Articles tagged as "Malawi"

School-based HIV prevention programmes appear ineffective

School-based interventions for preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy in adolescents.

Mason-Jones AJ, Sinclair D, Mathews C, Kagee A, Hillman A, Lombard C. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Nov 8;11:CD006417.

Background: School-based sexual and reproductive health programmes are widely accepted as an approach to reducing high-risk sexual behaviour among adolescents. Many studies and systematic reviews have concentrated on measuring effects on knowledge or self-reported behaviour rather than biological outcomes, such as pregnancy or prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Objectives: To evaluate the effects of school-based sexual and reproductive health programmes on sexually transmitted infections (such as HIV, herpes simplex virus, and syphilis), and pregnancy among adolescents.

Search methods: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) for published peer-reviewed journal articles; and ClinicalTrials.gov and the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform for prospective trials; AIDS Education and Global Information System (AEGIS) and National Library of Medicine (NLM) gateway for conference presentations; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNAIDS, the WHO and the National Health Service (NHS) centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) websites from 1990 to 7 April 2016. We hand searched the reference lists of all relevant papers.

Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), both individually randomized and cluster-randomized, that evaluated school-based programmes aimed at improving the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion, evaluated risk of bias, and extracted data. When appropriate, we obtained summary measures of treatment effect through a random-effects meta-analysis and we reported them using risk ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). We assessed the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach.

Main results: We included eight cluster-RCTs that enrolled 55,157 participants. Five trials were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa (Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Kenya), one in Latin America (Chile), and two in Europe (England and Scotland). Sexual and reproductive health educational programmes. Six trials evaluated school-based educational interventions. In these trials, the educational programmes evaluated had no demonstrable effect on the prevalence of HIV (RR 1.03, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.32, three trials; 14 163 participants; low certainty evidence), or other STIs (herpes simplex virus prevalence: RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.15; three trials, 17 445 participants; moderate certainty evidence; syphilis prevalence: RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.47 to 1.39; one trial, 6977 participants; low certainty evidence). There was also no apparent effect on the number of young women who were pregnant at the end of the trial (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.16; three trials, 8280 participants; moderate certainty evidence). Material or monetary incentive-based programmes to promote school attendance. Two trials evaluated incentive-based programmes to promote school attendance. In these two trials, the incentives used had no demonstrable effect on HIV prevalence (RR 1.23, 95% CI 0.51 to 2.96; two trials, 3805 participants; low certainty evidence). Compared to controls, the prevalence of herpes simplex virus infection was lower in young women receiving a monthly cash incentive to stay in school (RR 0.30, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.85), but not in young people given free school uniforms (data not pooled, two trials, 7229 participants; very low certainty evidence). One trial evaluated the effects on syphilis and the prevalence was too low to detect or exclude effects confidently (RR 0.41, 95% CI 0.05 to 3.27; one trial, 1291 participants; very low certainty evidence). However, the number of young women who were pregnant at the end of the trial was lower among those who received incentives (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.99; two trials, 4200 participants; low certainty evidence). Combined educational and incentive-based programmes. The single trial that evaluated free school uniforms also included a trial arm in which participants received both uniforms and a programme of sexual and reproductive education. In this trial arm herpes simplex virus infection was reduced (RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.99; one trial, 5899 participants; low certainty evidence), predominantly in young women, but no effect was detected for HIV or pregnancy (low certainty evidence).

Authors' conclusions: There is a continued need to provide health services to adolescents that include contraceptive choices and condoms and that involve them in the design of services. Schools may be a good place in which to provide these services. There is little evidence that educational curriculum-based programmes alone are effective in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes for adolescents. Incentive-based interventions that focus on keeping young people in secondary school may reduce adolescent pregnancy but further trials are needed to confirm this.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: School-based HIV prevention programmes are widespread worldwide. These programmes use educational institutions as a venue to reach a population that is entering sexual maturity. Several systematic reviews have found beneficial effects of these programmes on HIV-associated knowledge and behaviours, though a subsequent effect of reduced HIV incidence remains unconfirmed. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the authors included eight randomized controlled trials from sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Whether using a curriculum- or incentive-based programme, the trials did not provide evidence of an effect of school-based programmes on reducing HIV infection. Nor was there compelling evidence of an effect of these programmes on reducing sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy. This paper highlights the difficulty of translating knowledge and reported behaviors into reductions in HIV infection and other biological outcomes. Further thought is necessary to deliver effective sexual and reproductive health programmes in schools – possibly including incentives, which show some promise but need further evidence on effectiveness. 

