples' understanding of HIV serodiscordance in rural Uganda.

Kim J, Nanfuka M, Moore D, Shafic M, Nyonyitono M, Birungi J, Galenda F, King R. BMC Infect Dis. 2016 Nov 10;16(1):665.

Background: Stable, co-habiting HIV serodiscordant couples are a key population in terms of heterosexual transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the wide availability of antiretroviral treatment and HIV educational programs, heterosexual transmission continues to drive the HIV epidemic in Africa. To investigate some of the factors involved in transmission or maintenance of serodiscordant status, we designed a study to examine participants' understanding of HIV serodiscordance and the implications this posed for their HIV prevention practices.

Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 28 serodiscordant couples enrolled in a treatment-as-prevention study in Jinja, Uganda. Participants were asked questions regarding sexual behaviour, beliefs in treatment and prevention, participants' and communities' understanding and context around HIV serodiscordance. Qualitative framework analysis capturing several main themes was carried out by a team of four members, and was cross-checked for consistency.

Results: It was found that most couples had difficulty explaining the phenomenon of serodiscordance and tended to be confused regarding prevention. Many individuals still held beliefs in pseudoscientific explanations for HIV susceptibility such as blood type and blood "strength". The participants' trust of treatment and medical services were well established. However, the communities' views of both serodiscordance and treatment were more pessimistic and wrought with mistrust. Stigmatization of serodiscordance and HIV-positive status were reported frequently.

Conclusions: The results indicate that despite years of treatment and prevention methods being available, stigmatization and mistrust persist in the communities of HIV-affected individuals and may directly contribute to new cases and seroconversion. We suggest that to optimize the effects of HIV treatment and prevention, clear education and support of such methods are sorely needed in sub-Saharan African communities.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Expanded access to antiretroviral treatment has significantly reduced HIV-associated mortality. It has also contributed to reduced HIV incidence including in the most highly affected region of sub-Saharan Africa. Most new infections in this region are due to heterosexual transmission, with transmission within HIV serodiscordant couples in marriage or cohabitation thought to account for most new infections. This qualitative study explores the perceptions of members of HIV serodiscordant couples in terms of their understanding of serodiscordance or eventual seroconversion. The authors also explore how this understanding affects their sexual behaviour and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (for people living with HIV).

This sub-study was part of the Highly Active Antiretroviral therapy as Prevention (HAARP) study of treatment as prevention (TasP) among serodiscordant couples. In-depth interviews were conducted between June 2013 and August 2014.  All couples were initially serodiscordant upon recruitment into treatment. Over the course of the study, 14 HIV seronegative participants seroconverted. These individuals and their partners were selected for the sub-study and gender-matched to control subjects who were HIV seropositive participants whose partners did not seroconvert during the study.

The results of the HPTN 052 trial demonstrated a 96% reduction in HIV transmission within serodisordant couples associated with early use of antiretroviral therapy.  In this rural Ugandan setting, the phenomenon of serodiscordance remains poorly understood by people affected by it and the communities surrounding them. Despite extensive education campaigns and communication about HIV prevention various factors affect understanding of serodiscordance. Medication, confusion, mistrust, stigma, and a resulting sense of inevitability may negatively affect couples’ understanding and belief in the phenomenon of serodiscordance. For a variety of reasons, some serodisordant couples also report lack of consistent condom use. This is of particular concern where abstinence has proved to be an unachievable option for many couples. Improved education regarding serodiscordance and ART treatment will be required to address heterosexual transmission and ensure the maintenance of serodiscordance in affected couples.

Africa
Uganda
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Moving from facility to community-based models of HIV care - will it work?

Community-based interventions to improve and sustain antiretroviral therapy adherence, retention in HIV care and clinical outcomes in low- and middle-income countries for achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets.

Nachega JB, Adetokunboh O, Uthman OA, Knowlton AW, Altice FL, Schechter M, Galarraga O, Geng E, Peltzer K, Chang LW, Van Cutsem G, Jaffar SS, Ford N, Mellins CA, Remien RH, Mills EJ. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2016 Oct;13(5):241-55. doi: 10.1007/s11904-016-0325-9.

