Articles tagged as "Mali"

Cryptoccal meningitis – the unacceptable consequence of leaving people behind during ART scale up

Editor’s notes: Cryptococcal meningitis is a severe disease that occurs in people with advanced immune suppression.  Its occurrence is an indicator that an HIV treatment programme is not working well, as it is rare in people whose CD4 count is above 100 cells per microlitre.  Rajasingham and colleagues have tried to estimate the current burden of disease.  This is not straightforward, as the number and proportion of people with advanced HIV disease is changing with the increasing scale up of antiretroviral therapy and earlier HIV diagnosis.  Nonetheless, severe immune suppression still occurs in those whose HIV infection remains undiagnosed or is diagnosed too late; among those who are not started on effective ARVs promptly and among those in whom ART fails and who are not managed effectively by the ART treatment programme.  The authors estimate that there could be more than 180 000 deaths from cryptococcal meningitis with the large majority (136 000) in Africa.  This makes Cryptococcus responsible for more than 15% of HIV-related deaths, second only to tuberculosis as a documented cause.  The authors emphasize the need for earlier diagnosis of HIV and better linkage to quality care programmes.  In the meantime, there are also advances in the screening, prophylaxis and treatment of Cryptococcus itself, which require investment in laboratory services and affordable medicines that can save lives until the effects of good ART improves the immune status.

Cassim and colleagues have developed a novel approach to costing different approaches to the roll out of technology for screening for cryptococcal antigen in the blood of people with advanced HIV infection.  Depending on the numbers of samples to be tested in the laboratory, a mix of single use lateral flow assays and automated enzyme immunoassays makes most sense.  The aim is to allow the more cost-effective high-volume sites to subsidize the low volume sites in order to ensure that as many people living with advanced HIV infection as possible can be screened.

Global burden of disease of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis: an updated analysis

Rajasingham R, Smith RM, Park BJ, Jarvis JN, Govender NP, Chiller TM, Denning DW, Loyse A, Boulware DR. Lancet Infect Dis. 2017 Aug;17(8):873-881. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(17)30243-8. Epub 2017 May 5.

Background: Cryptococcus is the most common cause of meningitis in adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Global burden estimates are crucial to guide prevention strategies and to determine treatment needs, and we aimed to provide an updated estimate of global incidence of HIV-associated cryptococcal disease.

Methods: We used 2014 Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS estimates of adults (aged >15 years) with HIV and antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage. Estimates of CD4 less than 100 cells per μL, virological failure incidence, and loss to follow-up were from published multinational cohorts in low-income and middle-income countries. We calculated those at risk for cryptococcal infection, specifically those with CD4 less than 100 cells/μL not on ART, and those with CD4 less than 100 cells per μL on ART but lost to follow-up or with virological failure. Cryptococcal antigenaemia prevalence by country was derived from 46 studies globally. Based on cryptococcal antigenaemia prevalence in each country and region, we estimated the annual numbers of people who are developing and dying from cryptococcal meningitis.

Findings: We estimated an average global cryptococcal antigenaemia prevalence of 6·0% (95% CI 5·8-6·2) among people with a CD4 cell count of less than 100 cells per μL, with 278 000 (95% CI 195 500-340 600) people positive for cryptococcal antigen globally and 223 100 (95% CI 150 600-282 400) incident cases of cryptococcal meningitis globally in 2014. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 73% of the estimated cryptococcal meningitis cases in 2014 (162 500 cases [95% CI 113 600-193 900]). Annual global deaths from cryptococcal meningitis were estimated at 181 100 (95% CI 119 400-234 300), with 135 900 (75%; [95% CI 93 900-163 900]) deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, cryptococcal meningitis was responsible for 15% of AIDS-related deaths (95% CI 10-19).

Interpretation: Our analysis highlights the substantial ongoing burden of HIV-associated cryptococcal disease, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Cryptococcal meningitis is a metric of HIV treatment programme failure; timely HIV testing and rapid linkage to care remain an urgent priority.

