Articles tagged as "France"

Why pregnant women and mothers living with HIV do not access, or do not stay in care

A systematic review of individual and contextual factors affecting ART initiation, adherence, and retention for HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women.

Hodgson I, Plummer ML, Konopka SN, Colvin CJ, Jonas E, Albertini J, Amzel A, Fogg KP. PLoS One. 2014 Nov 5;9(11):e111421. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111421. eCollection 2014.

Background: Despite progress reducing maternal mortality, HIV-related maternal deaths remain high, accounting, for example, for up to 24 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is effective in improving outcomes among HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women, yet rates of initiation, adherence, and retention remain low. This systematic literature review synthesized evidence about individual and contextual factors affecting ART use among HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women.

Methods: Searches were conducted for studies addressing the population (HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women), intervention (ART), and outcomes of interest (initiation, adherence, and retention). Quantitative and qualitative studies published in English since January 2008 were included. Individual and contextual enablers and barriers to ART use were extracted and organized thematically within a framework of individual, interpersonal, community, and structural categories.

Results: Thirty-four studies were included in the review. Individual-level factors included both those within and outside a woman's awareness and control (e.g., commitment to child's health or age). Individual-level barriers included poor understanding of HIV, ART, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and difficulty managing practical demands of ART. At an interpersonal level, disclosure to a spouse and spousal involvement in treatment were associated with improved initiation, adherence, and retention. Fear of negative consequences was a barrier to disclosure. At a community level, stigma was a major barrier. Key structural barriers and enablers were related to health system use and engagement, including access to services and health worker attitudes.

Conclusions: To be successful, programs seeking to expand access to and continued use of ART by integrating maternal health and HIV services must identify and address the relevant barriers and enablers in their own context that are described in this review. Further research on this population, including those who drop out of or never access health services, is needed to inform effective implementation.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This systematic review is one of three by the same team, related to HIV and maternal mortality. The review findings illustrate that the individual and contextual factors which affect antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation, adherence and retention for pregnant/postpartum women living with HIV are numerous. Fears over disclosure, and consequent stigma and discrimination feature in many of the studies reviewed. Practical barriers might be overcome, by making services more accessible. The lack of knowledge about HIV and treatment among some women may be addressed through information campaigns. However, the fear of negative consequences as a result of disclosure, even to health workers, presents significant barriers to care. This is something that is of particular note as Option B+ is rolled out. An important strength of this review is the combination of qualitative and quantitative studies. The meticulous description of the approach to the review is also welcome. The authors’ call for ‘consistent, standardised and appropriate measures of adherence and retention’ with a ‘longitudinal component’, is a valuable suggestion as the performance of countries in providing Option B+ begins to be compared.

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Does pregnancy accelerate HIV progression?

Pregnancy and HIV disease progression: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Calvert C, Ronsmans C. Trop Med Int Health. 2014 Oct 31. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12412. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: To assess whether pregnancy accelerates HIV disease progression.

Methods: Studies comparing progression to HIV-related illness, low CD4 count, AIDS-defining illness, HIV-related death, or any death in HIV-infected pregnant and non-pregnant women were included. Relative risks (RR) for each outcome were combined using random effects meta-analysis and were stratified by antiretroviral therapy (ART) availability.

Results: 15 studies met the inclusion criteria. Pregnancy was not associated with progression to HIV-related illness [summary RR: 1.32, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.66-2.61], AIDS-defining illness (summary RR: 0.97, 95%CI: 0.74-1.25) or mortality (summary RR: 0.97, 95%CI: 0.62-1.53), but there was an association with low CD4 counts (summary RR: 1.41, 95%CI: 0.99-2.02) and HIV-related death (summary RR: 1.65, 95%CI: 1.06-2.57). In settings where ART was available, there was no evidence that pregnancy accelerated progress to HIV/AIDS-defining illnesses, death and drop in CD4 count. In settings without ART availability, effect estimates were consistent with pregnancy increasing the risk of progression to HIV/AIDS-defining illnesses and HIV-related or all-cause mortality, but there were too few studies to draw meaningful conclusions.