Africa, Europe, Latin America
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Voluntary male circumcision still a cost-effective intervention in the era of 90-90-90

Impact and cost of scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention in the context of the new 90-90-90 HIV treatment targets.

Kripke K, Reed J, Hankins C, Smiley G, Laube C, Njeuhmeli E. PLoS One. 2016 Oct 26;11(10):e0155734. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155734. eCollection 2016.

Background: The report of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for World AIDS Day 2014 highlighted a Fast-Track Strategy that sets ambitious treatment and prevention targets to reduce global HIV incidence to manageable levels by 2020 and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The 90-90-90 treatment targets for 2020 call for 90% of people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 90% of people who know their status to receive treatment, and 90% of people on HIV treatment to be virally suppressed. This paper examines how scale-up of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) services in four priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa could contribute to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 in the context of concerted efforts to close the treatment gap, and what the impact of VMMC scale-up would be if the 90-90-90 treatment targets were not completely met.

Methods: Using the Goals module of the Spectrum suite of models, this analysis modified ART (antiretroviral treatment) scale-up coverage from base scenarios to reflect the 90-90-90 treatment targets in four countries (Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, and Uganda). In addition, a second scenario was created to reflect viral suppression levels of 75% instead of 90%, and a third scenario was created in which the 90-90-90 treatment targets are reached in women, with men reaching more moderate coverage levels. Regarding male circumcision (MC) coverage, the analysis examined both a scenario in which VMMCs were assumed to stop after 2015, and one in which MC coverage was scaled up to 90% by 2020 and maintained at 90% thereafter.

Results: Across all four countries, scaling up VMMC is projected to provide further HIV incidence reductions in addition to those achieved by reaching the 90-90-90 treatment targets. If viral suppression levels only reach 75%, scaling up VMMC leads to HIV incidence reduction to nearly the same levels as those achieved with 90-90-90 without VMMC scale-up. If only women reach the 90-90-90 targets, scaling up VMMC brings HIV incidence down to near the levels projected with 90-90-90 without VMMC scale-up. Regarding cost, scaling up VMMC increases the annual costs during the scale-up phase, but leads to lower annual costs after the MC coverage target is achieved.

Conclusions: The scenarios modeled in this paper show that the highly durable and effective male circumcision intervention increases epidemic impact levels over those of treatment-only strategies, including the case if universal levels of viral suppression in men and women are not achieved by 2020. In the context of 90-90-90, prioritizing continued successful scale-up of VMMC increases the possibility that future generations will be free not only of AIDS but also of HIV.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) has been shown to reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by up to 60%. It is a highly cost-effective HIV prevention activity. Since 2007, extensive efforts have been made to scale up VMMC in settings with high HIV prevalence and low levels of male circumcision, with the aim of reaching 80% VMMC coverage in 14 priority countries by 2016.  At the end of 2015, more than 11 million men in east and southern Africa had received VMMC.  In this modelling study, the authors look at the impact of scaling up VMMC to 90% coverage in four priority countries. The paper illustrates that VMMC scale-up can achieve additional reductions in HIV incidence above reductions achieved through testing and treatment alone. In the scenarios where the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target is not completely met, VMMC scale-up can reduce HIV incidence to levels comparable to what would be achieved with the 90-90-90 treatment target. VMMC scale-up also resulted in lower long-term annual programme costs in all four settings. In 2015, UNAIDS set a target of an additional 27 million men in high-HIV prevalence settings receiving VMMC by 2021. Achieving this target will require new service delivery models, and innovative approaches to overcome current barriers that discourage men from accessing health care. VMMC is only one component in combination HIV prevention. It has advantages in being a single event that does not require ongoing adherence, offers men lifelong benefits, and is a valuable entry point for providing a broader range of health services to men including HIV testing. As this study demonstrates, VMMC remains a cost-effective strategy for reducing HIV incidence, even in the context of universal testing and treatment.  