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Estimating the cost-per-result of a national reflexed cryptococcal antigenaemia screening program: Forecasting the impact of potential HIV guideline changes and treatment goals

Cassim N, Coetzee LM, Schnippel K, Glencross DK. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 22;12(8):e0182154. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182154. eCollection 2017.

Introduction: During 2016, the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) introduced laboratory-based reflexed Cryptococcal antigen (CrAg) screening to detect early Cryptococcal disease in immunosuppressed HIV+ patients with a confirmed CD4 count of 100 cells/μl or less.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess cost-per-result of a national screening program across different tiers of laboratory service, with variable daily CrAg test volumes. The impact of potential ART treatment guideline and treatment target changes on CrAg volumes, platform choice and laboratory workflow are considered.

Methods: CD4 data (with counts ≤ 100 cells/μl) from the fiscal year 2015/16 were extracted from the NHLS Corporate Date Warehouse and used to project anticipated daily CrAg testing volumes with appropriately-matched CrAg testing platforms allocated at each of 52 NHLS CD4 laboratories. A cost-per-result was calculated for four scenarios, including the existing service status quo (Scenario-I), and three other settings (as Scenarios II-IV) which were based on information from recent antiretroviral (ART) guidelines, District Health Information System (DHIS) data and UNAIDS 90/90/90 HIV/AIDS treatment targets. Scenario-II forecast CD4 testing offered only to new ART initiates recorded at DHIS. Scenario-III projected all patients notified as HIV+, but not yet on ART (recorded at DHIS) and Scenario-IV forecast CrAg screening in 90% of estimated HIV+ patients across South Africa (also DHIS). Stata was used to assess daily CrAg volumes at the 5th, 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, 90th and 95th percentiles across 52 CD4-laboratories. Daily volumes were used to determine technical effort/ operator staff costs (% full time equivalent) and cost-per-result for all scenarios.

Results: Daily volumes ranged between 3 and 64 samples for Scenario-I at the 5th and 95th percentile. Similarly, daily volumes ranges of 1-12, 2-45 and 5-100 CrAg-directed samples were noted for Scenario's II, III and IV respectively. A cut-off of 30 CrAg tests per day defined use of either LFA or EIA platform. LFA cost-per-result ranged from $8.24 to $5.44 and EIA cost-per-result between $5.58 and $4.88 across the range of test volumes. The technical effort across scenarios ranged from 3.2-27.6% depending on test volumes and platform used.

Conclusion: The study reported the impact of programmatic testing requirements on varying CrAg test volumes that subsequently influenced choice of testing platform, laboratory workflow and cost-per-result. A novel percentiles approach is described that enables an overview of the cost-per-result across a national program. This approach facilitates cross-subsidisation of more expensive lower volume sites with cost-efficient, more centralized higher volume laboratories, mitigating against the risk of costing tests at a single site.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

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Short and sweet? Do study participants prefer shorter or longer consent forms? Do they understand the contents?

Editor’s notes: As described above in the HOLA en Grupos study, engagement and partnership is vital if HIV research is to produce useful and relevant results.  The ethics of research involving human subjects continues to evolve but the key principles laid out by Beauchamp and Childress in 1989 remain central.  The principles of autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and justice, have been extremely influential in the field of medical ethics, and are fundamental for understanding the current approach to ethical assessment in health care.

Autonomy implies that research participants should be able to consent willingly to join a research study and a key part of that informed consent process is usually a written “consent form” that is signed by the participant.  However, a major challenge is often to ensure that on the one hand all relevant information about possible benefits and harms is included in the information and on the other hand that the consent process is manageable and appropriate for the participant.

In the largest study of its kind to date, Grady and colleagues embedded a randomized trial within the larger randomized START trial (comparing immediate with deferred start of antiretroviral medicines in people with early HIV infection).  Around 4000 participants in START were allocated according to their 154 research sites, which were randomly assigned to the original, lengthy and somewhat complicated consent form, or to a simplified, shorter consent form with much more attention paid to ease of comprehension and readability.  The shorter form was still around 1800 words long (compared to the almost 6000 of the original) and was only a little easier to read, because the sponsors of the study needed to be certain that all the information demanded by current guidelines was included.

