Articles tagged as "Malawi"

Intrauterine infections, but not obstetric complications, more common among pregnant women with HIV

HIV and the Risk of Direct Obstetric Complications: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 

Calvert C, Ronsmans C. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 4;8(10):e74848. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074848.

Background: Women of reproductive age in parts of sub-Saharan Africa are faced both with high levels of HIV and the threat of dying from the direct complications of pregnancy. Clinicians practicing in such settings have reported a high incidence of direct obstetric complications among HIV-infected women, but the evidence supporting this is unclear. The aim of this systematic review is to establish whether HIV-infected women are at increased risk of direct obstetric complications.

Methods and findings: Studies comparing the frequency of obstetric haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, dystocia and intrauterine infections in HIV-infected and uninfected women were identified. Summary estimates of the odds ratio (OR) for the association between HIV and each obstetric complication were calculated through meta-analyses. In total, 44 studies were included providing 66 data sets; 17 on haemorrhage, 19 on hypertensive disorders, five on dystocia and 25 on intrauterine infections. Meta-analysis of the OR from studies including vaginal deliveries indicated that HIV-infected women had over three times the risk of a puerperal sepsis compared with HIV-uninfected women [pooled OR: 3.43, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.00-5.85]; this figure increased to nearly six amongst studies only including women who delivered by caesarean (pooled OR: 5.81, 95% CI: 2.42-13.97). For other obstetric complications the evidence was weak and inconsistent.

Conclusions: The higher risk of intrauterine infections in HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women may require targeted strategies involving the prophylactic use of antibiotics during labour. However, as the huge excess of pregnancy-related mortality in HIV-infected women is unlikely to be due to a higher risk of direct obstetric complications, reducing this mortality will require non obstetric interventions involving access to ART in both pregnant and non-pregnant women.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Women with HIV are thought to have a higher risk of adverse outcomes during pregnancy. This review is valuable in summarizing available data on this topic. Many of the included studies predated the wide availability of antiretroviral therapy. There was a clear association between HIV infection and intrauterine infections, but not with the other obstetric complications, e.g., obstetric haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, dystocia, examined in the review. Considering individual conditions analysed, HIV infection was associated with antepartum haemorrhage, (but not postpartum haemorrhage). It was also found to be associated with pregnancy-induced hypertension (but not pre-eclampsia or eclampsia), and uterine rupture or prolonged labour (but not other complications of dystocia). The authors note that the studies were generally of low quality, and there were too few studies to examine the effect of antiretroviral therapy on these complications.  

Given the excess of intrauterine infections in women with HIV, the authors suggest that these might be preventable with prophylactic antibiotics. Overall, where causes of maternal mortality are documented, pregnant women with HIV are more likely to die of non-pregnancy related infections, than of obstetric complications. Specifically, non-pregnancy related infections are tuberculosis, pneumonia or meningitis. Pregnant women living with HIV need access to antenatal services and a skilled attendant at delivery. But, the top priority with respect to reducing maternal mortality is effective antiretroviral therapy.

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Incentivizing HIV/STI testing leads to increased uptake in non-clinical, but not in clinical settings

Incentivizing HIV/STI testing: a systematic review of the literature.

Lee R, Cui RR, Muessig KE, Thirumurthy H, Tucker JD. AIDS Behav. 2013 Sep 26. [Epub ahead of print]

Suboptimal HIV/STI testing uptake has a profound impact on morbidity and mortality. Incentives have been effective in other areas of medicine and may improve HIV/STI testing uptake rates. This study reviewed the effects of incentives on HIV/STI testing uptake. A systematic search of seven databases was undertaken. Testing uptake was defined as test implementation and/or test result retrieval. Incentives were defined as monetary or non-monetary rewards or free-of-charge testing vouchers. Seven studies were included. All seven studies demonstrated higher rates of uptake in an incentivized group. Incentives offered at a non-clinical setting demonstrated more significant differences in uptake rates compared to incentives offered at a clinical setting. Incentivizing HIV/STI testing uptake, especially testing at a non-clinical setting, may be a useful tool to modify health behavior. Further research is needed to understand how incentives could be an effective component within a comprehensive HIV/STI control strategy.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Increasing testing for HIV and other STIs is key to increase treatment uptake and to encourage sexual behaviour changes. This is the first systematic review to look at the effect of offering economic incentives to increase STI testing uptake. Results from the 7 studies identified are consistent and encouraging, especially when testing is offered in a non-clinic setting (e.g. at mobile services).  Further research is needed to better understand the potential role for incentives, including the optimal value of the incentive; monetary versus non-monetary incentives; and the potential for using free-of-charge vouchers for increasing STI testing uptake. Across sub-Saharan Africa, men are less likely to test for HIV than women. This is partly driven by the increase in provider-initiated testing and counselling associated with antenatal care. New community-based interventions, such as home based testing and self-testing are needed to increase access to testing for all. Financial incentives may be an important component of such strategies. 

