Articles tagged as "China"

HIV and gay men and other men who have sex with men: an expanding and underfunded epidemic

Financing the response to HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men: case studies from eight diverse countries.

Grosso A, Ryan O, Tram KH, Baral S. Glob Public Health. 2015 Dec;10(10):1172-84. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2015.1043314. Epub 2015 Jul 3.

Despite reductions in the number of new HIV infections globally, the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) is expanding. This study characterises financing of HIV programmes for MSM and the impact of criminalisation on levels of funding, using data from five countries that criminalise same-sex sexual practices (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Guyana, India and Nigeria) and three that do not (China, Ukraine and Vietnam). For each country, all publicly available documents from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for approved HIV/AIDS grants in Rounds 5-9 and Country Operational Plans detailing investments made through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from US fiscal year (FY) 2007-2009 were examined. Eleven of 20 HIV proposals to the Global Fund contained programmes for MSM totalling approximately $40 million or 6% of proposed budgets. In six countries providing activity-level data on MSM programming, PEPFAR funding that served this population and others ranged from $23.3 million in FY2007 to $35.4 million in FY2009, representing 0.5-25.9% of overall, non-treatment funding over this period. Countries that criminalise same-sex sexual practices spend fewer resources on HIV programmes serving MSM. However, they also show consistent underfunding of programmes serving MSM regardless of context or geography.

 Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Despite encouraging indicators on the reduction of new HIV infections worldwide, the epidemic among gay men and other men who have sex with men continues to grow. This is due to both biological and structural factors. With many governments failing to take responsibility for this at-risk population, funding for gay men and other men who have sex with men-specific programmes often comes from international donors. This study looks at Global Fund and PEPFAR financing of programmes for gay men and other men who have sex with men, comparing funding availability and services offered both in settings where homosexuality is criminalised and settings where it is not.

The study finds that most proposed funding focuses on behaviour change communication, and less frequently on improving sexual health services, community outreach and education. Nations that criminalise homosexuality allocated about 2% of funding towards gay men and other men who have sex with men services, while countries without punitive measures allocated close to 7%. Importantly, both were felt to be inadequately small sums of money in relation to the size of the epidemic. Key stakeholder interviews from criminalising countries suggest that legal restrictions make it more difficult to provide services focused on gay men and other men who have sex with men. Although, little is known about the degree to which gay men and other men who have sex with men access services focused on the general population. The authors also note that countries that criminalise homosexuality may request funds for gay men and other men who have sex with men believing that donors will look favourably on budgets that include these activities. After receiving funds, these countries may re-programme activities, reducing or removing these focussed programmes.

There is comparatively little research done on HIV and gay men and other men who have sex with men in low- and middle-income countries, in particular in African settings. This article contributes to an expanding literature on the subject and raises questions about the role that international donors should play in ensuring an equitable access to services, particularly in the context of reprogramming. This highlights how real impact on the incidence of HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men requires both demand generation and accountability in equal measure.

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America
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Violence experience of women living with HIV: a global study

Violence. Enough already: findings from a global participatory survey among women living with HIV.

Orza L, Bewley S, Chung C, Crone ET, Nagadya H, Vazquez M, Welbourn A. J Int AIDS Soc. 2015 Dec 1;18(6 Suppl 5):20285. doi: 10.7448/IAS.18.6.20285. eCollection 2015.

Introduction: Women living with HIV are vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV) before and after diagnosis, in multiple settings. This study's aim was to explore how GBV is experienced by women living with HIV, how this affects women's sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and human rights (HR), and the implications for policymakers.

Methods: A community-based, participatory, user-led, mixed-methods study was conducted, with women living with HIV from key affected populations. Simple descriptive frequencies were used for quantitative data. Thematic coding of open qualitative responses was performed and validated with key respondents.