Surprisingly, there was no overall difference in either the primary outcome (an understanding that participants’ treatment would be randomly allocated) or in overall comprehension of aspects of the study.  In other words, the authors did NOT find the advantages that they were expecting from the modified consent form.

However, various clear trends emerge from the data that are relevant to future research too.  Those with less education were clearly less able to understand the randomization approach.  73% of the 1240 participants who had not attended high school compared to more than 90% of the 935 who had completed a university degree or postgraduate education answered the primary question on randomization correctly. The START study team were diligent in explaining the study to potential participants before presenting the informed consent form, with around a half of participants reporting more than an hour of explanation prior to being asked for consent, and more than 80% of sites reporting that participants understood the study “very well” prior to the consent process.  There was also a clear trend for participants from sites that had been involved in previous HIV research to understand the process better (rising from 69% in those with no previous HIV studies to 85% in those with more than 10).

Increasingly HIV prevention researchers are aiming to work with populations that have high ongoing incidence of HIV.  In a world where treatment is increasingly widespread and overall numbers of infections have fallen somewhat, this means that researchers will tend to be working with more and more disadvantaged populations where many participants may be less well educated and less familiar with research.  This important study makes it clear that the ethical principle of autonomy requires an ongoing process that goes far beyond the choice of words in a consent form.  Research must build trust between researchers and participants.  The research team should explain carefully and in appropriate ways what is involved in the study and what options participants have. Study teams should build a governance process into the research so that participants can have confidence that any risks of the research, both for them as individuals, but also often for the community or group to which they belong, are monitored and mitigated.  In this way potentially vulnerable individuals may still be recruited into important research projects and contribute to the ways in which science can end the epidemic.

A randomized trial comparing concise and standard consent forms in the START trial.

Grady C, Touloumi G, Walker AS, Smolskis M, Sharma S, Babiker AG, Pantazis N, Tavel J, Florence E, Sanchez A, Hudson F, Papadopoulos A, Emanuel E, Clewett M, Munroe D, Denning E; INSIGHT START Informed Consent substudy Group PLoS One. 2017 Apr 26;12(4):e0172607. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172607. eCollection 2017.

Background: Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of research informed consent is a high priority. Some express concern about longer, more complex, written consent forms creating barriers to participant understanding. A recent meta-analysis concluded that randomized comparisons were needed.

Methods: We conducted a cluster-randomized non-inferiority comparison of a standard versus concise consent form within a multinational trial studying the timing of starting antiretroviral therapy in HIV+ adults (START). Interested sites were randomized to standard or concise consent forms for all individuals signing START consent. Participants completed a survey measuring comprehension of study information and satisfaction with the consent process. Site personnel reported usual site consent practices. The primary outcome was comprehension of the purpose of randomization (pre-specified 7.5% non-inferiority margin).

Results: 77 sites (2429 participants) were randomly allocated to use standard consent and 77 sites (2000 participants) concise consent, for an evaluable cohort of 4229. Site and participant characteristics were similar for the two groups. The concise consent was non-inferior to the standard consent on comprehension of randomization (80.2% versus 82%, site adjusted difference: 0.75% (95% CI -3.8%, +5.2%)); and the two groups did not differ significantly on total comprehension score, satisfaction, or voluntariness (p>0.1). Certain independent factors, such as education, influenced comprehension and satisfaction but not differences between consent groups.

Conclusions: An easier to read, more concise consent form neither hindered nor improved comprehension of study information nor satisfaction with the consent process among a large number of participants. This supports continued efforts to make consent forms more efficient.

Trial registration: Informed consent substudy was registered as part of START study in clinicaltrials.gov #NCT00867048, and EudraCT # 2008-006439-12.

