Articles tagged as "India"

Time to consider older adults on ART

Risk factors for mortality during antiretroviral therapy in older populations in resource-limited settings.

O'Brien D, Spelman T, Greig J, McMahon J, Ssonko C, Casas E, Mesic A, Du Cros P, Ford N. J Int AIDS Soc. 2016 Jan 14;19(1):20665. doi: 10.7448/IAS.19.1.20665. eCollection 2016.

Introduction: An increasing proportion of adult patients initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-limited settings are aged >50 years. Older populations on ART appear to have heightened risk of death, but little is known about factors influencing mortality in this population.

Methods: We performed a retrospective observational multisite cohort study including all adult patients (≥15 years) initiating ART between 2003 and 2013 in programmes supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres across 12 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Patients were stratified into two age groups, >50 years and 15 to 50 years. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to explore factors associated with mortality.

Results: The study included 41 088 patients: 2591 (6.3%) were aged >50 years and 38 497 (93.7%) were aged 15 to 50 years. The mortality rate was significantly higher in the age group >50 years [367 (14.2%) deaths; mortality rate 7.67 deaths per 100 person-years (95% confidence interval, CI: 6.93 to 8.50)] compared to the age group 15 to 50 years [3788 (9.8%) deaths; mortality rate 4.18 deaths per 100 person-years (95% CI: 4.05 to 4.31)], p<0.0001. Higher CD4 levels at baseline were associated with significantly reduced mortality rates in the 15 to 50 age group but this association was not seen in the >50 age group. WHO Stage 4 conditions were more strongly associated with increased mortality rates in the 15 to 50 age group compared to populations >50 years. WHO Stage 3 conditions were associated with an increased mortality rate in the 15 to 50 age group but not in the >50 age group. Programme region did not affect mortality rates in the >50 age group; however being in an Asian programme was associated with a 36% reduced mortality rate in populations aged 15 to 50 years compared to being in an African programme. There was a higher overall incidence of Stage 3 WHO conditions in people >50 years (12.8/100 person-years) compared to those 15 to 50 years (8.1/100 person-years) (p<0.01). The rate of Stage 4 WHO conditions was similar (5.8/100 versus 6.1/100 respectively, p=0.52). Mortality rates on ART associated with the majority of specific WHO conditions were similar between the 15 to 50 and >50 age groups.

Conclusions: Older patients on ART in resource-limited settings have increased mortality rates, but compared to younger populations this appears to be less influenced by baseline CD4 count and WHO clinical stage. HIV treatment programmes in resource-limited settings need to consider risk factors associated with mortality on ART in older populations, which may differ to those related to younger adults.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This article reports on a retrospective multisite cohort analysis that examined mortality rates and factors associated with mortality on ART for older individuals (> 50 years). The authors found that mortality was nearly two times greater in populations aged >50 years compared with people aged 15 to 50 years.

Contrary to other recent research, they did not find that the effect of age on mortality was stronger at lower CD4 cell counts. However, the analysis used pooled data from very diverse settings, with the great majority of patients (77%) from Asian programmes, and only 22% from Africa (and from nine different countries). This makes it difficult to tease out risk factors for mortality.

Interestingly they found that being in an Asian programme was associated with a 36% reduction in mortality (aHR: 0.64, 95%CI 0.59-0.69) among populations between 15 and 50 years compared to being in an African programme. The authors suggest that this might be due to a lower incidence of co-morbidities including opportunistic infections in Asian populations below 50 years compared to African populations.

As little is known about what it is like living with HIV for older people in resource-limited settings, the authors conclude with suggesting further social science research to address this issue. 

Africa, Asia, Europe
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Untreated maternal HIV infection and poor perinatal outcomes

Perinatal outcomes associated with maternal HIV infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Wedi CO, Kirtley S, Hopewell S, Corrigan R, Kennedy SH, Hemelaar J. Lancet HIV. 2016 Jan;3(1):e33-48. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00207-6. Epub 2015 Nov 27.