Africa
Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda
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High mortality persists among people presenting with advanced HIV disease

Mortality in the first 3 months on antiretroviral therapy among HIV-positive adults in low- and middle-income countries: a meta-analysis.

Brennan AT, Long L, Useem J, Garrison L, Fox MP. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 Sep 1;73(1):1-10. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001112.

Previous meta-analyses reported mortality estimates of 12-month post-antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation; however, 40%-60% of deaths occur in the first 3 months on ART, a more sensitive measure of averted deaths through early ART initiation. To determine whether early mortality is dropping as treatment thresholds have increased, we reviewed studies of 3 months on ART initiation in low- to middle-income countries. Studies of 3-month mortality from January 2003 to April 2016 were searched in 5 databases. Articles were included that reported 3-month mortality from a low- to middle-income country; nontrial setting and participants were ≥15. We assessed overall mortality and stratified by year using random effects models. Among 58 included studies, although not significant, pooled estimates show a decline in mortality when comparing studies whose enrollment of patients ended before 2010 (7.0%; 95% CI: 6.0 to 8.0) with the studies during or after 2010 (4.0%; 95% CI: 3.0 to 5.0). To continue to reduce early HIV-related mortality at the population level, intensified efforts to increase demand for ART through active testing and facilitated referral should be a priority. Continued financial investments by multinational partners and the implementation of creative interventions to mitigate multidimensional complex barriers of accessing care and treatment for HIV are needed.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Early mortality among people initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) remains high, presumed to be because many people living with HIV present when already very sick with advanced HIV disease. This systematic review included 43 studies from Africa and 13 from Asia. Its main aim was to see whether the evolution of guidelines recommending ART initiation at progressively higher CD4 counts over this period had reduced early mortality (defined as death within three months of ART start) and, by implication, the proportion of people starting ART who had advanced disease. To investigate this, the authors compared studies where enrolment ended before 2010 with studies that had started later.

Overall early mortality was six percent.  Because of the large numbers lost to follow up this will be an underestimate. The authors attempted to compensate for this, and calculated an adjusted overall figure of more than 10%. There was a fall in early mortality from seven percent to four percent (unadjusted) between the early and late periods but although the trend was consistent the difference was not significant.

In only four of the 58 studies was the median CD4 count at ART initiation above 200x106/l. It seems likely that even when policies to initiate ART at high CD4 counts are adopted, additional efforts will be necessary to promote initiation of ART and retention in care for people who feel well.  This is in order to reduce the number of people starting ART with advanced disease and consequently at very high risk of early death.   

Africa, Asia, Latin America
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She looks healthy so is she dangerous to me? Unintended consequences of HIV treatment through the eyes of men in the community

They are looking just the same: antiretroviral treatment as social danger in rural Malawi.

Kaler A, Angotti N, Ramaiya A. Soc Sci Med. 2016 Oct;167:71-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.08. 023. Epub 2016 Aug 18.