Results: In total, 945 women living with HIV from 94 countries participated in the study. Eighty-nine percent of 480 respondents to an optional section on GBV reported having experienced or feared violence, either before, since and/or because of their HIV diagnosis. GBV reporting was higher after HIV diagnosis (intimate partner, family/neighbours, community and health settings). Women described a complex and iterative relationship between GBV and HIV occurring throughout their lives, including breaches of confidentiality and lack of SRH choice in healthcare settings, forced/coerced treatments, HR abuses, moralistic and judgemental attitudes (including towards women from key populations), and fear of losing child custody. Respondents recommended healthcare practitioners and policymakers address stigma and discrimination, training, awareness-raising, and HR abuses in healthcare settings.

Conclusions: Respondents reported increased GBV with partners and in families, communities and healthcare settings after their HIV diagnosis and across the life-cycle. Measures of GBV must be sought and monitored, particularly within healthcare settings that should be safe. Respondents offered policymakers a comprehensive range of recommendations to achieve their SRH and HR goals. Global guidance documents and policies are more likely to succeed for the end-users if lived experiences are used.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Violence against women who are living with HIV is common globally. This paper reports on a study of 832 women living with HIV from 94 countries who participated in an online survey, recruited through a non-random snowball sampling model. The survey comprised quantitative and qualitative (free text) components. Participants included women who had ever or were currently using injection drugs (14%), who had ever or were currently selling sex (14%), and who had ever or were currently homeless (14%). Lifetime experience of violence among respondents was high (86%). Perpetrators included: intimate partner (59%), family member / neighbour (45%), community member (53%), health care workers (53%) and police, military, prison or detention services (17%). Findings suggest that violence is not a one off occurrence and cannot easily be packaged as a cause or a consequence of HIV. Instead violence occurs throughout women’s lives, takes multiple forms, and has a complex and iterative relationship with HIV.

The study population did not represent all women living with HIV, and was biased towards women with internet access who have an activist interest. Nonetheless, the study provides further evidence of the breadth and frequency of gender based violence experienced by women living with HIV. Key recommendations for policy makers include training of health care workers working in sexual and reproductive services to offer non-discriminatory services to women living with HIV and to effectively respond to disclosures of gender based violence (such as intimate partner violence) as part of the package of care.

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Togo, Transdniestria, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Expanding ART access: increasing costs

The HIV treatment gap: estimates of the financial resources needed versus available for scale-up of antiretroviral therapy in 97 countries from 2015 to 2020.

Dutta A, Barker C, Kallarakal A. PLoS Med. 2015 Nov 24;12(11):e1001907. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001907. eCollection 2015.

Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) released revised guidelines in 2015 recommending that all people living with HIV, regardless of CD4 count, initiate antiretroviral therapy (ART) upon diagnosis. However, few studies have projected the global resources needed for rapid scale-up of ART. Under the Health Policy Project, we conducted modeling analyses for 97 countries to estimate eligibility for and numbers on ART from 2015 to 2020, along with the facility-level financial resources required. We compared the estimated financial requirements to estimated funding available.

Methods and findings: Current coverage levels and future need for treatment were based on country-specific epidemiological and demographic data. Simulated annual numbers of individuals on treatment were derived from three scenarios: (1) continuation of countries' current policies of eligibility for ART, (2) universal adoption of aspects of the WHO 2013 eligibility guidelines, and (3) expanded eligibility as per the WHO 2015 guidelines and meeting the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS "90-90-90" ART targets. We modeled uncertainty in the annual resource requirements for antiretroviral drugs, laboratory tests, and facility-level personnel and overhead.