Background: The HIV pandemic affects 36.9 million people worldwide, of whom 1.5 million are pregnant women. 91% of HIV-positive pregnant women reside in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that also has very poor perinatal outcomes. We aimed to establish whether untreated maternal HIV infection is associated with specific perinatal outcomes.

Methods: We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of the scientific literature by searching PubMed, CINAHL (Ebscohost), Global Health (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid), and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and four clinical trial databases (WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, the Pan African Clinical Trials Registry, the ClinicalTrials.gov database, and the ISRCTN Registry) for studies published from Jan 1, 1980, to Dec 7, 2014. Two authors independently reviewed the studies retrieved by the scientific literature search, identified relevant studies, and extracted the data. We investigated the associations between maternal HIV infection in women naive to antiretroviral therapy and 11 perinatal outcomes: preterm birth, very preterm birth, low birthweight, very low birthweight, term low birthweight, preterm low birthweight, small for gestational age, very small for gestational age, miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death. We included prospective and retrospective cohort studies and case-control studies reporting perinatal outcomes in HIV-positive women naive to antiretroviral therapy and HIV-negative controls. We used a random-effects model for the meta-analyses of specific perinatal outcomes. We did subgroup and sensitivity analyses and assessed the effect of adjustment for confounders. This systematic review and meta-analysis is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42013005638.

Findings: Of 60 750 studies identified, we obtained data from 35 studies (20 prospective cohort studies, 12 retrospective cohort studies, and three case-control studies) including 53 623 women. Our meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies show that maternal HIV infection is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth (relative risk 1.50, 95% CI 1.24-1.82), low birthweight (1.62, 1.41-1.86), small for gestational age (1.31, 1.14-1.51), and stillbirth (1.67, 1.05-2.66). Retrospective cohort studies also suggest an increased risk of term low birthweight (2.62, 1.15-5.93) and preterm low birthweight (3.25, 2.12-4.99). The strongest and most consistent evidence for these associations is identified in sub-Saharan Africa. No association was identified between maternal HIV infection and very preterm birth, very small for gestational age, very low birthweight, miscarriage, or neonatal death, although few data were available for these outcomes. Correction for confounders did not affect the significance of these findings.

Interpretation: Maternal HIV infection in women who have not received antiretroviral therapy is associated with preterm birth, low birthweight, small for gestational age, and stillbirth, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Research is needed to assess how antiretroviral therapy regimens affect these perinatal outcomes.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes:  Maternal HIV infection is associated with maternal morbidity and mortality and risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Whether maternal HIV infection affects perinatal outcomes, which are major contributors to poor health worldwide, is less well understood. This systematic review and meta-analysis of retrospective and prospective cohort studies and case-control studies demonstrates that untreated maternal HIV infection is associated with increased risk of pre-term birth, low birthweight, small for gestational age and stillbirth. The risk of adverse perinatal outcomes appeared to increase with more advanced HIV disease, although only three of the 35 studies reported perinatal outcomes according to HIV disease stage. These findings persisted even after controlling for potential confounding factors and irrespective of the method used for determining gestational age. None of the studies used a first trimester ultrasound scan, the gold standard for determining gestational age. The association of perinatal outcomes with the infant’s HIV status was not investigated. The strongest evidence for these associations was found in sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of the studies were conducted.

These findings suggest that HIV is an important contributor to the global burden of perinatal and child morbidity and mortality particularly in countries with the highest burden of maternal HIV infection.     Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of stillbirths and neonatal deaths and is also the region where more than 90% of the world’s pregnant women living with HIV reside.

This study has important implications. Firstly, the coverage of antiretroviral therapy (ART) among pregnant women worldwide still remains suboptimal (estimated to be 68% in 2013), exposing women living with untreated HIV to an increased risk of adverse perinatal outcomes. The biological mechanisms underlying adverse perinatal outcomes in the context of HIV infection are not understood. ART in pregnancy may also adversely affect perinatal outcomes, and there is a pressing need to investigate this as ART is rapidly scaled up.     

Africa, Europe, Northern America
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Determinants of HIV prevention costs at scale in India

What determines HIV prevention costs at scale? Evidence from the Avahan programme in India.