Africa, Northern America, Oceania
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Iron supplementation in anaemic children: reduces HIV disease progression but increases malaria

Iron Supplementation in HIV-Infected Malawian Children With Anemia: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Trial.

Esan MO, van Hensbroek MB, Nkhoma E, Musicha C, White SA, Ter Kuile FO, Phiri  KS. Clin Infect Dis. 2013 Sep 24. [Epub ahead of print] 

Background: It is unknown whether iron supplementation in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)infected children living in regions with high infection pressure is safe or beneficial. A 2-arm, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial was conducted to examine the effects of iron supplementation on hemoglobin, HIV disease progression, and morbidity.

Methods: HIV-infected Malawian children aged 659 months with moderate anemia (hemoglobin level, 7.09.9 g/dL) were randomly assigned to receive 3 mg/kg/day of elemental iron and multivitamins (vitamins A, C, and D) or multivitamins alone for 3 months. Participants were followed for 6 months.

Results: A total of 209 children were randomly assigned to treatment, and 196 (93.8%) completed 6 months of follow-up. Iron supplementation was associated with greater increases in hemoglobin concentrations (adjusted mean difference [aMD], 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI], .06–1.13; P = .03) and reduced the risk of anemia persisting for up to 6 months follow-up (adjusted prevalence ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, .38–.92; P = .02). Children who received iron had a better CD4 percentage response at 3 months (aMD, 6.00; 95% CI, 1.84–10.16; P = .005) but an increased incidence of malaria at 6 months (incidence rate, 120.2 vs 71.7; adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR], 1.81 [95% CI, 1.04–3.16]; P = .04), especially during the first 3 months (incidence rate, 78.1 vs 36.0; aIRR, 2.68 [95% CI, 1.08–6.63]; P = .03).

Conclusions: Iron supplementation in anemic HIV-infected children has beneficial effects on hemoglobin, anemia, and immunity but increases the risk of malaria. Thus, iron supplementation in HIV-infected children living in malaria-endemic areas should only be provided in combination with adequate protection from malaria.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: There is a large overlap between anaemia and HIV in areas where both conditions are prevalent. There has been concern about possible increased risk of infection with iron supplementation in HIV-negative children. This is the first randomized controlled trial to examine the efficacy and safety of iron in HIV-positive children in an area with a high pressure of infections (including malaria). Despite the multifactorial aetiology of anaemia in HIV infection, iron supplementation was associated with an improvement in haemoglobin and reduced risk of persisting anaemia. Additionally, among iron-deficient children, iron supplementation was associated with a reduced risk of HIV disease progression. However, there was an increased risk of malaria, particularly among children aged over two years. This study shows that iron supplementation can be included in the HIV care package for children, combined with interventions to protect against malaria. The interaction between iron, immunity and infection is complex and needs further study. 

Africa
Malawi
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Some evidence of impact from external funding for HIV, TB and malaria - and the need for more

Impact of external funding for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria: systematic review.

de Jongh TE, Harnmeijer JH, Atun R, Korenromp EL, Zhao J, Puvimanasinghe J, Baltussen R. Health Health Policy Plan. 2013 Aug 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Background:  Since 2002, development assistance for health has substantially increased, especially investments for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria control. We undertook a systematic review to assess and synthesize the existing evidence in the scientific literature on the health impacts of these investments.

Methods and Findings:  We systematically searched databases for peer-reviewed and grey literature, using tailored search strategies. We screened studies for study design and relevance, using predefined inclusion criteria, and selected those that enabled us to link health outcomes or impact to increased external funding. For all included studies, we recorded dataset and study characteristics, health outcomes and impacts. We analysed the data using a causal-chain framework to develop a narrative summary of the published evidence. Thirteen articles, representing 11 individual studies set in Africa and Asia reporting impacts on HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, met the inclusion criteria. Only two of these studies documented the entire causal-chain spanning from funding to programme scale-up, to outputs, outcomes and impacts. Nonetheless, overall we find a positive correlation between consecutive steps in the causal chain, suggesting that external funds for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria programmes contributed to improved health outcomes and impact.