Conclusions: In the absence of ART, pregnancy is associated with small but appreciable increases in the risk of several negative HIV outcomes, but the evidence is too weak to draw firm conclusions. When ART is available, the effects of pregnancy on HIV disease progression are attenuated and there is little reason to discourage healthy HIV-infected women who desire to become pregnant from doing so.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: The suppression of cell-mediated immunity during pregnancy is associated with increased susceptibility to and/or severity of many infections. Therefore the question of whether pregnancy accelerates HIV disease progression in HIV-positive women is pertinent. A previous systematic review published in the late 1990s found weak evidence that the odds of acquiring an AIDS-defining illness or death were higher among HIV-positive pregnant women than HIV-positive non-pregnant women. The findings from this meta-analysis also suggest that in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART), pregnancy is associated with an increase in the risk of several negative HIV outcomes. Fortunately ART appears to diminish the effects of pregnancy on HIV progression.  The authors also draw attention to the methodological weaknesses of the studies included and highlight the need for better quality data, examining whether pregnancy aggravates HIV progression.

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Socioeconomic inequalities in access to HIV care in European countries with universal healthcare systems

Delayed HIV diagnosis and initiation of antiretroviral therapy: inequalities by educational level, COHERE in EuroCoord.

Socio-economic Inequalities and HIV Writing Group for Collaboration of Observational HIV Epidemiological Research in Europe (COHERE) in EuroCoord. AIDS. 2014 Sep 24;28(15):2297-306. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000410.

Objectives: In Europe and elsewhere, health inequalities among HIV-positive individuals are of concern. We investigated late HIV diagnosis and late initiation of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) by educational level, a proxy of socioeconomic position.

Design and Methods: We used data from nine HIV cohorts within COHERE in Austria, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, collecting data on level of education in categories of the UNESCO/International Standard Classification of Education standard classification: non-completed basic, basic, secondary and tertiary education. We included individuals diagnosed with HIV between 1996 and 2011, aged at least 16 years, with known educational level and at least one CD4 cell count within 6 months of HIV diagnosis. We examined trends by education level in presentation with advanced HIV disease (AHD) (CD4 <200 cells/µl or AIDS within 6 months) using logistic regression, and distribution of CD4 cell count at cART initiation overall and among presenters without AHD using median regression.

Results: Among 15 414 individuals, 52, 45, 37, and 31% with uncompleted basic, basic, secondary and tertiary education, respectively, presented with AHD (P trend <0.001). Compared to patients with tertiary education, adjusted odds ratios of AHD were 1.72 (95% confidence interval 1.48-2.00) for uncompleted basic, 1.39 (1.24-1.56) for basic and 1.20 (1.08-1.34) for secondary education (P < 0.001). In unadjusted and adjusted analyses, median CD4 cell count at cART initiation was lower with poorer educational level.

Conclusions: Socioeconomic inequalities in delayed HIV diagnosis and initiation of cART are present in European countries with universal healthcare systems and individuals with lower educational level do not equally benefit from timely cART initiation.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: COHERE in EuroCoord is a collaboration of 35 observational cohorts covering 32 European countries. The present study uses data from nine cohorts in six countries which collected data on educational achievement. Health inequalities are a growing concern in resource rich settings and this study confirms that even in Europe in the era of wide antiretroviral therapy (ART) use, individuals with lower educational attainment were more likely to present with advanced HIV disease. The association was stronger in men. This is possibly due to earlier diagnosis in women attending antenatal services who benefit from universal offer of HIV testing for prevention of mother-to-child transmission. People who were less educated were also more likely to initiate ART at a lower CD4 count. Interestingly, this latter association was seen even when analyses were restricted to individuals who were diagnosed early. This suggests lower education and by proxy socioeconomic status, is a further and specific barrier to ART initiation, even amongst individuals diagnosed in a timely fashion. The authors conclude that their findings suggest policies and activities that target socioeconomic determinants leading to delays in HIV diagnosis and combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) initiation are needed.