Lépine A, Chandrashekar S, Shetty G, Vickerman P, Bradley J, Alary M, Moses S, Group CI, Vassall A. Health Econ. 2016 Feb;25 Suppl 1:67-82. doi: 10.1002/hec.3296. Epub 2016 Jan 14.

Expanding essential health services through non-government organisations (NGOs) is a central strategy for achieving universal health coverage in many low-income and middle-income countries. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention services for key populations are commonly delivered through NGOs and have been demonstrated to be cost-effective and of substantial global public health importance. However, funding for HIV prevention remains scarce, and there are growing calls internationally to improve the efficiency of HIV prevention programmes as a key strategy to reach global HIV targets. To date, there is limited evidence on the determinants of costs of HIV prevention delivered through NGOs; and thus, policymakers have little guidance in how best to design programmes that are both effective and efficient. We collected economic costs from the Indian Avahan initiative, the largest HIV prevention project conducted globally, during the first 4 years of its implementation. We use a fixed-effect panel estimator and a random-intercept model to investigate the determinants of average cost. We find that programme design choices such as NGO scale, the extent of community involvement, the way in which support is offered to NGOs and how clinical services are organised substantially impact average cost in a grant-based payment setting.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This paper was published in the journal Health Economics, as part of a supplement on methods for economic evaluation in low-income and middle-income countries. The supplement eloquently summarizes the current state of the art for economic evaluation in these countries, providing a good background for readers who are less familiar with this field.  It also reflects challenges for the design, conduct, and use of economic evaluations in these settings and highlights some of the methodological innovations arising out of these challenges. 

This contribution reflects the importance of using cost functions when conducting economic evaluations of programmes that need to be scaled up. The authors present average costs for 138 non-governmental organisations providing HIV prevention services to key populations across four years in India, as part of the Avahan project. They find that scale is an important determinant of cost, with average costs falling as scale increases. They also find that community mobilization activities can reduce costs, potentially by encouraging uptake of other services.  Further, the way in which NGOs are supported can impact on costs. 

This article presents an important methodological step towards informing better decision-making and programme design. Understanding of cost drivers can also facilitate programme monitoring and resource allocation. This is one of the first studies fully powered to analyse the determinants of costs for NGO-delivered HIV prevention services.  The authors use a wealth of cost data which are not often available to researchers working in lower and middle income countries. As noted in the foreword for this supplement, further analysis of cost functions will be essential to inform future global and national-level decision-making in these countries. This will require investment in additional large-scale cost studies globally to generate data for this type of analysis.

Asia
India
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Continuous IPT: benefits in TB prevalent settings

Continuous isoniazid for the treatment of latent tuberculosis infection in people living with HIV: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Boon SD, Matteelli A, Ford N, Getahun H. AIDS. 2016 Jan 4. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: This systematic review was carried out to determine the effectiveness of continuous isoniazid (given for at least 36 months) for the treatment of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) in people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Methods: Six databases and HIV and tuberculosis (TB) conference abstract books were searched for randomized controlled trials that compared the effectiveness of continuous isoniazid treatment with 6 months of isoniazid application. Outcomes of interest were TB incidence, mortality, adverse events and risk of drug resistance. Data were pooled using fixed-effects meta-analysis.

Results: Three studies were included, from Botswana, South Africa and India. The risk of active TB was 38% lower among patients receiving continuous isoniazid compared with isoniazid regimen for 6 months [relative risk (RR) 0.62, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.42-0.89; I = 0%], and 49% lower for those with a positive tuberculin skin test (TST) (RR 0.51, 95% CI: 0.30-0.86; I = 7%). Similarly, individuals with positive TST had a 50% lower chance of death (RR 0.50, 95% CI: 0.27-0.91; I = 3%). Two studies found no evidence of an increase in adverse events in the continuous isoniazid group, whereas a third study, that used a different definition for adverse events, found strong evidence of increase. There was no evidence of increased drug resistance when continuous isoniazid was given.