Conclusions:  Despite the large number of supported programmes worldwide and despite an abundance of published studies on HIV, TB and malaria control, we identified very few eligible studies that adequately demonstrated the full process by which external funding has been translated to health impact. Most of these studies did not move beyond demonstrating statistical association, as opposed to contribution or causation. We thus recommend that funding organizations and researchers increase the emphasis on ensuring data capture along the causal pathway to demonstrate effect and contribution of external financing. The findings of these comprehensive and rigorously conducted impact evaluations should also be made publicly accessible.

Keywords: Africa, Asia, Health financing, developing countries, donors, health outcomes, impact

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: In the current context of resource constraints and after a decade of unprecedented increases in development assistance for health (particularly for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria), donors are increasingly concerned about the value for money of their investments. This study reviewed available evidence on the impact of external funding, finding a paucity of rigorous scientific evaluation data on the efficiency, effectiveness and impact.

The identified HIV studies found associations between programme investments and increased access and adherence to ART, as well as reduced HIV-related mortality, but limited evidence of preventive impacts on rates of HIV infection. There were many study limitations, including the lack of randomization or robust controls, and relatively small (or statistically insignificant) observed effects. Few studies provided a full analysis of effectiveness along the causal chain from inputs to impact, and none considered the potential undesirable effects of external funding.

Although the aims of the study were ambitious, this paper highlights the challenges of documenting the impacts of financial investments, with the authors arguing that future evaluations need to adopt a more systemic approach to impact evaluation that better captures the causal pathway between investment inputs and impacts, as well as broader system-wide effects. 

Africa, Asia
Cameroon, China, India, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia
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Improving access to HIV viral load testing in resource-limited settings

Pooled HIV-1 viral load testing using dried blood spots to reduce the cost of monitoring antiretroviral treatment in a resource-limited setting.

Pannus P, Fajardo E, Metcalf C, Coulborn RM, Durán LT, Bygrave H, Ellman T, Garone D, Murowa M, Mwenda R, Reid T, Preiser W J., Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2013 Jul 25. [Epub ahead of print]

Roll-out of routine HIV-1 viral load monitoring is hampered by high costs and logistical difficulties associated with sample collection and transport. New strategies are needed to overcome these constraints. Dried blood spots from finger-pricks have been shown to be more practical than the use of plasma specimens, and pooling strategies using plasma specimens have been demonstrated to be an efficient method to reduce costs. This study found that combination of finger-prick dried blood spots (DBS) and a pooling strategy is a feasible and efficient option to reduce costs while maintaining accuracy in the context of a district hospital in Malawi.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: The use of dried blood spots from finger-prick testing overcomes some of the logistical barriers to scaling up viral load monitoring in resource-limited settings. It enables task-shifting of sample collection to lower cadre healthcare workers, removes phlebotomy costs and, as there is no need for a cold chain, overcomes transport barriers. A pooling strategy, whereby samples from different patients are pooled, analyzed together, and only analyzed individually if the pooled sample ‘flags’ positive, has been shown to reduce the cost of viral load monitoring without compromising test accuracy. This study, conducted by MSF in a district hospital laboratory in Malawi, demonstrates that this combined approach is feasible in this setting, cost efficient in that it reduces the number of viral load tests by approximately 30-50%, and accurate (negative predictive value 97-100%; positive predictive value 96-100% despite limited sensitivity at the 5 000 copies/ml threshold). Although the cost savings will vary according to the underlying prevalence of virological failure (pooling is less efficient at a high prevalence) and local laboratory costs, this study demonstrates that this approach is a feasible strategy which could be used to facilitate the roll-out of viral load monitoring in resource-limited settings. 

Africa
Malawi
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Decentralised HIV treatment is no worse than hospital based care, and in some cases better

Decentralising HIV treatment in lower- and middle-income countries.

Kredo T, Ford N, Adeniyi FB, Garner P. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 27;6:CD009987. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009987.pub2.

Background:  Policy makers, health staff and communities recognise that health services in lower- and middle-income countries need to improve people's access to HIV treatment and retention to treatment programmes. One strategy is to move antiretroviral delivery from hospitals to more peripheral health facilities or even beyond health facilities. This could increase the number of people with access to care, improve health outcomes, and enhance retention in treatment programmes. On the other hand, providing care at less sophisticated levels in the health service or at community-level may decrease quality of care and result in worse health outcomes. To address these uncertainties, we summarised the research studies examining the risks and benefits of decentralising antiretroviral therapy service delivery.