Health care delivery
Europe
Austria, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland
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Counting and classifying global deaths

Global, regional, and national incidence and mortality for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.

Murray CJ, Ortblad KF, Guinovart C, et al. Lancet. 2014 Sep 13;384(9947):1005-70. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60844-8. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Background: The Millennium Declaration in 2000 brought special global attention to HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria through the formulation of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6. The Global Burden of Disease 2013 study provides a consistent and comprehensive approach to disease estimation for between 1990 and 2013, and an opportunity to assess whether accelerated progress has occurred since the Millennium Declaration.

Methods: To estimate incidence and mortality for HIV, we used the UNAIDS Spectrum model appropriately modified based on a systematic review of available studies of mortality with and without antiretroviral therapy (ART). For concentrated epidemics, we calibrated Spectrum models to fit vital registration data corrected for misclassification of HIV deaths. In generalised epidemics, we minimised a loss function to select epidemic curves most consistent with prevalence data and demographic data for all-cause mortality. We analysed counterfactual scenarios for HIV to assess years of life saved through prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and ART. For tuberculosis, we analysed vital registration and verbal autopsy data to estimate mortality using cause of death ensemble modelling. We analysed data for corrected case-notifications, expert opinions on the case-detection rate, prevalence surveys, and estimated cause-specific mortality using Bayesian meta-regression to generate consistent trends in all parameters. We analysed malaria mortality and incidence using an updated cause of death database, a systematic analysis of verbal autopsy validation studies for malaria, and recent studies (2010-13) of incidence, drug resistance, and coverage of insecticide-treated bednets.

Findings: Globally in 2013, there were 1.8 million new HIV infections (95% uncertainty interval 1.7 million to 2.1 million), 29.2 million prevalent HIV cases (28.1 to 31.7), and 1.3 million HIV deaths (1.3 to 1.5). At the peak of the epidemic in 2005, HIV caused 1.7 million deaths (1.6 million to 1.9 million). Concentrated epidemics in Latin America and eastern Europe are substantially smaller than previously estimated. Through interventions including PMTCT and ART, 19.1 million life-years (16.6 million to 21.5 million) have been saved, 70.3% (65.4 to 76.1) in developing countries. From 2000 to 2011, the ratio of development assistance for health for HIV to years of life saved through intervention was US$ 4498 in developing countries. Including in HIV-positive individuals, all-form tuberculosis incidence was 7.5 million (7.4 million to 7.7 million), prevalence was 11.9 million (11.6 million to 12.2 million), and number of deaths was 1.4 million (1.3 million to 1.5 million) in 2013. In the same year and in only individuals who were HIV-negative, all-form tuberculosis incidence was 7.1 million (6.9 million to 7.3 million), prevalence was 11.2 million (10.8 million to 11.6 million), and number of deaths was 1.3 million (1.2 million to 1.4 million). Annualised rates of change (ARC) for incidence, prevalence, and death became negative after 2000. Tuberculosis in HIV-negative individuals disproportionately occurs in men and boys (versus women and girls); 64.0% of cases (63.6 to 64.3) and 64.7% of deaths (60.8 to 70.3). Globally, malaria cases and deaths grew rapidly from 1990 reaching a peak of 232 million cases (143 million to 387 million) in 2003 and 1.2 million deaths (1.1 million to 1.4 million) in 2004. Since 2004, child deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa have decreased by 31.5% (15.7 to 44.1). Outside of Africa, malaria mortality has been steadily decreasing since 1990.