We estimate that 25.7 (95% CI 25.5, 26.0) million adults and 1.57 (95% CI 1.55, 1.60) million children could receive ART by 2020 if countries maintain current eligibility plans and increase coverage based on historical rates, which may be ambitious. If countries uniformly adopt aspects of the WHO 2013 guidelines, 26.5 (95% CI 26.0 27.0) million adults and 1.53 (95% CI 1.52, 1.55) million children could be on ART by 2020. Under the 90-90-90 scenario, 30.4 (95% CI 30.1, 30.7) million adults and 1.68 (95% CI 1.63, 1.73) million children could receive treatment by 2020. The facility-level financial resources needed for scaling up ART in these countries from 2015 to 2020 are estimated to be US$45.8 (95% CI 45.4, 46.2) billion under the current scenario, US$48.7 (95% CI 47.8, 49.6) billion under the WHO 2013 scenario, and US$52.5 (95% CI 51.4, 53.6) billion under the 90-90-90 scenario. After projecting recent external and domestic funding trends, the estimated 6-y financing gap ranges from US$19.8 billion to US$25.0 billion, depending on the costing scenario and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief contribution level, with the gap for ART commodities alone ranging from US$14.0 to US$16.8 billion. The study is limited by excluding above-facility and other costs essential to ART service delivery and by the availability and quality of country- and region-specific data.

Conclusions: The projected number of people receiving ART across three scenarios suggests that countries are unlikely to meet the 90-90-90 treatment target (81% of people living with HIV on ART by 2020) unless they adopt a test-and-offer approach and increase ART coverage. Our results suggest that future resource needs for ART scale-up are smaller than stated elsewhere but still significantly threaten the sustainability of the global HIV response without additional resource mobilization from domestic or innovative financing sources or efficiency gains. As the world moves towards adopting the WHO 2015 guidelines, advances in technology, including the introduction of lower-cost, highly effective antiretroviral regimens, whose value are assessed here, may prove to be "game changers" that allow more people to be on ART with the resources available.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This is a complex and important paper that seeks to understand the financial requirements necessary to: a) continue countries’ current policies of eligibility for ART, b) roll out universal adoption of certain aspects of WHO 2013 eligibility guidelines, and c) expand eligibility as per WHO 2015 guidelines and meeting the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS ‘90-90-90’ targets.

The authors estimated the number of adults and children eligible for and receiving HIV treatment, as well as the cost of providing ART in 97 countries across six regions, covering different income levels. They estimated that 25.7 million adults and 1.57 million children could receive ART by 2020 if countries maintain the current eligibility strategies. If countries adopted WHO 2013 eligibility guidelines, 26.5 million adults and 1.53 million children would be on ART by 2020, and if they adopted the 90-90-90 scenario, 30.4 million adults and 1.68 million children could receive treatment by then. The financial resources necessary for this scale up are estimated to be US$ 45.8 billion under current eligibility, US$ 48.7 billion under WHO 2013 scenario and US$ 52.5 billion under the 90-90-90 scenario. The estimated funding gap for the six year period ranges between US$ 20 and US$ 25 billion. In this study, the costs of commodities were taken directly from data collated by other organisations.  No empirical cost estimates of service delivery were made.  Nor was there an attempt to understand the cost implications of the development synergies and social and programme enablers that may be needed to increase the number of people living with HIV knowing their status.  The new WHO recommendations need to be actively pursued if we are to meet targets, rather than passively continuing with “business as usual”. 

Nonetheless, the findings of this study highlight the gap between guidelines written by WHO and very real programmatic obstacles on the ground. There is evidence to suggest that universal test-and-treat strategies could lead to substantially improved health outcomes at the population level, as well as potentially being cost-saving in the long-term. However, as the authors have illustrated, it would require increased levels of funding. What needs to be explored further now is how to overcome the logistical hurdles of rolling out such an initiative. Changing systems and practices is costly and takes time. Health workers will have to be retrained, data collection strategies will have to be revised. Expanding treatment may also mean increasing the number of health staff working on this initiative, which has an opportunity cost that may reverberate in other parts of the health system. Substantially altering health service provision, particularly in weak health systems, may have knock-on effects with unexpected and unintended consequences.

WHO guidelines serve a vital purpose of giving us a goal to aim for. But studies like this one help us know if and how we can get there. 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania
Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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AIDS and bacterial disease remain leading causes of hospital admission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract access 

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

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

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

Avoid TB deaths
Comorbidity, Epidemiology
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Male circumcision may reduce HIV transmission among MSM in China

Lower HIV risk among circumcised men who have sex with men in China: Interaction with anal sex role in a cross-sectional study.