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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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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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Vulnerabilities of children living with HIV positive adults

Children living with HIV-infected adults: estimates for 23 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Short SE, Goldberg RE. PLoS One. 2015 Nov 17; 10(11): e0142580.

Background: In sub-Saharan Africa many children live in extreme poverty and experience a burden of illness and disease that is disproportionately high. The emergence of HIV and AIDS has only exacerbated long-standing challenges to improving children's health in the region, with recent cohorts experiencing pediatric AIDS and high levels of orphan status, situations which are monitored globally and receive much policy and research attention. Children's health, however, can be affected also by living with HIV-infected adults, through associated exposure to infectious diseases and the diversion of household resources away from them. While long recognized, far less research has focused on characterizing this distinct and vulnerable population of HIV-affected children.

Methods: Using Demographic and Health Survey data from 23 countries collected between 2003 and 2011, we estimate the percentage of children living in a household with at least one HIV-infected adult. We assess overlaps with orphan status and investigate the relationship between children and the adults who are infected in their households.

Results: The population of children living in a household with at least one HIV-infected adult is substantial where HIV prevalence is high; in Southern Africa, the percentage exceeded 10% in all countries and reached as high as 36%. This population is largely distinct from the orphan population. Among children living in households with tested, HIV-infected adults, most live with parents, often mothers, who are infected; nonetheless, in most countries over 20% live in households with at least one infected adult who is not a parent.

Conclusion: Until new infections contract significantly, improvements in HIV/AIDS treatment suggest that the population of children living with HIV-infected adults will remain substantial. It is vital to on-going efforts to reduce childhood morbidity and mortality to consider whether current care and outreach sufficiently address the distinct vulnerabilities of these children.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This paper is an important contribution to the literature on the impact of the HIV epidemic. Using Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data from 23 countries it highlights the considerable number of children living with HIV-positive adults in sub-Saharan Africa. However, notable exceptions from the analysis (no DHS data available) included South Africa. This, coupled with specific issues related to DHS data collection methods and response rates, means that the number of children living with HIV-positive adults is much higher. Reductions in mortality from HIV due to increased treatment availability and the addition of adults newly acquiring HIV means that population of children living with an HIV-positive adult will continue to increase in the near future.

Children living with HIV-positive adults are clearly vulnerable and like all vulnerable children should be focussed on in efforts to promote child wellbeing. The authors suggest, however, that children living with HIV-positive adults may have distinct vulnerabilities that need to be considered. These include direct exposure to opportunistic infections, social stigma and disrupted networks, as well as increases in poverty. The challenge for many countries is how to identify these children and ensure that focussed programmes are delivered effectively.

Africa
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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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Better integration of programmes against alcohol use necessary at every step of the HIV treatment cascade

The impact of alcohol use and related disorders on the HIV continuum of care: a systematic review: alcohol and the HIV continuum of care.

Vagenas P, Azar MM, Copenhaver MM, Springer SA, Molina PE, Altice FL. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2015 Sep 28. [Epub ahead of print]