Conclusion: For PLHIV in settings with high TB and HIV prevalence and transmission, continuous isoniazid for at least 36 months is beneficial and probably outweighs the risk of increased adverse events compared with isoniazid regimen for 6 months.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) reduces TB incidence among HIV-positive people. Evidence has accumulated from settings where TB is prevalent that the protective effect of a standard six-month course of isoniazid wanes after treatment stops. This may be because of reinfection with rapid progression to TB disease. However, in high transmission settings, where the bacillary burden of latent infection could be higher, six months of isoniazid may be insufficient to “cure” latent tuberculosis infection, and reactivation of residual latent infection may also contribute to TB disease after IPT is discontinued. 

This meta-analysis puts together data from three studies that compared a longer duration of IPT to the standard six-month course. Continuous versus a six-month course of IPT reduced TB incidence. Consistent with other studies, this benefit was clear in people with a positive tuberculin skin test (TST) at baseline but smaller and not significant in people with a negative TST. This meta-analysis also found a reduction in mortality among people with a positive TST receiving continuous IPT, primarily based on data from the study in Botswana. This is notable because most previous trials of IPT versus control have not demonstrated a mortality benefit. Most trials of short-course IPT were undertaken in the pre-antiretroviral therapy (ART) era, when all-cause mortality was very high. In the Botswana study, ART was available and will have reduced HIV-associated mortality among all participants, which may have allowed a difference in TB-specific mortality to become evident.

Adverse events were very similar between the continuous versus short course IPT groups in the studies from Botswana and India. However, in the South African study, adverse events were more common in the continuous IPT group, as were temporary or permanent discontinuations due to adverse events. Abnormal liver function tests were particularly common, but it is not clear how many of these were symptomatic and thus would be detected in a programme where liver function is not routinely monitored.

These data support WHO recommendations for continuous IPT for HIV-positive people in settings where TB transmission is common. What is not clear is how to define settings where TB transmission is common enough for this recommendation to be applied. 

Africa, Asia
Botswana, India, South Africa
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Current dosages for treatment of TB in children living with HIV may be sub-optimal

Low serum concentrations of rifampicin and pyrazinamide associated with poor treatment outcomes in children with tuberculosis related to HIV status.

Ramachandran G, Kumar AK, Kannan T, Bhavani PK, Kumar RS, Gangadevi NP, Banurekha VV, Sudha V, Venkatesh S, Ravichandran N, Kalpana S, Mathevan G, Sanjeeva GN, Agarwal D, Swaminathan S. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2016 Jan 27. [Epub ahead of print]

Objectives: To compare the pharmacokinetics of rifampicin (RMP), isoniazid (INH) and pyrazinamide (PZA) between HIV-infected and uninfected children with TB and correlate it with TB treatment outcome.

Methods: HIV-uninfected (n = 84) and HIV-infected (n = 77) children with TB receiving standard thrice weekly treatment, were recruited from six hospitals in India. Semi-intensive pharmacokinetic sampling was performed during intensive phase of TB treatment after directly observed administration of drugs. Drug concentrations were measured by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). INH acetylator status was determined and nutritional assessment was done. Children were followed up and treatment outcomes noted.

Results: Children with HIV & TB had significantly lower RMP peak concentration (Cmax) (2.6 vs. 5.1µg/ml; p<0.001) and exposure (AUC0-8) (10.4 vs. 23.4 µg/ml.h; p<0.001) than those with TB. Among HIV-infected children, a significantly higher proportion had stunting (77% vs 29%; p < 0.001) and underweight (73% vs 38%; p < 0.001) compared to children with TB. Combining both groups, RMP Cmax (p = 0.001; AOR = 1.437; 95% CI: 1.157 - 1.784) and PZA Cmax (p = 0.027; AOR = 1.041; 95% CI: 1.005 - 1.079) significantly influenced treatment outcome.