Objectives: To assess the effects of various models that decentralised HIV treatment and care to more basic levels in the health system for initiating and maintaining antiretroviral therapy.

Search methods: We conducted a comprehensive search to identify all relevant studies regardless of language or publication status (published, unpublished, in press, and in progress) from 1 January 1996 to 31 March 2013, and contacted relevant organisations and researchers. The search terms included 'decentralisation', 'down referral', 'delivery of health care', and 'health services accessibility'.

Selection criteria: Our inclusion criteria were controlled trials (randomised and non-randomised), controlled-before and after studies, and cohorts (prospective and retrospective) in which HIV-infected people were either initiated on antiretroviral therapy or maintained on therapy in a decentralised setting in lower- and middle-income countries. We define decentralisation as providing treatment at a more basic level in the health system to the comparator.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors applied the inclusion criteria and extracted data independently. We designed a framework to describe different decentralisation strategies, and then grouped studies against these strategies. Data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis. Because loss to follow up in HIV programmes is known to include some deaths, we used attrition as our primary outcome, defined as death plus loss to follow-up. We assessed evidence quality with GRADE methodology.

Main results: Sixteen studies met the inclusion criteria, all but one were from Africa, comprising two cluster randomised trials and 14 cohort studies. Antiretroviral therapy started at a hospital and maintained at a health centre (partial decentralisation) probably reduces attrition (RR 0.46, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.71, 4 studies, 39 090 patients, moderate quality evidence). There may be fewer patients lost to care with this model (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.69, low quality evidence).We are uncertain whether there is a difference in attrition for antiretroviral therapy started and maintained at a health centre (full decentralisation) compared to a hospital at 12 months (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.47 to 1.02; four studies, 56 360 patients, very low quality evidence), but there are probably fewer patients lost to care with this model (RR 0.3, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.54, moderate quality evidence). When antiretroviral maintenance therapy is delivered at home by trained volunteers, there is probably no difference in attrition at 12 months (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.46, two trials, 1453 patients, moderate quality evidence).

Authors' conclusions: Decentralisation of HIV care aims to improve patient access and retention in care. Most data were from good quality cohort studies but confounding between site of treatment and outcomes cannot be excluded. Nevertheless, this review found that attrition appears to be lower in partial decentralisation models of treatment, where antiretrovirals were started at hospital and continued in the health centre; with antiretroviral drugs started and continued at health centres, no difference in attrition was detected, but there were fewer patients lost to care. For antiretroviral therapy provided at home by trained volunteers, no difference in outcomes was detected when compared to facility-based care.

Abstract   Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: As we aim to reach targets of 15 million people on ART by 2015, there is a great need to expand ART services and make them more accessible and to use models that can be scaled up given the constraints within the health sector. One approach is to decentralise care and provide follow up care to patients in health centres or at home. This is a systematic review of the impact of three models of decentralised care on patient attrition (the sum of lost to follow up and mortality) over time, with varying degree of transferring initiation and follow-up to peripheral service levels (from hospital to health centre or community base care). All three analyses showed that decentralised services are at least as good as more centralised approaches for patient retention; while the two health centre based models appear to significantly improve retention relative to a hospital based model. This provides important evidence the potential of decentralised ART to greatly expand treatment access, in particular to rural areas. 

Africa, Asia
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Disproportionately high HIV risk and gender disparity in prevalence among urban poor in Sub-Saharan Africa

The disproportionate high risk of HIV infection among the urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa.

Magadi MA. AIDS Behav. 2013 Jun;17(5):1645-54. doi: 10.1007/s10461-012-0217-y.

The link between HIV infection and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is rather complex and findings from previous studies remain inconsistent. While some argue that poverty increases vulnerability, existing empirical evidence largely support the view that wealthier men and women have higher prevalence of HIV. In this paper, we examine the association between HIV infection and urban poverty in SSA, paying particular attention to differences in risk factors of HIV infection between the urban poor and non-poor. The study is based on secondary analysis of data from the Demographic and Health Surveys from 20 countries in SSA, conducted during 2003-2008. We apply multilevel logistic regression models, allowing the urban poverty risk factor to vary across countries to establish the extent to which the observed patterns are generalizable across countries in the SSA region. The results reveal that the urban poor in SSA have significantly higher odds of HIV infection than urban non-poor counterparts, despite poverty being associated with a significantly lower risk among rural residents. Furthermore, the gender disparity in HIV infection (i.e. the disproportionate higher risk among women) is amplified among the urban poor. The paper confirms that the public health consequence of urban poverty that has been well documented in previous studies with respect to maternal and child health outcomes does apply to the risk of HIV infection. The positive association between household wealth and HIV prevalence observed in previous studies largely reflects the situation in the rural areas where the majority of the SSA populations reside.