Alcohol use is highly prevalent globally with numerous negative consequences to human health, including HIV progression, in people living with HIV (PLH). The HIV continuum of care, or treatment cascade, represents a sequence of targets for intervention that can result in viral suppression, which ultimately benefits individuals and society. The extent to which alcohol impacts each step in the cascade, however, has not been systematically examined. International targets for HIV treatment as prevention aim for 90% of PLH to be diagnosed, 90% of them to be prescribed with antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90% to achieve viral suppression; currently, only 20% of PLH are virally suppressed. This systematic review, from 2010 through May 2015, found 53 clinical research papers examining the impact of alcohol use on each step of the HIV treatment cascade. These studies were mostly cross-sectional or cohort studies and from all income settings. Most (77 %) found a negative association between alcohol consumption on one or more stages of the treatment cascade. Lack of consistency in measurement, however, reduced the ability to draw consistent conclusions. Nonetheless, the strong negative correlations suggest that problematic alcohol consumption should be targeted, preferably using evidence-based behavioral and pharmacological interventions, to indirectly increase the proportion of PLH achieving viral suppression, to achieve treatment as prevention mandates, and to reduce HIV transmission.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: This systematic review examined the impact of alcohol consumption on each step of the HIV treatment cascade. This covered HIV diagnosis, linkage to care, retention in care, ART initiation and adherence, and sustained virologic suppression. Overall, there was an association between alcohol consumption and negative consequences on various steps of the treatment cascade. The majority of studies focused on the effect of alcohol use disorders and ART adherence, and on viral suppression. There was fairly consistent evidence of reduced adherence among people with alcohol use disorders. Key findings of this review include the lack of consistency in studies of alcohol consumption. Many studies are not using standardised, validated, measures such as the AUDIT, and there is the lack of studies on the association of alcohol use with earlier stages of the cascade, including testing uptake and linkage to care. Further studies in this area would be useful, to identify whether programmes focused on problematic alcohol use are necessary at HIV testing centres.

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Low rates of switching to second-line treatment in children failing first-line ART

Determinants of durability of first-line antiretroviral therapy regimen and time from first-line failure to second-line antiretroviral therapy initiation.

Desmonde S, Eboua FT, Malateste K, Dicko F, Ekouevi DK, Ngbeche S, Koueta F, Sy HS, Renner L, Koumakpai SA, Leroy V, IeDEA Pediatric West African Working Group. AIDS. 2015 Jul 31;29(12):1527-36. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000707.

Background: We described reasons for switching to second-line antiretroviral treatment (ART) and time to switch in HIV-infected children failing first-line ART in West Africa.

Methods: We included all children aged 15 years or less, starting ART (at least three drugs) in the paediatric IeDEA clinical centres in five West-African countries. We estimated the incidence of switch (at least one drug class change) within 24 months of ART and associated factors were identified in a multinomial logistic regression. Among children with clinical-immunological failure, we estimated the 24-month probability of switching to a second-line and associated factors, using competing risks. Children who switched to second-line ART following the withdrawal of nelfinavir in 2007 were excluded.

Results: Overall, 2820 children initiated ART at a median age of 5 years; 144 (5%) were on nelfinavir. At 24-month post-ART initiation, 188 (7%) had switched to second-line. The most frequent reasons were drug stock outs (20%), toxicity (18%), treatment failure (16%) and poor adherence (8%). Over the 24-month follow-up period, 322 (12%) children failed first-line ART after a median time of 7 months. Of these children, 21 (7%) switched to second-line after a median time of 21 weeks in failure. This was associated with older age [subdistribution hazard ratio (sHR) 1.21, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.10-1.33] and longer time on ART (sHR 1.16, 95% CI 1.07-1.25).

Conclusion: Switches for clinical failure were rare and switches after an immunological failure were insufficient. These gaps reveal that it is crucial to advocate for both sustainable access to first-line and alternative regimens to provide adequate roll-out of paediatric ART programmes.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Data on the durability of first-line ART in children in low-income settings are limited. However, there is mounting evidence that children in facilities without routine viral load testing are less likely to be identified as failing on first-line therapy. This observational study by the IeDEA Paediatric West African working group illustrates that the rate of switch to second-line therapy in children on first-line treatment, monitored using clinical (with or without immunological) criteria, was low. Additionally, the majority of switches that did occur were due to ART availability issues, poor adherence and drug toxicity, rather than in response to clinically-defined treatment failure.  Some 12% of children failed first-line ART after a median of seven months, of whom only 0.8% switched to second-line ART. These findings highlight the missed opportunities and underscore the difficulties in identifying treatment failure in children within a context in which virologic monitoring is not yet available.

Health care delivery
Africa
Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Senegal
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START trial illustrates benefit of ART start with CD4>500

Initiation of antiretroviral therapy in early asymptomatic HIV infection.