Conclusions: HIV infection was associated with lower Cmax of RMP and INH and AUC0-8 of RMP. Over 90% of children in both groups had sub-therapeutic RMP Cmax. Cmax of RMP and PZA significantly influenced TB treatment outcome in children with TB. The findings have important clinical implications and suggest the need to increase anti-TB drug doses in children with HIV & TB.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Determinants of outcomes in childhood TB are relatively understudied compared to outcomes among adults. The authors have conducted a detailed pharmacokinetic study in Indian children to examine the association of HIV and anthropometric indices with the peak concentrations of rifampicin (RMP), isoniazid (INH) and pyrazinamide PZA). Despite the small sample size they demonstrated that HIV-positive children fared worse in terms of achieving therapeutic levels of INH and RMP, but also that only 10% of all children achieved therapeutic levels of RMP, irrespective of HIV status and malnutrition. Similar investigations of RMP pharmacokinetics in other very recent studies (Arya et al. 2015 IJTLD, Bekker et al. 2015 Antimicrob Agents Chemother) found overall sub-therapeutic levels and also called, as the authors do, for a review of paediatric dosages in TB programmes.  Kwara et al. (2015 J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc) also observed the association of levels with HIV.

The data seem to provide scientific consensus that, assuming the recommended therapeutic serum levels are appropriate, under the current WHO TB treatment guidelines; children and infants are not receiving optimal chemotherapy for TB. The data suggest that dosages should be reviewed and that particularly in settings where a high proportion of children treated for TB are HIV-positive, that HIV-positive children may require further alterations to the schedules to ensure adequate levels for treatment success. 

Comorbidity
Asia
India
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TB still responsible for large proportion of admissions and in-patient deaths among people living with HIV

TB as a cause of hospitalization and in-hospital mortality among people living with HIV worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Ford N, Matteelli A, Shubber Z, Hermans S, Meintjes G, Grinsztejn B, Waldrop G, Kranzer K, Doherty M, Getahun H. J Int AIDS Soc. 2016 Jan 12;19(1):20714. doi: 10.7448/IAS.19.1.20714. eCollection 2016.

Introduction: Despite significant progress in improving access to antiretroviral therapy over the past decade, substantial numbers of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in all regions continue to experience severe illness and require hospitalization. We undertook a global review assessing the proportion of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths because of tuberculosis (TB) in PLHIV.

Methods: Seven databases were searched to identify studies reporting causes of hospitalizations among PLHIV from 1 January 2007 to 31 January 2015 irrespective of age, geographical region or language. The proportion of hospitalizations and in-hospital mortality attributable to TB was estimated using random effects meta-analysis.

Results: From an initial screen of 9049 records, 66 studies were identified, providing data on 35 845 adults and 2792 children across 42 countries. Overall, 17.7% (95% CI 16.0 to 20.2%) of all adult hospitalizations were because of TB, making it the leading cause of hospitalization overall; the proportion of adult hospitalizations because of TB exceeded 10% in all regions except the European region. Of all paediatric hospitalizations, 10.8% (95% CI 7.6 to 13.9%) were because of TB. There was insufficient data among children for analysis by region. In-hospital mortality attributable to TB was 24.9% (95% CI 19.0 to 30.8%) among adults and 30.1% (95% CI 11.2 to 48.9%) among children.

Discussion: TB remains a leading cause of hospitalization and in-hospital death among adults and children living with HIV worldwide.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: The last 30 years have seen radical improvements in outcomes for many people living with HIV. This study reminds us that in some parts of the world HIV-associated infections, tuberculosis (TB) in particular, still have a devastating effect on thousands of lives.

The importance of TB is widely recognised. WHO aim to reduce deaths due to TB by 75% over the next 10 years.  The question remains: do we really know how many people die due to TB?  Death certification has repeatedly been shown to be unreliable, particularly in the parts of the world where TB is most prevalent. Verbal autopsy is used to estimate cause of death in areas with poor notification systems, but poorly differentiates deaths due to TB and other HIV-associated conditions. Similar challenges are faced when counting and classifying morbidity and hospitalisations. Data are sparse, and determining the cause of an admission is not straightforward, even with access to well-maintained hospital records.  