Little is known about the effect of community versus health facility-based interventions to improve and sustain antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, virologic suppression, and retention in care among HIV-infected individuals in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We systematically searched four electronic databases for all available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and comparative cohort studies in LMICs comparing community versus health facility-based interventions. Relative risks (RRs) for pre-defined adherence, treatment engagement (linkage and retention in care), and relevant clinical outcomes were pooled using random effect models. Eleven cohort studies and eleven RCTs (N = 97 657) were included. Meta-analysis of the included RCTs comparing community- versus health facility-based interventions found comparable outcomes in terms of ART adherence (RR = 1.02, 95 % CI 0.99 to 1.04), virologic suppression (RR = 1.00, 95 % CI 0.98 to 1.03), and all-cause mortality (RR = 0.93, 95 % CI 0.73 to 1.18). The result of pooled analysis from the RCTs (RR = 1.03, 95 % CI 1.01 to 1.06) and cohort studies (RR = 1.09, 95 % CI 1.03 to 1.15) found that participants assigned to community-based interventions had statistically significantly higher rates of treatment engagement. Two studies found community-based ART delivery model either cost-saving or cost-effective. Community- versus facility-based models of ART delivery resulted in at least comparable outcomes for clinically stable HIV-infected patients on treatment in LMICs and are likely to be cost-effective.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: The remarkable global scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes, while much-needed and impressive, has had inevitable consequences. These include overcrowding of health facilities, longer waiting times, reduced time for counselling and care of newly-enrolled people and restricted capacity to provide support for people who do not remain engaged with care. Furthermore, the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target for 2020 to have 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of all diagnosed individuals receiving ART and 90% of people living with HIV on ART to be virally suppressed, will now require an additional 20 million people living with HIV to start treatment.

Community-based programmes to complement facility-based model of HIV care delivery are increasingly being recognised as an important and sustainable approach to address the growing numbers of people accessing care in high-HIV prevalence settings. This review compared outcomes of community-based versus facility-based models of ART delivery and treatment support. There was no statistical difference in optimal ART adherence, virologic suppression or all-cause mortality between participants assigned to community-based ART and facility-based ART in randomised controlled trials (RCTs). When data from RCTs and cohort studies were pooled, participants assigned to community-based ART appeared to have higher rates of retention in care at the end of the follow-up period. Notably, the few studies that did examine cost-effectiveness found community-based programmes to be cost-saving.

The findings demonstrate that community-level programmes are certainly not inferior to facility-based programmes. However, it is important to note some key limitations. Firstly, many of the studies are subject to selection bias, i.e. people at risk of poorer outcomes e.g. sicker people or people with a history of poor adherence may be excluded from receiving community-based programmes. The authors also highlight a high risk of “other forms of bias” in the cohort studies, but these are not specified. Secondly, adherence measures based on self-report may not be reliable. Thirdly, the review compared a heterogeneous set of programmes. Fourthly, as with other systematic reviews, publication bias is highly likely.   

Notwithstanding these limitations, this study suggests that community-based programmes have promise in supporting fragile and overcrowded facility-based healthcare systems in providing HIV care to a growing number of people. There may even be potential for integrating HIV care with care for other chronic conditions.

Well-designed studies are necessary, given the ambitious targets we have set ourselves, to explore the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of community-based programmes. This is particularly important in under-represented groups with disproportionately poor outcomes such as children, adolescents and pregnant women. Further, for community-based programmes to be effective, it will be critical to ensure that adequate training and mentorship and ongoing monitoring for quality assurance is in place.      

Africa, Asia, Latin America
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Longitudinal HIV viral load measures give insights into disease burden and transmission risk in the USA

Durable viral suppression and transmission risk potential among persons with diagnosed HIV infection: United States, 2012-2013.

Crepaz N, Tang T, Marks G, Mugavero MJ, Espinoza L, Hall HI. Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Oct 1;63(7):976-83. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciw418. Epub 2016 Jun 29.

Background: We examined durable viral suppression, cumulative viral load (VL) burden, and transmission risk potential among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-diagnosed persons in care.

Methods: Using data from the National HIV Surveillance System from 17 jurisdictions with complete reporting of VL test results, we determined the percentage of persons in HIV care who achieved durable viral suppression (all VL results <200 copies/mL) and examined viremia copy-years and time spent above VL levels that increase the risk of HIV transmission during 2012-2013.