Interpretation: Our estimates of the number of people living with HIV are 18.7% smaller than UNAIDS's estimates in 2012. The number of people living with malaria is larger than estimated by WHO. The number of people living with HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria have all decreased since 2000. At the global level, upward trends for malaria and HIV deaths have been reversed and declines in tuberculosis deaths have accelerated. 101 countries (74 of which are developing) still have increasing HIV incidence. Substantial progress since the Millennium Declaration is an encouraging sign of the effect of global action.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study uses standard methods to compare and track over time national distributions of deaths by cause, and the prevalence of disease and disability.  This detailed report focuses on HIV, TB and Malaria. It presents regional summaries of incidence, prevalence and mortality rates, and national estimates of the number of male and female deaths and new infections. Point estimates are shown for 2013, and annualised rates of change for 1990-2000 and 2000-2013. These highlight the contrasting trends in disease impact before and after the formulation of the Millennium Development Goal to combat these diseases.  The global peak of HIV mortality occurred in 2005, but regional annualised rates of change for 2000-2013 indicate that HIV deaths are still increasing significantly in east Asia, southern Africa, and most rapidly in eastern Europe.

The GBD 2013 global estimates of new infections and deaths agree closely with the corresponding estimates made by UNAIDS. But there are significant differences in the respective estimates of the number of people currently living with HIV (UNAIDS estimates are some 18% higher), and historical trends in AIDS deaths, with UNAIDS judging that the recent fall has been steeper. These differences are attributed primarily to methods used in the GBD study to ensure that the sum of deaths from specific causes fits the estimated all cause total, and to varying assumptions about historical survival patterns following HIV infection. 

It may be worthwhile to look at a comment by Michel Sidibé, Mark Dybul, and Deborah Birx in the Lancet on MDG 6 and beyond: from halting and reversing AIDS to ending the epidemic which refers to this study.

Epidemiology
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territory, Occupied, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe
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No evidence that antiretroviral therapy increases risk taking behaviour

Effects of HIV antiretroviral therapy on sexual and injecting risk-taking behaviour: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Doyle JS, Degenhardt L, Pedrana AE, McBryde ES, Guy R, Stoove MA, Weaver E, Grulich AE, Lo YR, Hellard ME. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Aug 4. pii: ciu602. [Epub ahead of print]

Background:  Increased global access and use of HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been postulated to undermine HIV prevention efforts by changing individual risk-taking behaviour. This review aims to determine whether ART use is associated with changes in sexual or injecting risk-taking behaviour or diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted of HIV-seropositive participants receiving ART compared to no ART use in experimental or observational studies. Primary outcomes included: (1) any unprotected sexual intercourse; (2) STI diagnoses; and (3) any unsafe injecting behaviour.

Results: Fifty-eight studies met the selection criteria. Fifty-six studies containing 32 857 participants reported unprotected sex; eleven studies containing 16 138 participants reported STI diagnoses; and four studies containing 1 600 participants reported unsafe injecting behaviour. All included studies were observational. Unprotected sex was lower in those receiving ART than those not receiving ART (odds ratio (OR) 0.73, 95%CI 0.64-0.83, p<0.001; heterogeneity I2=79%) in both high-income (n=38) and low-/middle-income country (n=18) settings, without any evidence of publication bias. STI diagnoses were also lower among individuals on ART (OR 0.58, 95%CI 0.33-1.01, p=0.053; I2=92%), however there was no difference in injecting risk-taking behaviour with antiretroviral use (OR 0.90, 95%CI 0.60-1.35, p=0.6; I2=0%).