This review, a sub-analysis of data from a broader study of HIV-associated hospital admissions, is by far the largest of its kind. The authors have been rigorous, given the heterogeneity of the studies included, and their findings are sobering. Among adults living with HIV, in all areas except Europe and South America, TB was the cause of 20-33% of admissions, and some 30% of adults and 45% of children who were admitted with TB were thought to have died from it. These findings are limited by the fact that not all reviewed studies reported on mortality and very few stated how causes of death were assigned.

This paper raises more questions than it answers, but they are important questions.  We are left in no doubt that TB is a major contributor to global morbidity and mortality in HIV-positive people, but we need to look closely at how we count and classify ‘TB deaths’ and ‘TB-associated admissions’. The recent systematic review of autopsy studies cited by the authors also found that almost half the TB seen at autopsy was not diagnosed before death. Global autopsy rates are in decline. Without access to more accurate data, how will we know if we’re winning or losing in our efforts to end TB deaths?

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How gender norms and power may impact on the acceptability, access and adherence to microbicides

Optimizing HIV prevention for women: a review of evidence from microbicide studies and considerations for gender-sensitive microbicide introduction.

Doggett EG, Lanham M, Wilcher R, Gafos M, Karim QA, Heise L. J Int AIDS Soc. 2015 Dec 21;18(1):20536. doi: 10.7448/IAS.18.1.20536. eCollection 2015.

Introduction: Microbicides were conceptualized as a product that could give women increased agency over HIV prevention. However, gender-related norms and inequalities that place women and girls at risk of acquiring HIV are also likely to affect their ability to use microbicides. Understanding how gendered norms and inequalities may pose obstacles to women's microbicide use is important to inform product design, microbicide trial implementation and eventually microbicide and other antiretroviral-based prevention programmes. We reviewed published vaginal microbicide studies to identify gender-related factors that are likely to affect microbicide acceptability, access and adherence. We make recommendations on product design, trial implementation, positioning, marketing and delivery of microbicides in a way that takes into account the gender-related norms and inequalities identified in the review.

Methods: We conducted PubMed searches for microbicide studies published in journals between 2000 and 2013. Search terms included trial names (e.g. "MDP301"), microbicide product names (e.g. "BufferGel"), researchers' names (e.g. "van der Straten") and other relevant terms (e.g. "microbicide"). We included microbicide clinical trials; surrogate studies in which a vaginal gel, ring or diaphragm was used without an active ingredient; and hypothetical studies in which no product was used. Social and behavioural studies implemented in conjunction with clinical trials and surrogate studies were also included. Although we recognize the importance of rectal microbicides to women, we did not include studies of rectal microbicides, as most of them focused on men who have sex with men. Using a standardized review template, three reviewers read the articles and looked for gender-related findings in key domains (e.g. product acceptability, sexual pleasure, partner communication, microbicide access and adherence).

Results and discussion: The gendered norms, roles and relations that will likely affect women's ability to access and use microbicides are related to two broad categories: norms regulating women's and men's sexuality and power dynamics within intimate relationships. Though norms about women's and men's sexuality vary among cultural contexts, women's sexual behaviour and pleasure are typically less socially acceptable and more restricted than men's. These norms drive the need for woman-initiated HIV prevention, but also have implications for microbicide acceptability and how they are likely to be used by women of different ages and relationship types. Women's limited power to negotiate the circumstances of their intimate relationships and sex lives will impact their ability to access and use microbicides. Men's role in women's effective microbicide use can range from opposition to non-interference to active support.

Conclusions: Identifying an effective microbicide that women can use consistently is vital to the future of HIV prevention for women. Once such a microbicide is identified and licensed, positioning, marketing and delivering microbicides in a way that takes into account the gendered norms and inequalities we have identified would help maximize access and adherence. It also has the potential to improve communication about sexuality, strengthen relationships between women and men and increase women's agency over their bodies and their health.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This paper presents a review of the evidence of microbicides research to understand gender-associated factors that could impact on acceptability, access and adherence. These gender norms include women and men’s sexual norms and power differentials in intimate partner relationships. This review included studies conducted between 2000 and 2013 and thus only includes papers on hypothetical research and clinical trials. While the studies were conducted in a variety of contexts the authors found a number of similar norms and power differentials.