Research on the social impact of ART pivots on questions of individual adherence and community acceptability of treatment programmes. In this paper we examine unexpected and unintended consequences of the scale-up of treatment in rural Malawi, using a unique dataset of more than 150 observational journals from three sites, spanning 2010 to 2013, focusing on men's everyday conversations. Through thematic content analysis, we explore the emerging perception that the widespread availability of ART constitutes a form of social danger, as treatment makes it difficult to tell who does or does not have AIDS. This ambiguity introduced through ART is interpreted as putting individuals at risk, because it is no longer possible to tell who might be infected - indeed, the sick now look healthier and "plumper" than the well. This ambivalence over the social impact of ART co-exists with individual demand for and appreciation of the benefits of treatment.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Widespread uptake of lifelong antiretroviral therapy means that our focus on its impact on communities should no longer be on its novelty but its consequences. This is a really interesting qualitative paper which reflects on how men in a rural community in Malawi consider the social dangers that women who are on HIV treatment, specifically, pose to men. Through the content analysis of journal entries, which captured men’s informal conversations, the researchers draw out this sub group’s ambivalence towards antiretroviral therapy. Women who have HIV can become appealing sexual partners through projecting a healthy attractiveness. Thus treatment is portrayed as disruptive by putting men, attracted to plump/ healthy women, at risk. It is revealing that two of the key tenets of current prevention policy are relatively silent within these findings. Neither the message of the prevention benefits of treatment, in which people successfully adhering to treatment pose a minimal transmission risk, nor the message that sex should be protected, because anyone’s status should be considered unknown, appears to have a significant influence on either discourse or practice. By paying attention to the ‘hum’ and ‘chatter’ of everyday life we can learn about how treatment opportunities are interpreted. We can also gain insights into how they are understood in accordance with concerns around sexual opportunities and sexual appeal. These may change but they continue to be heavily shaped by gender.  

Africa
Malawi
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Migration and HIV – a double synergy

Migration and HIV infection in Malawi.

Anglewicz P, VanLandingham M, Manda-Taylor L, Kohler HP. AIDS. 2016 Aug 24;30(13):2099-105. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001150.

Objective: To evaluate the assumption that moving heightens HIV infection by examining the time-order between migration and HIV infection and investigate differences in HIV infection by migration destination and permanence.

Methods: We employ four waves of longitudinal data (2004-2010) for 4265 men and women from a household-based study in rural Malawi and a follow-up of migrants (2013). Using these data, we examine HIV status prior to migration. Migrants are disaggregated by destination (rural, town, and urban) and duration (return and permanent); all compared with individuals who consistently resided in the rural origin ('nonmigrants').

Results: HIV-positive individuals have significantly greater odds of migration than those who are HIV negative [odds ratio 2.75; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.89-4.01]. Being HIV positive significantly increases the relative risk (RR) that respondent will be a rural-urban migrant [RR ratio (RRR) 6.28; 95% CI 1.77-22.26), rural-town migrant (RRR 3.62; 95% CI 1.24-10.54), and a rural-rural migrant (RRR 4.09; 95% CI 1.68-9.97), instead of a nonmigrant. Being HIV positive significantly increases the RR that a respondent will move and return to the village of origin (RRR 2.58; 95% CI 1.82-3.66) and become a permanent migrant (RRR 3.21; 95% CI 1.77-5.82) instead of not migrating.

Conclusion: HIV-positive status has a profound impact on mobility: HIV infection leads to significantly higher mobility through all forms of migration captured in our study. These findings emphasize that migration is more than just an independent risk factor for HIV infection: greater prevalence of HIV among migrants is partly due to selection of HIV-positive individuals into migration.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Previous studies in sub-Saharan Africa have identified that migrants are at greater risk of living with HIV than their non-migrant counterparts. There is however a lack of knowledge of the direction of causality between migration status and HIV status. This longitudinal study enabled analysis of the direction of causality between HIV acquisition and migration.  Individuals living with HIV were significantly more likely to migrate in the future than people who were not living with HIV.  The effect was seen for all types of migration (rural to rural, rural to town (district capital) and rural to urban (regional capital).

The true association between HIV status and migration status may exceed that illustrated as some individuals who were HIV negative at baseline may have become HIV positive prior to migration. The patterns identified could be driven by better healthcare being available in an urban setting. Alternatively individuals may move to avoid HIV-associated stigma in the relative anonymity of an urban environment. Previous research in Malawi has also illustrated that marriage and migration are closely linked. Thus marital dissolution following HIV infection may in part explain the patterns seen.  Further qualitative studies are necessary to investigate such factors.