Results: Of 265 264 persons in HIV care in 2011, 238 641 had at least 2 VLs in 2012-2013. The median number of VLs per individual during the 2-year period was 5. Approximately 62% had durable viral suppression. The remaining 38% had high VL burden (geometric mean of viremia copy-years, 7261) and spent an average of 438 days, 316 days, and 215 days (60%, 43.2%, and 29.5% of the 2-year period) above 200, 1500, and 10 000 copies/mL. Women, blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, persons with HIV infection attributed to transmission other than male-to-male sexual contact, younger age groups, and persons with gaps in care had higher viral burden and transmission risk potential.

Conclusions: Two-thirds of persons in HIV care had durable viral suppression during a 2-year period. One-third had high VL burden and spent substantial time above VL levels with increased risk of onward transmission. More intervention efforts are needed to improve retention in care and medication adherence so that more persons in HIV care achieve durable viral suppression.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Virologic suppression is the ultimate goal of HIV care. It determines health outcomes and transmission risk. Most analyses assess viral suppression by considering a single viral load measure. However, adherence to antiretroviral therapy and engagement in HIV care are often not straightforward, but rather complex and dynamic. People living with HIV may transition in and out of treatment and care throughout their lifetime. Therefore, a single undetectable viral load may not equate to true virologic suppression in an individual, but rather only a snapshot. This has the potential for an inaccurate picture of HIV burden and transmission risk in a population.

Within this study, researchers used the longitudinal measures of durable viral suppression, viraemia copy years and time without viral load suppression to assess disease burden and HIV transmission risk in the United States of America. The analysis involved people ages 13 years or older diagnosed with HIV before 2011 and in care in one of 17 jurisdictions that reported complete CD4 and viral load data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National HIV Surveillance System. Everyone had at least one viral load test in 2011 and at least two between 2012-2013, and all were alive at the end of 2013.

Of the 251 649 persons included, two thirds had durable viral suppression with all viral load values being <200 copies/mL over the two-year period. Of note, during the same time period an additional 20% (total 83%) of the cohort had a suppressed viral load on their latest test. This would have potentially underestimated disease burden if analysed in isolation. The remaining one-third, without durable viral suppression, had high plasma burden and spent substantial time without virologic suppression, increasing the risk of HIV transmission.  As would be expected, the percentages of persons with durable viral suppression were lower among people with gaps in care. Disparities in disease burden and transmission risk potential were seen in several other subgroups.

The use of longitudinal measures broadens insight into disease burden and transmission risk in this population. Of further interest would have been people that had no evidence of being in care in 2011 but had an unsuppressed viral load between 2012-13, thus contributing to the population disease burden. These people were unfortunately not included in the analyses but may increase overall population transmission risk over the two years.

The findings underscore the recognised need for focused care and treatment efforts to address these disparities in virologic suppression and improve retention in care in the United States of America. The study also encourages the use of longitudinal markers in informing public health planning and resource allocation.

Northern America
United States of America
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Community ART support groups: a partial solution for improving retention in care?

A decade of antiretroviral therapy scale-up in Mozambique: evaluation of outcome trends and new models of service delivery among more than 300 000 patients enrolled during 2004-2013.

Auld AF, Shiraishi RW, Couto A, Mbofana F, Colborn K, Alfredo C, Ellerbrock TV, Xavier C, Jobarteh K. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 Oct 1;73(2):e11-22. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001137.

Background: During 2004-2013 in Mozambique, 455 600 HIV-positive adults (≥15 years old) initiated antiretroviral therapy (ART). We evaluated trends in patient characteristics and outcomes during 2004-2013, outcomes of universal treatment for pregnant women (Option B+) implemented since 2013, and effect on outcomes of distributing ART to stable patients through Community ART Support Groups (CASG) since 2010.

Methods: Data for 306 335 adults starting ART during 2004-2013 at 170 ART facilities were analyzed. Mortality and loss to follow-up (LTFU) were estimated using competing risks models. Outcome determinants were estimated using proportional hazards models, including CASG participation as a time-varying covariate.