In relation to sexual norms, the review revealed findings on sexual risk, sexual pleasure, and sexual preferences. In terms of sexual risk there were differing opinions across the studies of which women were most likely to need microbicides. Some studies suggested that microbicides should be focused on women in steady partnerships where condom negotiation is difficult, while others suggested focusing on key populations such as sex workers. Across many studies the potential for promoting sexual pleasure for both women and men emerged as an advantage of microbicides, and had an impact on acceptability. However, many of the studies highlighted how men’s sexual pleasure takes precedence. In relation to sexual preferences, the much touted idea that men prefer ‘dry’ or ‘tight’ sex was challenged by some of the studies, which found that the lubricating effect of the gel was acceptable.

The review also uncovered issues associated to power inequalities in intimate partner relationships, including power to control time of sex, male partner engagement and communication, and intimate-partner violence. Women reported in many studies their lack of power to control the timing of sex and this is seen as likely to impact on their ability to use coitally-dependant microbicides. However, there is some evidence that men supported women’s use of the gel, although this depended on the type of relationship. While microbicides have been promoted as products that women can use without a partner’s knowledge the review illustrated that women do prefer to communicate with their partners about their use and there is evidence of joint-decision making. Further, there was evidence of women experiencing intimate partner violence in relation to trial participation. There is also some evidence that women were less likely to discuss or use microbicides in violent relationships.

This highly comprehensive review concludes that while microbicides will not empower women they do have the potential to enhance women’s agency in relation to their health and sexuality and may improve communication in their relationships. However, the authors conclude that gender norms and power differentials may impact on acceptability, access and adherence.

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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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Living with HIV on the move: migrant workers in north India

Complex routes into HIV care for migrant workers: a qualitative study from north India.

Rai T, Lambert HS, Ward H. AIDS Care. 2015 Nov 26:1-6. [Epub ahead of print]

Migrant workers are designated a bridge population in the spread of HIV and therefore if infected, should be diagnosed and treated early. This study examined pathways to HIV diagnosis and access to care for rural-to-urban circular migrant workers and partners of migrants in northern India, identifying structural, social and individual level factors that shaped their journeys into care. We conducted a qualitative study using in-depth interviews with HIV-positive men (n = 20) and women (n = 13) with a history of circular migration, recruited from an antiretroviral therapy centre in one district of Uttar Pradesh, north India. Migrants and partners of migrants faced a complex series of obstacles to accessing HIV testing and care. Employment insecurity, lack of entitlement to sick pay or subsidised healthcare at destination and the household's economic reliance on their migration-based livelihood led many men to continue working until they became incapacitated by HIV-related morbidity. During periods of deteriorating health they often exhausted their savings on private treatments focused on symptom management, and sought HIV testing and treatment at a public hospital only following a medical or financial emergency. Wives of migrants had generally been diagnosed following their husbands' diagnosis or death, with access to testing and treatment mediated via family members. For some, a delay in disclosure of husband's HIV status led to delays in their own testing. Diagnosing and treating HIV infection early is important in slowing down the spread of the epidemic and targeting those at greatest risk should be a priority. However, despite targeted campaigns, circumstances associated with migration may prevent migrant workers and their partners from accessing testing and treatment until they become sick. The insecurity of migrant work, the dominance of private healthcare and gender differences in health-seeking behaviour delay early diagnosis and treatment initiation.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Migrant workers who move for work in their own country face challenges in accessing health care and social support. In a country as large and diverse as India internal migration can be particularly taxing. For people living with HIV, or who acquire HIV while migrating for work, the challenges can be immense. This paper sets out concisely the issues these migrants face, trying to access information, treatment and support both in the place they move to and at home. The authors explain how migrant men might delay treatment because of their need to work, and perhaps also to keep their HIV-status secret. For the wives of migrants, this delay can severely affect their own access to health care. Free antiretroviral therapy is available, but as the authors suggest, many migrant workers do not know that. This lack of knowledge highlights the importance of providing better support for migrant workers. Support for access to free, or at least affordable, health care is something many migrant workers require; for migrant workers living with HIV that support is essential.

Asia
India
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