Conclusions: Despite concerns that use of ART might increase sexual or injecting risk-taking, available research suggests unprotected sex is reduced among HIV-infected individuals on treatment. The reasons for this are not yet clear, though self-selection and mutually reinforcing effects of HIV treatment and prevention messages among people on ART are likely.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) may modify risk perception, leading to increases in risk-taking behaviour and HIV transmission. This has important implications for HIV prevention. In particular in low and middle-income countries, where the global burden of HIV is greatest and where access to, and use of, ART is rapidly increasing. This systematic review identified observational studies comparing risk-taking behaviour in people living with HIV using ART, compared with people not using ART. The review found that ART does not appear to increase reported unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse, newly diagnosed sexually transmitted infections, or unsafe injecting behaviour among people on treatment. The observation that reductions in unprotected sex are associated with ART use should be interpreted cautiously as limited data are available to accurately assess a causal relationship. The current practice of providing ART with counselling, education and ongoing clinical care probably offers the optimal strategy of ensuring that individuals on ART minimise risks associated with unsafe sex. 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Northern America, Oceania
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Treatment of HIV-2, where is the evidence?

Antiretroviral therapy response among HIV-2 infected patients: a systematic review.

Ekouevi DK, Tchounga BK, Coffie PA, Tegbe J, Anderson AM, Gottlieb GS, Vitoria M, Dabis F, Eholie SP. BMC Infect Dis. 2014 Aug 26;14:461. doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-14-461.

Methods: Data were extracted from articles that were selected after screening of PubMed/MEDLINE up to November 2012 and abstracts of the 1996-2012 international conferences. Observational cohorts, clinical trials and program reports were eligible as long as they reported data on ART response (clinical, immunological or virological) among HIV-2 infected patients. The determinants investigated included patients' demographic characteristics, CD4 cell count at baseline and ART received.

Results: Seventeen reports (involving 976 HIV-2 only and 454 HIV1&2 dually reactive patients) were included in the final review, and the analysis presented in this report are related to HIV-2 infected patients only in 17 reports. There was no randomized controlled trial and only two cohorts had enrolled more than 100 HIV-2 only infected patients. The median CD4 count at ART initiation was 165 cells /mm3, [IQR; 137-201] and the median age at ART initiation was 44 years (IQR: 42-48 years). Ten studies included 103 patients treated with three nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI). Protease inhibitor (PI) based regimens were reported by 16 studies. Before 2009, the most frequent PIs used were Nelfinavir and Indinavir, whereas it was Lopinavir/ritonavir thereafter. The immunological response at month-12 was reported in six studies and the mean CD4 cell count increase was +118 cells /µL (min-max: 45-200 cells/µL).

Conclusion: Overall clinical and immuno-virologic outcomes in HIV-2 infected individuals treated with ART are suboptimal. There is a need of randomized controlled trials to improve the management and outcomes of people living with HIV-2 infection.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: HIV-2 accounts for between 10-20% of HIV infections in West Africa. With a longer asymptomatic period, lower plasma viral load and slower decline in CD4 count, it is often seen as a less aggressive virus than HIV-1. However, people with HIV-2 still experience clinical progression and AIDS-related deaths. WHO recommends initiating a boosted protease inhibitor regimen or a triple nucleoside reverse transcriptase (NRTI)-based regimen in people living with HIV-2 when their CD4 count falls below 500 cells/mm3. However, as clearly demonstrated in this systematic review, the evidence underlying when to start antiretroviral therapy (ART) and the optimal treatment options for people living with HIV-2, is weak. Only 17 observational studies (15 cohort studies and two case series) were identified. Overall immune recovery was sub-optimal and, given the small sample sizes of these studies, there was limited power to detect any differences in outcomes by treatment regimen. Further evidence is urgently needed to guide optimal treatment of people living with HIV-2. 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Northern America
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Cotrimoxazole appears safe in pregnant women living with HIV, despite poor quality evidence

Safety of cotrimoxazole in pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Ford N, Shubber Z, Jao J, Abrams EJ, Frigati L, Mofenson L. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2014 Aug 15;66(5):512-21. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000211.

Introduction: Cotrimoxazole is widely prescribed to treat a range of infections, and for HIV-infected individuals it is administered as prophylaxis to protect against opportunistic infections. Some reports suggest that fetuses exposed to cotrimoxazole during early pregnancy may have an increased risk of congenital anomalies. We carried out this systematic review to update the evidence of cotrimoxazole safety in pregnancy.