This study illustrates that an increasing emphasis needs to be placed on HIV prevention in the rural communities from which migrants originate, in addition to focusing on the risk in the urban areas. 

Africa
Malawi
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Updated evidence that DMPA increases HIV risk among women

Update on hormonal contraceptive methods and risk of HIV acquisition in women: a systematic review of epidemiological evidence, 2016.

Polis CB, Curtis KM, Hannaford PC, Phillips SJ, Chipato T, Kiarie JN, Westreich DJ, Steyn PS. AIDS. 2016 Aug 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective and design: Some studies suggest that specific hormonal contraceptive (HC) methods (particularly depot medroxyprogesterone acetate [DMPA]) may increase women's HIV acquisition risk. We updated a systematic review to incorporate recent epidemiological data.

Methods: We searched for articles published between 1/15/2014-1/15/2016, and hand-searched reference lists. We identified longitudinal studies comparing users of a specific HC method against either (1) non-users of HC, or (2) users of another specific HC method. We added newly identified studies to those in the previous review, assessed study quality, created forest plots to display results, and conducted a meta-analysis for data on DMPA versus no HC.

Results: We identified ten new reports: five were considered "unlikely to inform the primary question". We focus on the other five reports, along with 9 from the previous review, considered "informative but with important limitations". The preponderance of data for oral contraceptive pills, injectable norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN), and levonorgestrel implants do not suggest an association with HIV acquisition, though data for implants are limited. The new, higher-quality studies on DMPA (or non-disaggregated injectables), which had mixed results in terms of statistical significance, had hazard ratios (HR) between 1.2 and 1.7, consistent with our meta-analytic estimate for all higher-quality studies of HR 1.4.

Conclusions: While confounding in these observational data cannot be excluded, new information increases concerns about DMPA and HIV acquisition risk in women. If the association is causal, the magnitude of effect is likely ≤HR 1.5. Data for other hormonal contraceptive methods, including NET-EN, are largely reassuring.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: For several years there has been debate about whether the risk of HIV acquisition in women may be increased by the use of hormonal contraception. A systematic review published in 2014 included a meta-analysis of data from 22 studies, and this paper adds 10 new studies to the analysis. While these new papers carried some of the previous review’s limitations which cannot be ignored, the new data also lends further strength to the evidence and renewed analysis. The authors found some encouraging results which suggest that there is no significant increased risk of HIV with the use of oral contraceptives and the NET-EN injectable. However, this analysis does suggest that there is an increased risk of 1.4-1.5 of HIV with the use of DMPA. This is particularly concerning given the widespread use of this product throughout the world, and especially in areas where high rates of new HIV infections continue to persist, such as sub-Saharan Africa. Studies continue to explore this association of risk, and will hopefully produce evidence in the near future to definitively provide guidance as to how clinicians should direct the use of DMPA in women at risk of HIV. 

Africa, Northern America
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Antiretroviral therapy dramatically reduces transmission of HIV to sexual partners

Antiretroviral therapy for the prevention of HIV-1 transmission.

Cohen MS, Chen YQ, McCauley M, Gamble T, Hosseinipour MC, Kumarasamy N, Hakim JG, Kumwenda J, Grinsztejn B, Pilotto JH, Godbole SV, Chariyalertsak S, Santos BR, Mayer KH, Hoffman IF, Eshleman SH, Piwowar-Manning E, Cottle L, Zhang XC, Makhema J, Mills LA, Panchia R, Faesen S, Eron J, Gallant J, Havlir D, Swindells S, Elharrar V, Burns D, Taha TE, Nielsen-Saines K, Celentano DD, Essex M, Hudelson SE, Redd AD, Fleming TR. N Engl J Med. 2016 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: An interim analysis of data from the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 trial showed that antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevented more than 96% of genetically linked infections caused by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in serodiscordant couples. ART was then offered to all patients with HIV-1 infection (index participants). The study included more than 5 years of follow-up to assess the durability of such therapy for the prevention of HIV-1 transmission.