Results: Compared with ART enrollees in 2004, enrollees in 2013 were more commonly female (55% vs. 73%), more commonly pregnant if female (<1% vs. 30%), and had a higher median baseline CD4 count (139 vs. 235/µL). During 2004-2013, observed 6-month mortality declined from 7% to 2% but LTFU increased from 24% to 30%. Pregnant women starting ART with CD4 count >350/µL and WHO stage I/II under Option B+ guidelines in 2013 had low 6-month mortality (0.1%) but high 6-month LTFU (38%). During 2010-2013, 6766 patients joined CASGs. In multivariable analysis, compared with nonparticipation in CASG, CASG participation was associated with 35% lower LTFU but similar mortality.

Conclusions: Initiation of ART at earlier disease stages in later calendar years might explain observed declines in mortality. Retention interventions are needed to address trends of increasing LTFU overall and the high LTFU among Option B+ pregnant women specifically. Further expansion of CASG could help reduce LTFU.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: The UNAIDS 90–90–90 treatment target for 2020 calls for 90% of all people with HIV to be diagnosed, 90% of people with HIV diagnosed to receive ART and 90% of people on ART to have a suppressed viral load. To maximise the impact of ART, people living with HIV should be diagnosed early, initiated on ART and retained in ART care.  Engagement along the complete treatment cascade will determine the long-term success of the global response to HIV. 

This manuscript describes the trends in patient characteristics and outcomes over the first decade of scale-up of ART in Mozambique (2004-2013). During this period close to half a million people living with HIV were initiated on ART; six-month mortality declined from 7% to 2% but six-month loss to follow-up (LTFU) increased from 24% to 30%. The authors found that later calendar year of ART was associated with higher risk of LTFU; an increase in “silent” transfers (undocumented transfer between health facilities) might have contributed to this. There was an increasing female-to-male ratio over calendar period during the study, most likely due to scale-up of HIV testing during antenatal care and (since 2013) implementation of Option B+ (initiation of lifelong ART for all pregnant women). The authors conclude that increased enrolment among men is necessary to reduce the disproportionally high HIV-associated morbidity and mortality among men.  

Interestingly, this is the first study to report on nationwide outcomes of community ART support groups (CASG), and to quantify the effect of CASG on LTFU. Consistent with the recent systematic review by Nachega and colleagues (included in this issue of HIV This Month), the authors found no difference in mortality between patients who received their ART through CASG and patients who received their ART from facilities. Also consistent with this systematic review, CASG participation was associated with 35% lower LTFU rates. The authors therefore suggest ART distribution through CASG as a potential partial solution. Possible reasons for lower LTFU rates among CASG participants include reduced patient transport cost, reduced patient time at the clinic, increased patient accountability, and improved social support. However, the authors acknowledged that people agreeing to join a CASG might be people who would in any event be retained in care. CASG participants were more commonly unemployed and uneducated than non-participants, which might indicate that CASG participation is more attractive for patients with fewer financial resources.  

Men were less likely to participate in CASGs, emphasizing again the need for male-specific programmes. The authors advocate for further research, and suggest offering male-only CASG as a possible way to improve male participation in CASG.

Africa
Mozambique
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Social constraints on women’s access to HIV treatment cannot be ignored

'Lost to follow up': rethinking delayed and interrupted HIV treatment among married Swazi women.

Dlamini-Simelane TT, Moyer E. Health Policy Plan. 2016 Oct 13. pii: czw117. [Epub ahead of print]

Through various campaigns and strategies, more women are being tested for HIV in countries with a high prevalence of the virus. Despite the ready availability of treatment at government clinics in sub-Saharan African countries like Swaziland, women consistently report difficulty in maintaining access to treatment. Drawing on two individual case studies selected from a larger study of the so-called leaky cascade in Swaziland, we illustrate the protracted journeys married women undertake to initiate treatment. We demonstrate how women manoeuvre tactically after diagnosis, highlight factors that influence their decisions related to initiating treatment, and detail the actors involved in the decision-making process. Our research shows the persistence of structural factors that inhibit access, including economic constraints, gender inequality and patriarchal social norms. Patients referred as 'lost to follow up' are in many cases actively pursuing treatment within a context that includes the biomedical health system, but also extends well beyond it. We argue that the phrase 'lost to follow up' conceals the complex social navigation required by women to initiate and maintain access to treatment. Further, we suggest that many of the logistical challenges of monitoring and tracking people with HIV can be better addressed by taking into account the structural and social aspects of delayed treatment initiative.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: With new global guidelines for the treatment of HIV, in Swaziland, as elsewhere, there has been a focus on increasing access to point-of-care diagnostics. This paper uses case studies to examine the complex social and logistical factors that contribute to HIV-positive women ‘falling out’ of HIV treatment healthcare in Swaziland.  These losses are despite an enhanced logistical system. In particular, the authors argue that terms such as ‘treatment defaulters’ or ‘lost to follow up’ only define patients from the perspective of the healthcare system. Such terms, they suggest, hide the social and economic challenges that women living with HIV face in trying to start treatment. These challenges include family power structures, lack of autonomy, gender norms, and constraints on married women to access treatment.