Qian HZ, Ruan Y, Liu Y, Milam DF, HM LS, Yin L, Li D, Shepherd BE, Shao Y, Vermund SH. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Sep 21. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Voluntary medical male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV heterosexual transmission in men, but its effect on male-to-male sexual transmission is uncertain.

Methods: Circumcision status of men who have sex with men (MSM) in China was evaluated by genital examination and self-report; anal sexual role was assessed by questionnaire interview. Serostatus for HIV and syphilis was confirmed.

Results: Among 1155 participants (242 known seropositives and 913 with unknown HIV status at enrollment), the circumcision rate by self-report (10.4%) was higher than confirmed by genital examination (8.2%). Male circumcision (by exam) was associated with 47% lower odds of being HIV seropositive (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.53; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.27-1.02) after adjusting for demographic covariates, number of lifetime male sexual partners, and anal sex role. Among MSM who predominantly practiced insertive anal sex, circumcised men had 62% lower odds of HIV infection than those who were uncircumcised (aOR, 0.38, 95%CI, 0.09-1.64). Among those whose anal sex position was predominantly receptive or versatile, circumcised men have 46% lower odds of HIV infection than did men who were not circumcised (aOR, 0.54, 95%CI, 0.25-1.14). Compared to uncircumcised men reporting versatile or predominantly receptive anal sex positioning, those who were circumcised and reported practicing insertive sex had an 85% lower risk (aOR, 0.15; 95%CI, 0.04-0.65). Circumcision was not associated clearly with lower syphilis risk (aOR, 0.91; 95%CI, 0.51-1.61).

Conclusions: Circumcised MSM were less likely to have acquired HIV, most pronounced among men predominantly practicing insertive anal intercourse. A clinical trial is needed.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Randomised controlled trials in areas of high HIV prevalence in Africa have demonstrated that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) can reduce heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men by around 60%.  However the evidence is less clear that the protection conferred by VMMC also applies to gay men and other men who have sex with men by reducing HIV acquisition through insertive anal sex. This cross-sectional study of gay men and other men who have sex with men in China suggests that, overall, the odds of being HIV positive among circumcised men were about half that in uncircumcised men, after adjusting for differences in demographic factors and sexual behaviour. Biologically, circumcision is likely to protect gay men and other men who have sex with men who are exclusively or mainly the insertive partner, and among men in this group, there was a slightly larger protective effect, although not statistically significant. This supports a meta-analysis which found a similar finding among gay men and other men who have sex with men who practiced insertive anal sex. There was no association of VMMC and syphilis infection in this population, in line with other studies. The authors note that HIV prevention strategies among gay men and other men who have sex with men are still limited in China, and suggest studies to assess the feasibility of a multicentre randomised controlled trial of the effect of VMMC on HIV acquisition among gay men and other men who have sex with men in this setting.

Asia
China
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Simplified pathway to ART reduces mortality in China

Simplified HIV testing and treatment in China: analysis of mortality rates before and after a structural intervention.

Wu Z, Zhao Y, Ge X, Mao Y, Tang Z, Shi CX, Chen C, Li Y, Qiu X, Nong G, Huang S, Luo S, Wu S, He W, Zhang M, Shen Z, Jin X, Li J, Brookmeyer R, Detels R, Montaner J, Wang Y. PLoS Med. 2015 Sep 8;12(9):e1001874. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001874. eCollection 2015.

Background: Multistage stepwise HIV testing and treatment initiation procedures can result in lost opportunities to provide timely antiretroviral therapy (ART). Incomplete patient engagement along the continuum of HIV care translates into high levels of preventable mortality. We aimed to evaluate the ability of a simplified test and treat structural intervention to reduce mortality.