Methods: We randomly assigned 1763 index participants to receive either early or delayed ART. In the early-ART group, 886 participants started therapy at enrollment (CD4+ count, 350 to 550 cells per cubic millimeter). In the delayed-ART group, 877 participants started therapy after two consecutive CD4+ counts fell below 250 cells per cubic millimeter or if an illness indicative of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (i.e., an AIDS-defining illness) developed. The primary study end point was the diagnosis of genetically linked HIV-1 infection in the previously HIV-1-negative partner in an intention-to-treat analysis.

Results: Index participants were followed for 10,031 person-years; partners were followed for 8509 person-years. Among partners, 78 HIV-1 infections were observed during the trial (annual incidence, 0.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.7 to 1.1). Viral-linkage status was determined for 72 (92%) of the partner infections. Of these infections, 46 were linked (3 in the early-ART group and 43 in the delayed-ART group; incidence, 0.5%; 95% CI, 0.4 to 0.7) and 26 were unlinked (14 in the early-ART group and 12 in the delayed-ART group; incidence, 0.3%; 95% CI, 0.2 to 0.4). Early ART was associated with a 93% lower risk of linked partner infection than was delayed ART (hazard ratio, 0.07; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.22). No linked infections were observed when HIV-1 infection was stably suppressed by ART in the index participant.

Conclusions: The early initiation of ART led to a sustained decrease in genetically linked HIV-1 infections in sexual partners. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; HPTN 052 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00074581.).

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: The HPTN 052 trial has been a landmark study in establishing antiretroviral therapy as a strategy for preventing onward transmission of HIV. It was a study of more than 800 couples. More than half of the couples were in African countries. In each couple, one sexual partner was HIV positive and the other HIV negative.  The participants living with HIV were randomised either to receive immediate antiretroviral therapy or to delay until their CD4 count fell to 350, an approved approach at that time. The HIV negative partners were then monitored for acquisition of HIV.  When new HIV infections occurred, the virus was studied for genetic similarity to the virus of the known positive partner. The interim analysis was published in 2011.  It illustrated the programme to be so effective that the randomisation was ended and all the participants living with HIV were offered antiretroviral therapy. 

This article presents data after five years of follow-up, and if anything the results are even more remarkable. In more than 10 000 person-years of follow up, there were only eight transmissions of genetically linked virus from participants receiving antiretroviral therapy. Of these transmissions, four occurred early in treatment when the viral load would not be expected to be suppressed.  The other four occurred after treatment failure. In this enormous study, there were therefore no linked transmissions from participants who were stable on treatment without detectable viraemia. The study provides powerful support for the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target.  The widest possible effective use of antiretroviral therapy will not only improve the health of people treated but could have a dramatic effect on new HIV infections.

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Immediate initiation of HIV treatment is cost-effective, but needs a large portion of health system spending

Changing HIV treatment eligibility under health system constraints in sub-Saharan Africa: Investment needs, population health gains, and cost-effectiveness.

Hontelez JA, Chang AY, Ogbuoji O, Vlas SJ, Barnighausen T, Atun R. AIDS. 2016 Jun 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: We estimated the investment need, population health gains, and cost-effectiveness of different policy options for scaling-up prevention and treatment of HIV in the 10 countries that currently comprise 80% of all people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).

Design: We adapted the established STDSIM model, to capture the health system dynamics: demand-side and supply-side constraints in the delivery of antiretroviral treatment (ART).

Methods: We compared different scenarios of supply-side (i.e. health system capacity) and demand-side (i.e. health seeking behavior) constraints, and determined the impact of changing guidelines to ART eligibility at any CD4 cell count within these constraints.

Results: Continuing current scale-up would require US$178 billion by 2050. Changing guidelines to ART at any CD4 cell count is cost-effective under all constraints tested in the model, especially in demand-side constrained health systems because earlier initiation prevents loss to follow-up of patients not yet eligible. Changing guidelines under current demand-side constraints would avert 1.8 million infections at US$208 per life-year saved.