Methods: Three databases and 1 conference abstract site were searched in duplicate up to October 31, 2013, for studies reporting adverse maternal and infant outcomes among women receiving cotrimoxazole during pregnancy. This search was updated in MEDLINE via PubMed to April 28, 2014. Studies were included irrespective of HIV infection status or the presence of other coinfections. Our primary outcome was birth defects of any kind. Secondary outcomes included spontaneous abortions, terminations of pregnancy, stillbirths, preterm deliveries, and drug-associated toxicity.

Results: Twenty-four studies were included for review. There were 232 infants with congenital anomalies among 4 196 women receiving cotrimoxazole during pregnancy, giving an overall pooled prevalence of 3.5% (95% confidence interval: 1.8% to 5.1%; τ² = 0.03). Three studies reported 31 infants with neural tube defects associated with first trimester exposure to cotrimoxazole, giving a crude prevalence of 0.7% (95% confidence interval: 0.5% to 1.0%) with most data (29 neural tube defects) coming from a single study. The majority of adverse drug reactions were mild. The quality of the evidence was very low.

Conclusions: The findings of this review support continued recommendations for cotrimoxazole as a priority intervention for HIV-infected pregnant women. It is critical to improve data collection on maternal and infant outcomes.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Cotrimoxazole significantly reduces morbidity and increases survival in people living with HIV (including people on antiretroviral therapy) in resource-limited settings.  However, there is some concern of potential human foetal risk when cotrimoxazole is taken during pregnancy. This systematic review found very limited evaluable data on maternal and infant outcomes associated with cotrimoxazole exposure during pregnancy. Cotrimoxazole is likely to be of most benefit in high HIV burden, low-income settings. In this context, the known benefit of treatment outweighs the potential risk to the foetus, in HIV-positive pregnant women.  Importantly, this paper highlights the need for better pregnancy outcome surveillance in women living with HIV, in resource-poor settings, which includes evaluation of exposure to cotrimoxazole and antiretroviral treatment.  

Africa, Asia, Europe, Northern America, Oceania
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Hunger hinders antiretroviral therapy adherence

Does food insecurity undermine adherence to antiretroviral therapy? A systematic review.

Singer AW, Weiser SD, McCoy SI. AIDS Behav. 2014 Aug 6. [Epub ahead of print]

A growing body of research has identified food insecurity as a barrier to antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence. We systematically reviewed and summarized the quantitative literature on food insecurity or food assistance and ART adherence. We identified nineteen analyses from eighteen distinct studies examining food insecurity and ART adherence. Of the thirteen studies that presented an adjusted effect estimate for the relationship between food insecurity and ART adherence, nine found a statistically significant association between food insecurity and sub-optimal ART adherence. Four studies examined the association between food assistance and ART adherence, and three found that ART adherence was significantly better among food assistance recipients than non-recipients. Across diverse populations, food insecurity is an important barrier to ART adherence, and food assistance appears to be a promising intervention strategy to improve ART adherence among persons living with HIV. Additional research is needed to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of food assistance in improving ART adherence and other clinical outcomes among people living with HIV in the era of widespread and long-term treatment.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: A number of qualitative studies have found that a lack of food is given as a reason for non-adherence to anti-retroviral therapy (ART). The authors wanted to see if quantitative studies on food security and adherence supported this view. As with many systematic reviews the number of quantitative studies included in the final analysis was small: fourteen. However, the majority of these studies did find an association between the availability of food and adherence. The authors very carefully describe the difference methods used to measure both food security and ART adherence.  These findings show both the wide range of methods used for measurement and definitions of adherence and food security, which made comparisons difficult. So, while the authors did find that food insecurity is a barrier to adherence, they could not say why. Given that food insecurity may be a threat to adherence for the some of the increasing numbers of people starting ART, further research is urgently needed. We need to understand more about the association between food and ART adherence. 