The authors reveal that women’s decision making around initiating treatment in Swaziland involves navigating multiple social terrains. They demonstrate that when a married woman has been diagnosed with HIV in Swaziland, she is often not free to initiate treatment. Nor can she decide on her own to visit the clinic, especially if doing so requires money. Further to this they demonstrate that women’s ability to seek treatment is impacted by gender and generational power relations. Treatment access may also be affected by preserving the family honour. The husband, mother in-law and wider kinship network can constitute a ‘therapy management group’ and either accompany women to treatment or influence the routes taken. Where concerns arise for how a woman might be perceived or rejected by this group, women are at times compelled to conceal their HIV status. This might be deemed necessary to avoid dishonour for her birth family, thus ‘the therapy management group’ goes beyond providing advice and information. The group also prescribes the route a woman should follow as a good wife or daughter-in-law. The authors suggest that that labelling women who are actively seeking ways to access care as ‘lost to follow up’ ‘or ‘treatment defaulters’ obscures these challenges.

The authors conclude that married women’s decision making around HIV treatment in Swaziland is contingent upon social and economic circumstances.  Being diagnosed with HIV is not sufficient motivation to take up treatment. They argue that, in the light of this, programme implementers should focus on building women’s capacity to navigate the social constraints. This could include providing expert counsellors in each clinic to support such issues.

HIV Treatment, treatment
Africa
Swaziland
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Evaluating strategies to improve HIV care outcomes

Evaluating strategies to improve HIV care outcomes in Kenya: a modelling study.

Olney JJ, Braitstein P, Eaton JW, Sang E, Nyambura M, Kimaiyo S, McRobie E, Hogan JW, Hallett TB. Lancet HIV. 2016 Dec;3(12):e592-e600. pii: S2352-3018(16)30120-5. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30120-5. Epub 2016 Oct 19.

Background: With expanded access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV mortality has decreased, yet life-years are still lost to AIDS. Strengthening of treatment programmes is a priority. We examined the state of an HIV care programme in Kenya and assessed interventions to improve the impact of ART programmes on population health.

Methods: We created an individual-based mathematical model to describe the HIV epidemic and the experiences of care among adults infected with HIV in Kenya. We calibrated the model to a longitudinal dataset from the Academic Model Providing Access To Healthcare (known as AMPATH) programme describing the routes into care, losses from care, and clinical outcomes. We simulated the cost and effect of interventions at different stages of HIV care, including improvements to diagnosis, linkage to care, retention and adherence of ART, immediate ART eligibility, and a universal test-and-treat strategy.

Findings: We estimate that, of people dying from AIDS between 2010 and 2030, most will have initiated treatment (61%), but many will never have been diagnosed (25%) or will have been diagnosed but never started ART (14%). Many interventions targeting a single stage of the health-care cascade were likely to be cost-effective, but any individual intervention averted only a small percentage of deaths because the effect is attenuated by other weaknesses in care. However, a combination of five interventions (including improved linkage, point-of-care CD4 testing, voluntary counselling and testing with point-of-care CD4, and outreach to improve retention in pre-ART care and on-ART) would have a much larger impact, averting 1.10 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) and 25% of expected new infections and would probably be cost-effective (US$571 per DALY averted). This strategy would improve health more efficiently than a universal test-and-treat intervention if there were no accompanying improvements to care ($1760 per DALY averted).