Abstract   Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Evidence on the association between socio-economic position and HIV incidence in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been mixed and appears to be changing over time. Although wealth was previously a predictor of HIV infection, it has recently been suggested that poverty is increasingly driving new infections in mature epidemics, especially in rural areas, where the majority of the population in SSA resides. With high rates of urbanisation both in SSA and globally (according to UNAIDS 2 of every 3 people living with HIV will be living in urban areas by 2030), this article provides important disaggregated evidence of the higher risk of HIV infection among the urban poor as well, and particularly among poor urban women. Even after controlling for sexual behaviour, the results suggest that other structural factors that characterise the environment, in which the urban poor live, such as unemployment, discrimination and violence, may be playing a key role. Interestingly, higher educational attainment was found to be associated with higher HIV risk among the urban poor, while it appeared to be protective among the better-off urban population. This may be pointing towards the ‘inverse equity hypothesis’, discussed in another paper this month (Hargreaves et al.), whereby groups with higher socio-economic position (wealth and/or education) are expected to benefit first from HIV/health interventions, thereby initially widening the gap in health outcomes until the poor catch up. 

Africa
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HIV prevention laws based on moralistic judgements of lawmakers may increase stigma

'The intention may not be cruel... but the impact may be': understanding legislators' motives and wider public attitudes to a draft HIV Bill in Malawi.

Stackpool-Moore, L. Sex Transm Infect. 2013. June 89 (4)

Objectives: The law in relation to HIV has prominence in the formation and regulation of moral norms in regard to human rights, and in regard to criminalisation, the policing of sexuality and intimate behaviours, and the production of stigma. The research focuses on the potential and impotence of the law to govern for, and enable, the human right to health in the context of HIV in Malawi.

Methods: This one-country qualitative case study (Malawi) action research involved data collection during a 6-month period (October 2010-March 2011). Datasets include interviews with law commissioners (n=10), opinion leaders (n=22), life story participants who were people living with and closely affected by HIV (n=20), reflections of the action research team (n=6), and a review of the proposed HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Management) Bill, legal and policy documents.

Results: The analysis of the perspectives of the law commissioners, who formed the Special Law Commission and drafted the Bill, revealed that stigma was consciously invoked to delineate social norms and guide governance of notions of personal responsibility. The analysis of the perspectives of the life story participants, whose lives would be most directly impacted if these provisions came into force, reveals the extent to which the stigma associating criminality and HIV is falling on fertile ground through its engagement and generation of internalised stigma; unearthing an uneasy link between stigma and the law in response to HIV in Malawi.

Discussion: The results indicated that the proposed HIV Bill in Malawi manifests a tension between intention and impact. By incorporating criminal sanctions as part of the proposed HIV Bill, the lawmakers actively seek to use stigma to shape social attitudes and attempt to guide normative behaviour.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: This paper presents research that examines the impact of criminal law in relation to HIV on stigma in Malawi. Through interviews with lawmakers and life story interviews with people living with and closely affected by HIV, the author examined how participants understand the proposed draft HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Management) Bill. The legal initiative for the bill, whilst based on principles of non-discrimination, includes provision to imprison a person who knows that he (sic) is HIV positive and does not refrain from an act which is likely to infect another person or who deliberately infects another person. Of great concern, the interviews revealed that whilst participants stated a support for non-discrimination of people living with HIV, many supported criminalisation of HIV transmission. The lawmakers were almost unanimously in favour of criminalising HIV transmission as a way to seek retribution and justice rather than for prevention of HIV transmission. The author noted that the lawmakers were particularly judgemental and moralistic about the issue. The people living with or affected by HIV were less certain and provided arguments for and against criminalisation, especially in relation to deliberate transmission of HIV where knowledge of status is not known. They were particularly worried that this law may dissuade people from testing. This paper provides an important understanding of the tension between political level intent to reduce stigma around HIV and the moralizing position taken by law- and policy makers. More worryingly, the author suggests that the perpetuation of stigma through such means as this law could be used to maintain or establish social control. 