Conclusions: Treatment eligibility at any CD4 cell count would be cost-effective, even under health system constraints. Excessive loss to follow up and mortality in patients not eligible for treatment can be avoided by changing guidelines in demand-side constrained systems. The financial obligation for sustaining the AIDS response in sub-Saharan Africa over the next 35 years is substantial, and requires strong, long-term commitment of policy makers and donors to continue to allocate substantial parts of their budgets.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Recent WHO guidelines recommend that everyone who is diagnosed as HIV positive should be allowed to start treatment immediately, a change to the former guideline where their CD4 count (a measure of disease progression) was the main criteria for starting treatment. This paper uses a model to look at the costs and benefits of changing to this immediate treatment regimen in the sub-Saharan African countries most affected by the epidemic. The authors find that allowing all HIV people living with HIV to access treatment is cost-effective, and this finding does not change when the model assumptions are varied. However, the impact of this change on the health system budgets in these countries is very substantial, and the authors suggest that a large commitment is necessary from policymakers and donors to sustain this response as short-term spending will not be enough to make an impact.

Africa
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Unique needs of gay men in sub-Saharan Africa identified with respondent-driven sampling

Respondent-driven sampling as a recruitment method for men who have sex with men in southern sub-Saharan Africa: a cross-sectional analysis by wave.

Stahlman S, Johnston LG, Yah C, Ketende S, Maziya S, Trapence G, Jumbe V, Sithole B, Mothopeng T, Mnisi Z, Baral S. Sex Transm Infect. 2016 Jun;92(4):292-8. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2015-052184. Epub 2015 Sep 30.

Objectives: Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) is a popular method for recruiting men who have sex with men (MSM). Our objective is to describe the ability of RDS to reach MSM for HIV testing in three southern African nations.

Methods: Data collected via RDS among MSM in Lesotho (N=318), Swaziland (N=310) and Malawi (N=334) were analysed by wave in order to characterise differences in sample characteristics. Seeds were recruited from MSM-affiliated community-based organisations. Men were interviewed during a single study visit and tested for HIV. X2 tests for trend were used to examine differences in the proportions across wave category.

Results: A maximum of 13-19 recruitment waves were achieved in each study site. The percentage of those who identified as gay/homosexual decreased as waves increased in Lesotho (49% to 27%, p<0.01). In Swaziland and Lesotho, knowledge that anal sex was the riskiest type of sex for HIV transmission decreased across waves (39% to 23%, p<0.05, and 37% to 19%, p<0.05). The percentage of participants who had ever received more than one HIV test decreased across waves in Malawi (31% to 12%, p<0.01). In Lesotho and Malawi, the prevalence of testing positive for HIV decreased across waves (48% to 15%, p<0.01 and 23% to 11%, p<0.05). Among those living with HIV, the proportion of those unaware of their status increased across waves in all study sites although this finding was not statistically significant.

Conclusions: RDS that extends deeper into recruitment waves may be a promising method of reaching MSM with varying levels of HIV prevention needs.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: The HIV risk profile of gay men and other men who have sex with men have not been well-characterised within sub-Saharan African countries. These key populations are traditionally difficult to reach for purposes of estimating the prevalence of HIV and of behavioural risk factors, and for prevention outreach. This study enrolled recruiters from community based organizations which served gay men and other men who have sex with men in Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland. Each of these ‘seeds’ could recruit up to three participants. Each subsequent participant could recruit another three participants into a new ‘wave’. The profiles of participants changed in each setting with each additional recruitment wave. Men in Swaziland were less likely to know that anal sex was the riskiest type of sex, men in Malawi were less likely to have ever tested for HIV, and men in Lesotho were less likely to have disclosed their sexual orientation to family members. This type of respondent-driven sampling can be replicated to identify men who are removed from community-based organisations, and to identify their unique service needs. Future research can consider whether the hardest-to-reach men are also people at highest risk of HIV infection.

Africa
Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland
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Changing norms: lessons from HIV advocacy for NCDs prevention

Ability of HIV advocacy to modify behavioral norms and treatment impact: a systematic review.