Methods and findings: In the "pre-intervention 2010" (from January 2010 to December 2010) and "pre-intervention 2011" (from January 2011 to December 2011) phases, patients who screened HIV-positive at health care facilities in Zhongshan and Pubei counties in Guangxi, China, followed the standard-of-care process. In the "post-intervention 2012" (from July 2012 to June 2013) and "post-intervention 2013" (from July 2013 to June 2014) phases, patients who screened HIV-positive at the same facilities were offered a simplified test and treat intervention, i.e., concurrent HIV confirmatory and CD4 testing and immediate initiation of ART, irrespective of CD4 count. Participants were followed for 6-18 mo until the end of their study phase period. Mortality rates in the pre-intervention and post-intervention phases were compared for all HIV cases and for treatment-eligible HIV cases. A total of 1034 HIV-positive participants (281 and 339 in the two pre-intervention phases respectively, and 215 and 199 in the two post-intervention phases respectively) were enrolled. Following the structural intervention, receipt of baseline CD4 testing within 30 d of HIV confirmation increased from 67%/61% (pre-intervention 2010/pre-intervention 2011) to 98%/97% (post-intervention 2012/post-intervention 2013) (all p < 0.001 [i.e., for all comparisons between a pre- and post-intervention phase]), and the time from HIV confirmation to ART initiation decreased from 53 d (interquartile range [IQR] 27-141)/43 d (IQR 15-113) to 5 d (IQR 2-12)/5 d (IQR 2-13) (all p < 0.001). Initiation of ART increased from 27%/49% to 91%/89% among all cases (all p < 0.001) and from 39%/62% to 94%/90% among individuals with CD4 count ≤350 cells/mm3 or AIDS (all p < 0.001). Mortality decreased from 27%/27% to 10%/10% for all cases (all p < 0.001) and from 40%/35% to 13%/13% for cases with CD4 count ≤ 350 cells/mm3 or AIDS (all p < 0.001). The simplified test and treat intervention was significantly associated with decreased mortality rates compared to pre-intervention 2011 (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 0.385 [95% CI 0.239-0.620] and 0.380 [95% CI 0.233-0.618] for the two post-intervention phases, respectively, for all newly diagnosed HIV cases [both p < 0.001], and aHR 0.369 [95% CI 0.226-0.603] and 0.361 [95% CI 0.221-0.590] for newly diagnosed treatment-eligible HIV cases [both p < 0.001]). The unit cost of an additional patient receiving ART attributable to the intervention was US$83.80. The unit cost of a death prevented because of the intervention was US$234.52.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that the simplified HIV test and treat intervention promoted successful engagement in care and was associated with a 62% reduction in mortality. Our findings support the implementation of integrated HIV testing and immediate access to ART irrespective of CD4 count, in order to optimize the impact of ART.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: The pathway from testing HIV positive to initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) can be complicated to navigate. The pathway may involve multiple visits, with delays and potential for losses at each step. These delays and losses are particularly hazardous for people with low CD4 counts, for whom delay in starting ART increases the risk of early mortality.

In this study from China, the pathway from an HIV-positive test result to starting treatment prior to the study programme was complex. It required people to have a confirmatory HIV test, which had a turn-around time of 7-18 days, before blood was sent for a CD4 count, with a further 7-18 day delay before the CD4 result became available. People eligible for ART, based on a CD4 count below 350 cells/mm3, would be asked to attend a different facility, usually the county general hospital. Eligible individuals would have to attend education sessions and have further blood tests for assessment prior to starting ART.

The programme simplified the pathway to ART start substantially by starting ART educational sessions at the same visit as the first HIV-positive test result. A second visit, to the county general hospital, was required to have blood taken for a CD4 count and pre-ART assessments, along with further education and counselling. The county general hospital was responsible for all subsequent care, and providers were responsible for following up if people did not attend scheduled visits. ART was initiated regardless of CD4 count. Mortality prior to the programme was 27% overall; in the programme period it was 10%.