Lundgren J, Babiker A,  Gordin F, Emery S, Grund B, Sharma S, Avihingsanon A, Cooper D, Fätkenheuer G, Llibre J, Molina J, Munderi P, Schechter M, Wood R, Klingman K, Collins S, Lane H, Phillips A,  Neaton J. INSIGHT START Study Group. N Engl J Med. 2015 Jul 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Data from randomized trials are lacking on the benefits and risks of initiating antiretroviral therapy in patients with asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection who have a CD4+ count of more than 350 cells per cubic millimeter.

Methods: We randomly assigned HIV-positive adults who had a CD4+ count of more than 500 cells per cubic millimeter to start antiretroviral therapy immediately (immediate-initiation group) or to defer it until the CD4+ count decreased to 350 cells per cubic millimeter or until the development of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or another condition that dictated the use of antiretroviral therapy (deferred-initiation group). The primary composite end point was any serious AIDS-related event, serious non-AIDS-related event, or death from any cause.

Results: A total of 4685 patients were followed for a mean of 3.0 years. At study entry, the median HIV viral load was 12 759 copies per milliliter, and the median CD4+ count was 651 cells per cubic millimeter. On May 15, 2015, on the basis of an interim analysis, the data and safety monitoring board determined that the study question had been answered and recommended that patients in the deferred-initiation group be offered antiretroviral therapy. The primary end point occurred in 42 patients in the immediate-initiation group (1.8%; 0.60 events per 100 person-years), as compared with 96 patients in the deferred-initiation group (4.1%; 1.38 events per 100 person-years), for a hazard ratio of 0.43 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.30 to 0.62; P<0.001). Hazard ratios for serious AIDS-related and serious non-AIDS-related events were 0.28 (95% CI, 0.15 to 0.50; P<0.001) and 0.61 (95% CI, 0.38 to 0.97; P=0.04), respectively. More than two thirds of the primary end points (68%) occurred in patients with a CD4+ count of more than 500 cells per cubic millimeter. The risks of a grade 4 event were similar in the two groups, as were the risks of unscheduled hospital admissions.

Conclusions: The initiation of antiretroviral therapy in HIV-positive adults with a CD4+ count of more than 500 cells per cubic millimeter provided net benefits over starting such therapy in patients after the CD4+ count had declined to 350 cells per cubic millimeter.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Guidelines on when to start antiretroviral therapy (ART) are rapidly evolving. The major point of uncertainty, and disagreement between guidelines, has been whether the benefits to individuals of starting ART outweigh the risks for people with high CD4 counts, where the absolute risk of morbidity and mortality is relatively low.

The START study addressed this question among people with CD4 counts greater than 500 cells per µl. Study participants were recruited across the global regions, with the largest number from Europe (33%) followed by Latin America (25%) and Africa (21%). Some 55% were gay men and other men who have sex with men. Retention in the study was very good, and virologic outcomes among people who started ART were excellent (98% and 97% had virologic suppression by 12 months in the immediate versus deferred study arms). There was a 57% reduction in the hazard of the primary outcome, a composite of serious AIDS-associated events, serious non-AIDS associated events or death from any cause. The most common AIDS-associated events were tuberculosis (mostly seen in African participants), malignant lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma. Among the serious non-AIDS events, cancers unrelated to AIDS were reduced by 50%, but interestingly there was no change in cardiovascular events. There was no increase in risk of serious adverse events. Interestingly the magnitude of risk reduction for the primary outcome was similar in high- and low-income countries.

These results will be very important as ART guidelines are reviewed and are likely to lead to recommendations for ART initiation, regardless of CD4 count in most settings. The authors note that, with a relatively low absolute risk of serious events, some people with high CD4 counts may opt to defer treatment, and this trial has produced very useful data to inform this discussion. Benefits from earlier ART initiation are dependent on earlier testing.  With an estimated 50% of people with HIV globally unaware of their status, the uptake of testing by asymptomatic people will need to be increased. In addition, retention in care will need to be optimised if the potential benefits of ART demonstrated by this study are to be realised.

HIV Treatment
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