Sunguya BF, Munisamy M, Pongpanich S, Yasuoka J, Jimba M. Am J Public Health. 2016 Aug;106(8):e1-e8. Epub 2016 Jun 16.

Background: HIV advocacy programs are partly responsible for the global community's success in reducing the burden of HIV. The rising wave of the global burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) has prompted the World Health Organization to espouse NCD advocacy efforts as a possible preventive strategy. HIV and NCDs share some similarities in their chronicity and risky behaviors, which are their associated etiology. Therefore, pooled evidence on the effectiveness of HIV advocacy programs and ideas shared could be replicated and applied during the conceptualization of NCD advocacy programs. Such evidence, however, has not been systematically reviewed to address the effectiveness of HIV advocacy programs, particularly programs that aimed at changing public behaviors deemed as risk factors.

Objectives: To determine the effectiveness of HIV advocacy programs and draw lessons from those that are effective to strengthen future noncommunicable disease advocacy programs.

Search methods: We searched for evidence regarding the effectiveness of HIV advocacy programs in medical databases: PubMed, The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature Plus, Educational Resources and Information Center, and Web of Science, with articles dated from 1994 to 2014.

Search criteria. The review protocol was registered before this review. The inclusion criteria were studies on advocacy programs or interventions. We selected studies with the following designs: randomized controlled design studies, pre-post intervention studies, cohorts and other longitudinal studies, quasi-experimental design studies, and cross-sectional studies that reported changes in outcome variables of interest following advocacy programs. We constructed Boolean search terms and used them in PubMed as well as other databases, in line with a population, intervention, comparator, and outcome question. The flow of evidence search and reporting followed the standard Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses guidelines.

Data collection and analysis: We selected 2 outcome variables (i.e., changing social norms and a change in impact) out of 6 key outcomes of advocacy interventions. We assessed the risk of bias for all selected studies by using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized studies and using the Risk of Bias for Nonrandomized Observational Studies for observational studies. We did not grade the collective quality of evidence because of differences between the studies, with regard to methods, study designs, and context. Moreover, we could not carry out meta-analyses because of heterogeneity and the diverse study designs; thus, we used a narrative synthesis to report the findings.

Main results: A total of 25 studies were eligible, of the 1463 studies retrieved from selected databases. Twenty-two of the studies indicated a shift in social norms as a result of HIV advocacy programs, and 3 indicated a change in impact. We drew 6 lessons from these programs that may be useful for noncommunicable disease advocacy: (1) involving at-risk populations in advocacy programs, (2) working with laypersons and community members, (3) working with peer advocates and activists, (4) targeting specific age groups and asking support from celebrities, (5) targeting several, but specific, risk factors, and (6) using an evidence-based approach through formative research.

Author conclusions: HIV advocacy programs have been effective in shifting social norms and facilitating a change in impact.

Public health implications: The lessons learned from these effective programs could be used to improve the design and implementation of future noncommunicable disease advocacy programs.

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Editor’s notes: This article presents the results of a systematic review to answer a question about the effectiveness of HIV advocacy in changing social norms and changing impact among key populations. The review was conducted to learn from effective HIV advocacy and apply similar strategies for the prevention and reduction of the global burden of non-communicable diseases. The review included quantitative research only. After searching 3320 articles, 25 articles met the inclusion criteria. The HIV advocacy activities reviewed ranged from local and mass campaigns using a variety of media, to social marketing, celebrities, drama, promotional activities and counselling. Changes in social norms were assessed using six specific variables, for example testing behaviour change or HIV-associated stigma. Changes in impact were analysed in two aspects, changes in HIV transmission and in adherence to antiretroviral therapy. The review has found significant evidence of the effect of HIV advocacy on the outcomes of interest. The authors highlight lessons from HIV advocacy that might be useful for future non-communicable diseases advocacy. These included the vital role of peer-educator and of lay members of the community and the involvement of key populations in programmes that focus on them.  In addition, there is a need to tailor programmes to specific (rather than multiple) risks using local and salient evidence. 

Africa, Northern America, Oceania
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