Although a before-after evaluation is less robust than a randomised design, this study illustrates the potential for major improvement in patient-relevant outcomes following a health system programme to simplify the patient pathway. The pathway prior to the programme was particularly complex and similar impacts may not be achievable in other systems. Nonetheless this is an impressive achievement, which should encourage programme managers to consider how systems could be modified to make them work more effectively for people.

Asia
China
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HIV-associated stigma may impede HIV medication adherence among people living with HIV

The association of HIV-related stigma to HIV medication adherence: a systematic review and synthesis of the literature.

Sweeney SM, Vanable PA. AIDS Behav. 2015 Aug 25. [Epub ahead of print]

This paper provides a review of the quantitative literature on HIV-related stigma and medication adherence, including: (1) synthesis of the empirical evidence linking stigma to adherence, (2) examination of proposed causal mechanisms of the stigma and adherence relationship, and (3) methodological critique and guidance for future research. We reviewed 38 studies reporting either cross-sectional or prospective analyses of the association of HIV-related stigma to medication adherence since the introduction of antiretroviral therapies (ART). Although there is substantial empirical evidence linking stigma to adherence difficulties, few studies provided data on psychosocial mechanisms that may account for this relationship. Proposed mechanisms include: (a) enhanced vulnerability to mental health difficulties, (b) reduction in self-efficacy, and (c) concerns about inadvertent disclosure of HIV status. Future research should strive to assess the multiple domains of stigma, use standardized measures of adherence, and include prospective analyses to test mediating variables.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: People living with HIV often experience stigma and discrimination including social isolation and negative stereotyping. Recent evidence suggests that stigma may influence adherence to HIV medication among people living with HIV. This paper presents findings from a systematic review of the evidence on the impact of HIV-associated stigma on HIV medication adherence. The authors identified 38 studies which quantitatively assessed the association between stigma and medication adherence. All studies found evidence indicating that stigma contributed to adherence difficulties among people living with HIV. Included studies looked at diverse patient populations sampled from different countries and contexts. While stigma is heavily influenced by the socio-cultural context, the association between stigma and adherence across diverse contexts indicates that there may be commonalities in what causes stigma and how this relates to adherence.

The authors of this review suggest three possible causal mechanisms of HIV-associated stigma and medication adherence: (1) There may be links between stigma and depressive symptoms, and between depressive symptoms and adherence. Internalized stigma may enhance vulnerability to depressive symptoms, and this may influence adherence to HIV medication. (2) Stigma may cause reductions in self-efficacy – a person’s judgment of his or her ability to organize and execute behaviours - which may influence medication adherence. (3) People may fear HIV status disclosure by being seen taking HIV medication. Fear of status disclosure, and associated stigma, may cause people to avoid taking HIV medication.

The studies included in this review indicate a clear link between HIV-associated stigma and HIV medication adherence. There may be commonalities in what causes stigma across multiple populations. Future research should assess the influence of multiple forms of stigma on adherence, and on testing causal mechanisms between stigma and adherence. 

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Community-based rapid testing boosts case finding among MSM in China

Case finding advantage of HIV rapid tests in community settings: men who have sex with men in 12 programme areas in China, 2011.

Zhang D, Qi J, Fu X, Meng S, Li C, Sun J. Int J STD AIDS. 2015 May;26(6):402-13. doi: 10.1177/0956462414542986. Epub 2014 Jul 15.