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Falling death rates among people in HIV care: AIDS remains common, non-AIDS cancers need attention

Trends in underlying causes of death in people with HIV from 1999 to 2011 (D:A:D): a multicohort collaboration.

Smith CJ, Ryom L, Weber R, Morlat P, Pradier C, Reiss P, Kowalska JD, de Wit S, Law M, el Sadr W, Kirk O, Friis-Moller N, Monforte A, Phillips AN, Sabin CA, Lundgren JD, D:A:D Study Group. Lancet. 2014 Jul 19;384(9939):241-8. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60604-8.

Background: With the advent of effective antiretroviral treatment, the life expectancy for people with HIV is now approaching that seen in the general population. Consequently, the relative importance of other traditionally non-AIDS-related morbidities has increased. We investigated trends over time in all-cause mortality and for specific causes of death in people with HIV from 1999 to 2011.

Methods: Individuals from the Data collection on Adverse events of anti-HIV Drugs (D:A:D) study were followed up from March, 1999, until death, loss to follow-up, or Feb 1, 2011, whichever occurred first. The D:A:D study is a collaboration of 11 cohort studies following HIV-1-positive individuals receiving care at 212 clinics in Europe, USA, and Australia. All fatal events were centrally validated at the D:A:D coordinating centre using coding causes of death in HIV (CoDe) methodology. We calculated relative rates using Poisson regression.

Findings: 3 909 of the 49 731 D:A:D study participants died during the 308 719 person-years of follow-up (crude incidence mortality rate, 12.7 per 1 000 person-years [95% CI 12.3-13.1]). Leading underlying causes were: AIDS-related (1 123 [29%] deaths), non-AIDS-defining cancers (590 [15%] deaths), liver disease (515 [13%] deaths), and cardiovascular disease (436 [11%] deaths). Rates of all-cause death per 1 000 person-years decreased from 17.5 in 1999-2000 to 9.1 in 2009-11; we saw similar decreases in death rates per 1 000 person-years over the same period for AIDS-related deaths (5.9 to 2.0), deaths from liver disease (2.7 to 0.9), and cardiovascular disease deaths (1.8 to 0.9). However, non-AIDS cancers increased slightly from 1.6 per 1 000 person-years in 1999-2000 to 2.1 in 2009-11 (p=0.58). After adjustment for factors that changed over time, including CD4 cell count, we detected no decreases in AIDS-related death rates (relative rate for 2009-11 vs 1999-2000: 0.92 [0.70-1.22]). However, all-cause (0.72 [0.61-0.83]), liver disease (0.48 [0.32-0.74]), and cardiovascular disease (0.33 [0.20-0.53) death rates still decreased over time. The percentage of all deaths that were AIDS-related (87/256 [34%] in 1999-2000 and 141/627 [22%] in 2009-11) and liver-related (40/256 [16%] in 1999-2000 and 64/627 [10%] in 2009-11) decreased over time, whereas non-AIDS cancers increased (24/256 [9%] in 1999-2000 to 142/627 [23%] in 2009-11).

Interpretation: Recent reductions in rates of AIDS-related deaths are linked with continued improvement in CD4 cell count. We hypothesise that the substantially reduced rates of liver disease and cardiovascular disease deaths over time could be explained by improved use of non-HIV-specific preventive interventions. Non-AIDS cancer is now the leading non-AIDS cause and without any evidence of improvement.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Causes of death among people with HIV help to identify priorities for HIV care services. This very large cohort study, including nearly 50 000 HIV-positive people in industrialised country clinics, reports on changes in causes of death since 1999. Effective antiretroviral treatment was widely available for this cohort. All-cause mortality decreased over time, partly explained by effective antiretroviral therapy and increased CD4 cell counts. Death rates due to AIDS declined over time. However, even in 2009-11, AIDS remained a leading cause of death, suggesting that further efforts to diagnose and treat people with HIV earlier are required.