Interpretation: When resources are limited, combinations of interventions to improve care should be prioritised over high-cost strategies such as universal test-and-treat strategy, especially if this is not accompanied by improvements to the care cascade. International guidance on ART should reflect alternative routes to programme strengthening and encourage country programmes to evaluate the costs and population-health impact in addition to the clinical benefits of immediate initiation.

Abstract  Full-text (free) access

Editor’s notes: Antiretroviral therapy has substantially reduced HIV-associated morbidity and mortality. However, maintaining a strong care cascade is challenging. A mathematical model for HIV transmission and care cascade was used to quantify the previous experience of people dying from HIV in a setting with an established antiretroviral therapy programme. The model was also used to simulate the cost and effect of HIV care programmes. The model was parameterised with data from HIV care programme in western Kenya supported by the Academic Model Providing Access To Healthcare. The model was analysed to assess: the impact of individual HIV programmes on the care cascade and the effect on outcomes of people living with HIV. These were compared with the baseline scenario without any programme. Disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) averted, cost of care and HIV-associated deaths were used to quantify the effects of the programmes. The authors found that, strengthening each part of the care cascade through a combination of programmes could cost-effectively improve ART programmes. This is a very interesting study which suggest the need to prioritise HIV programmes to improve care in ART programmes over high-cost strategies.

Africa
Kenya
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Improving programmes: a thematic synthesis of qualitative studies of treatment adherence programmes

Barriers and facilitators of interventions for improving antiretroviral therapy adherence: a systematic review of global qualitative evidence.

Ma Q, Tso LS, Rich ZC, Hall BJ, Beanland R, Li H, Lackey M, Hu F, Cai W, Doherty M, Tucker JD. J Int AIDS Soc. 2016 Oct 17;19(1):21166. doi: 10.7448/IAS.19.1.21166. eCollection 2016.

Introduction: Qualitative research on antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence interventions can provide a deeper understanding of intervention facilitators and barriers. This systematic review aims to synthesize qualitative evidence of interventions for improving ART adherence and to inform patient-centred policymaking.

Methods: We searched 19 databases to identify studies presenting primary qualitative data on the experiences, attitudes and acceptability of interventions to improve ART adherence among PLHIV and treatment providers. We used thematic synthesis to synthesize qualitative evidence and the CERQual (Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research) approach to assess the confidence of review findings.

Results: Of 2982 references identified, a total of 31 studies from 17 countries were included. Twelve studies were conducted in high-income countries, 13 in middle-income countries and six in low-income countries. Study populations focused on adults living with HIV (21 studies, n=1025), children living with HIV (two studies, n=46), adolescents living with HIV (four studies, n=70) and pregnant women living with HIV (one study, n=79). Twenty-three studies examined PLHIV perspectives and 13 studies examined healthcare provider perspectives. We identified six themes related to types of interventions, including task shifting, education, mobile phone text messaging, directly observed therapy, medical professional outreach and complex interventions. We also identified five cross-cutting themes, including strengthening social relationships, ensuring confidentiality, empowerment of PLHIV, compensation and integrating religious beliefs into interventions. Our qualitative evidence suggests that strengthening PLHIV social relationships, PLHIV empowerment and developing culturally appropriate interventions may facilitate adherence interventions. Our study indicates that potential barriers are inadequate training and compensation for lay health workers and inadvertent disclosure of serostatus by participating in the intervention.

Conclusions: Our study evaluated adherence interventions based on qualitative data from PLHIV and health providers. The study underlines the importance of incorporating social and cultural factors into the design and implementation of interventions. Further qualitative research is needed to evaluate ART adherence interventions.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This is a review of studies using qualitative methods to explore the experiences of people living with HIV and healthcare providers involved in programmes to support antiretroviral treatment adherence. The thematic synthesis is presented in two ways. First, the reviewed studies are categorised by types of adherence programmes, such as task shifting, education, or directly observed therapy. Secondly, the authors present themes that are common across all reviewed studies. These include: the benefits and challenges of employing lay healthcare workers; the need to maintain confidentiality in adherence programmes; the benefits of supporting empowerment and social relationships for people living with HIV; and the need for culturally appropriate information and practice. Overall the review illustrates that adherence programmes can have more impact if they address confidentiality, strengthen social ties among people living with HIV and their communities; provide adequate compensation and training for lay healthcare workers; and sensitively reflect local social, cultural and religious norms and beliefs. 

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