We sought to describe the advantage of rapid tests over ELISA tests in community-based screening for HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) in urban areas of China. Data of 31 406 screening tests conducted over six months in 2011 among MSM across 12 areas were analyzed to compare the differences between those receiving rapid testing and ELISA. Rapid tests accounted for 45.8% of these screening tests. The rate of being screened positive was 7.2% among rapid tests and 5.3% for ELISA tests (X(2)= 49.161, p < 0.001). This advantage of rapid test in HIV case finding persisted even when socio-demographic, behavioural, screening recruitment channel and city were controlled for in logistic regression (exp[beta] = 1.42, p < 0.001, 95% CI = 1.27,1.59). MSM who received rapid tests, compared with those tested by ELISA, were less likely to use condoms during last anal sex (50.8% vs. 72.3%, X(2)= 1706.146, p < 0.001), more likely to have multiple sex partners (55.7% vs. 49.5%, X(2)= 238.188, p < 0.001) and less likely to have previously undergone HIV testing (38.8% vs. 54.7%, X(2)= 798.476, p < 0.001). These results demonstrate the robustness of the advantage of rapid tests over traditional ELISA tests in screening for MSM with HIV infection in cooperation with community-based organizations in urban settings in China.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: The prevalence of HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men in China has increased from 1% to 5% between 2006 and 2011. The increase in prevalence has motivated the development of a new HIV testing strategy to reach this key population. The China-Gates HIV Programme facilitated partnerships between local government health departments with community-based organizations (CBO) to reach and offer rapid HIV screening tests to gay men and other men who have sex with men in 14 cities and one province. Between July and December 2011, 17 015 men were tested through established HIV testing sites (run solely by the health departments, which used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA] testing) and another 14 391 men were tested at sites which were established, promoted, and run by the government-CBO partnerships. These sites used rapid HIV tests, and referred to the health department for confirmatory testing. After controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, transmission risk factors and geographic location, the odds of testing positive for HIV was 42% higher for men who were screened at partnership sites. This partnership demonstrates an innovative, culturally appropriate and scale-able model. For key populations, partnerships of this nature can lead to earlier treatment initiation and a reduction in secondary transmission.

Asia
China
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Harnessing the successful political prioritisation of HIV to reduce the burden of congenital syphilis

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis and HIV in China: What drives political prioritization and what can this tell us about promoting dual elimination?

Wu D, Hawkes S, Buse K. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2015 Apr 29. pii: S0020-7292(15)00202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2015.04.005. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: The present study aims to identify reasons behind the lower political priority of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of syphilis compared with HIV, despite the former presenting a much larger and growing burden than the latter, in China, over the 20 years prior to 2010.

Methods: We undertook a comparative policy analysis, based on informant interviews and documentation review of control of MTCT of syphilis and HIV, as well as nonparticipant observation of relevant meetings/trainings to investigate agenda-setting prior to 2010.

Results: We identified several factors contributing to the lower priority accorded to MTCT of syphilis: relative neglect at a global level, dearth of international financial and technical support, poorly unified national policy community with weak accountability mechanisms, insufficient understanding of the epidemic and policy options, and a prevailing negative framing of syphilis that resulted in significant stigmatization.

Conclusion: A dual elimination goal will only be reached when prioritization of MTCT of syphilis is enhanced in both the international and national agendas.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes:  In 2009, China had nearly 11 000 reported cases of congenital syphilis, compared to 57 cases of mother-to-child HIV transmission, yet congenital syphilis was not a policy priority. The authors investigate and compare the policy responses to the two infections in order to understand the determinants of prioritisation in Chinese health policy. The national policy response to the mother-to-child transmission of HIV highlights the importance of global agendas. These include reporting mechanisms, international financial and technical assistance, credible indicators, as well as cohesive national policy communities that coalesce around a formal mechanism of coordination and policy influence, namely the Chinese National Centre for Women and Children’s Health. In addition, the specific national policy environment and other focusing events were critical to the prioritisation of the mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The new leadership was moving towards a socio-economic equality agenda, and the recent severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak had further underscored the importance of controlling infectious diseases. Alongside this, the national ‘blood selling’ scandal, during which hundreds of thousands of rural Chinese acquired HIV through blood selling in the 90s, was receiving increasing attention in international media. This contributed to a different framing of the HIV issue, away from the stigmatising ‘immoral’ narrative to an ‘innocent victims’ narrative. Congenital syphilis, unfortunately, continued to suffer from a stigmatising framing. However, delivery platforms for the effective prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV have been established and could be used for a dual control and elimination approach, with greater health benefits. The authors conclude that greater policy prioritisation could be achieved with a more nuanced framing of the two infections as being linked when it comes to underlying vulnerability and feasibility of solutions. It will require a strong partnership and collaboration between the mother-to-child transmission of syphilis and HIV policy communities.       