Deaths due to cardiovascular and liver-related causes decreased over time, even after adjustment for other potentially contributing factors. This suggests that people in this cohort were benefitting not only from good management of their HIV disease, but also from other preventive programmes for cardiovascular and other risk factors. By contrast, death rates due to non-AIDS-related cancers have not fallen, suggesting that more attention to prevention and early detection of common malignancies is needed.

Comorbidity, Epidemiology
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Overcoming logistical barriers to implementing viral load testing

 

Systematic review of the use of dried blood spots for monitoring HIV viral load and for early infant diagnosis.

Smit PW, Sollis KA, Fiscus S, Ford N, Vitoria M, Essajee S, Barnett D, Cheng B, Crowe SM, Denny T, Landay A, Stevens W, Habiyambere V, Perriens JH, Peeling RW. PLoS One. 2014 Mar 6;9(3):e86461. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086461. eCollection 2014.

Background: Dried blood spots (DBS) have been used as alternative specimens to plasma to increase access to HIV viral load (VL) monitoring and early infant diagnosis (EID) in remote settings. We systematically reviewed evidence on the performance of DBS compared to plasma for VL monitoring and EID.

Methods and findings: Thirteen peer reviewed HIV VL publications and five HIV EID papers were included. Depending on the technology and the viral load distribution in the study population, the percentage of DBS samples that are within 0.5 log of VL in plasma ranged from 52-100%. Because the input sample volume is much smaller in a blood spot, there is a risk of false negatives with DBS. Sensitivity of DBS VL was found to be 78-100% compared to plasma at VL below 1 000 copies/ml, but this increased to 100% at a threshold of 5 000 copies/ml. Unlike a plasma VL test which measures only cell free HIV RNA, a DBS VL also measures proviral DNA as well as cell-associated RNA, potentially leading to false positive results when using DBS. The systematic review showed that specificity was close to 100% at DBS VL above 5 000 copies/ml, and this threshold would be the most reliable for predicting true virologic failure using DBS. For early infant diagnosis, DBS has a sensitivity of 100% compared to fresh whole blood or plasma in all studies.  

Conclusions: Although limited data are available for EID, DBS offer a highly sensitive and specific sampling strategy to make viral load monitoring and early infant diagnosis more accessible in remote settings. A standardized approach for sampling, storing, and processing DBS samples would be essential to allow successful implementation.

Abstract    Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: The World Health Organization recommends that viral load monitoring is used to confirm early infant diagnoses of HIV and to monitor people on antiretroviral therapy for treatment failure. However, viral load monitoring is expensive, technically complex and requires good laboratory infrastructure and highly trained staff. As a result few countries in resource-limited settings have been able to implement these guidelines.

This systematic review evaluates the performance of dried blood spots as compared to plasma for measuring viral load. Dried blood spots (DBS) are an alternative sampling strategy which could be used to overcome some of the logistical barriers to the widespread implementation of viral load testing. They can be performed by lay workers as there is no need for phlebotomy. Whole blood from a finger or heel prick is placed directly onto filter paper and once dried they can be stored with desiccant and transferred to the central laboratory at room temperature. The results of this systematic review confirm that DBS offer a highly sensitive and specific sampling strategy for early infant diagnosis and for detecting virologic failure at a viral load threshold of      >5 000 copies/ml. However, the authors’ stress that in order to compare different methodologies, standardised protocols for sampling, storing and processing samples are needed. DBS do provide a very promising strategy for increasing access to viral load monitoring. However if we are to see an impact on outcomes, the roll out of DBS will need to be accompanied by robust systems to ensure timely turn-around-times for results. Staff training and support to ensure that appropriate action is taken following a raised viral load, are also a must.

Africa, Asia, Europe
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