Asia
China
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Combination harm reduction may be more effective and cost-effective than partial approaches alone

The cost-effectiveness of harm reduction.

Wilson DP, Donald B, Shattock AJ, Wilson D, Fraser-Hurt N. Int J Drug Policy. 2015 Feb;26 Suppl 1:S5-11. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.11.007. Epub 2014 Dec 1.

HIV prevalence worldwide among people who inject drugs (PWID) is around 19%. Harm reduction for PWID includes needle-syringe programs (NSPs) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) but often coupled with antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV. Numerous studies have examined the effectiveness of each harm reduction strategy. This commentary discusses the evidence of effectiveness of the packages of harm reduction services and their cost-effectiveness with respect to HIV-related outcomes as well as estimate resources required to meet global and regional coverage targets. NSPs have been shown to be safe and very effective in reducing HIV transmission in diverse settings; there are many historical and very recent examples in diverse settings where the absence of, or reduction in, NSPs have resulted in exploding HIV epidemics compared to controlled epidemics with NSP implementation. NSPs are relatively inexpensive to implement and highly cost-effective according to commonly used willingness-to-pay thresholds. There is strong evidence that substitution therapy is effective, reducing the risk of HIV acquisition by 54% on average among PWID. OST is relatively expensive to implement when only HIV outcomes are considered; other societal benefits substantially improve the cost-effectiveness ratios to be highly favourable. Many studies have shown that ART is cost-effective for keeping people alive but there is only weak supportive, but growing evidence, of the additional effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of ART as prevention among PWID. Packages of combined harm reduction approaches are highly likely to be more effective and cost-effective than partial approaches. The coverage of harm reduction programs remains extremely low across the world. The total annual costs of scaling up each of the harm reduction strategies from current coverage levels, by region, to meet WHO guideline coverage targets are high with ART greatest, followed by OST and then NSPs. But scale-up of all three approaches is essential. These interventions can be cost-effective by most thresholds in the short-term and cost-saving in the long-term.

Abstract   Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: The spread of HIV among people who inject drugs has driven epidemics throughout regions of eastern Europe, and central and South-East Asia. In eastern Europe and central Asia, the majority of HIV infections have been attributed to injecting drug use. Some countries in the Middle East and North Africa region have also been experiencing rapidly emerging HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs. Harm reduction refers to methods of reducing health risks when eliminating them may not be possible. This paper provides a comprehensive review of evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different harm reduction approaches. These include needle- syringe programmes, opioid substitution therapy (OST), and antiretroviral therapy (ART), when implemented in different settings. Importantly, alongside considering the potential benefits of each approach separately, it makes the case that combination  prevention strategies are synergistic, and may achieve multiple impacts. Sadly still however, the coverage of harm reduction remains very low across the world. An estimated 90% of people who inject drugs worldwide are not accessing needle-syringe programmes, despite this being a highly effective and cost-effective programme. Along with the need for a greater investment in harm reduction, there are socio-political and legislative reasons for poor coverage of harm reduction. This cannot be improved without first addressing the stigma, discrimination and intolerance that restricts the expansion of harm reduction programmes in many settings. Addressing these barriers remains of paramount importance for facilitating effective harm reduction programmes. Encouragingly however, high OST coverage has been reported in Iran, Czech Republic and western Europe, and several countries in Asia and the Middle East have begun to scale-up their programmes. China has recently had the largest OST scale-up programme in the world. Uptake of ART by people living with HIV who inject drugs illustrates the largest disparities with what is required or deemed to be appropriate access. Only 14% of people living with HIV who inject drugs globally, have access to ART, with the largest gaps in ART provision in eastern Europe and central Asia. The further expansion of harm reduction is urgently needed, both to meet WHO targets, and to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target.

Asia, Europe, Oceania
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