Africa
Malawi
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Identifying hotspots of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa

Mapping HIV clustering: a strategy for identifying populations at high risk of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cuadros DF, Awad SF, Abu-Raddad LJ. Int J Health Geogr. 2013 May 22;12:28.

Background: The geographical structure of an epidemic is ultimately a consequence of the drivers of the epidemic and the population susceptible to the infection. The know your epidemicconcept recognizes this geographical feature as a key element for identifying populations at higher risk of HIV infection where prevention interventions should be targeted. In an effort to clarify specific drivers of HIV transmission and identify priority populations for HIV prevention interventions, we conducted a comprehensive mapping of the spatial distribution of HIV infection across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Methods: The main source of data for our study was the Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 20 countries from SSA. We identified and compared spatial clusters with high and low numbers of HIV infections in each country using Kulldorff spatial scan test. The test locates areas with higher and lower numbers of HIV infections than expected under spatial randomness. For each identified cluster, a likelihood ratio test was computed. A P-value was determined through Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate the statistical significance of each cluster.

Results: Our results suggest stark geographic variations in HIV transmission patterns within and across countries of SSA. About 14% of the population in SSA is located in areas of intense HIV epidemics. Meanwhile, another 16% of the population is located in areas of low HIV prevalence, where some behavioral or biological protective factors appear to have slowed HIV transmission.

Conclusions: Our study provides direct evidence for strong geographic clustering of HIV infection across SSA. This striking pattern of heterogeneity at the micro-geographical scale might reflect the fact that most HIV epidemics in the general population in SSA are not far from their epidemic threshold. Our findings identify priority geographic areas for HIV programming, and support the need for spatially targeted interventions in order to maximize the impact on the epidemic in SSA.

 Abstract   Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This novel study used DHS data to map the clustering of HIV at a local level in 20 sub-Saharan African countries. The method identifies ‘hotspots’ and ‘cool spots’ of HIV infection within each country, mapping the results in a visually striking way.  The data show marked geographical variation within countries. For example, in Senegal, where overall prevalence is 0.75%, a hotspot with general population prevalence of 4.35% was identified. Conversely, within some countries with substantial HIV epidemics (Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi), the study identified settings with very low HIV prevalence. The authors present a ‘relative risk’ (ratio of HIV prevalence within the cluster to that outside the cluster) and, not surprisingly, find that this was higher in low prevalence countries.  It may also be interesting to see an absolute risk, and estimated excess number of cases. The authors hypothesize that the spatial variation may be less to do with variation in behavioural and biological factors than to the fact that HIV infection transmission in SSA is close to the epidemic (or sustainability) threshold – which means that small changes in risk factors can generate substantial changes in HIV prevalence. The implication of this is that, by focusing on the HIV ‘hotspots’, even modest intervention-driven changes in risk behaviour may have considerable impact in reducing HIV prevalence.

Africa
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Routine testing of paediatric hospital inpatients a critical entry point for identifying HIV-positive children

Routine inpatient provider-initiated HIV testing in Malawi, compared with client-initiated community-based testing, identifies younger children at higher risk of early mortality.

 Preidis GA, McCollum ED, Kamiyango W, Garbino A, Hosseinipour MC, Kazembe PN, Schutze GE, Kline MW. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2013 May1;63(1):e16-22.

Objective: To determine how routine inpatient provider-initiated HIV testing differs from traditional community-based client-initiated testing with respect to clinical characteristics of children identified and outcomes of outpatient HIV care.

Design: Prospective observational cohort.

Methods: Routine clinical data were collected from children identified as HIV-infected by either testing modality in Lilongwe, Malawi, in 2008. After 1 year of outpatient HIV care at the Baylor College of Medicine Clinical Center of Excellence, outcomes were assessed.

Results: Of 742 newly identified HIV-infected children enrolling into outpatient HIV care, 20.9% were identified by routine inpatient HIV testing. Compared with community-identified children, hospital-identified patients were younger (median 25.0 vs 53.5 months), with more severe disease (22.2% vs 7.8% WHO stage IV). Of 466 children with known outcomes, 15.0% died within the first year of HIV care; median time to death was 15.0 weeks for community-identified children vs 6.0 weeks for hospital-identified children. The strongest predictors of early mortality were severe malnutrition (hazard ratio, 4.3; 95% confidence interval, 2.2-8.3), moderate malnutrition (hazard ratio, 3.2; confidence interval, 1.6-6.6), age < 12 months (hazard ratio, 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-7.2), age 12 to 24 months (hazard ratio, 2.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-5.7), and WHO stage IV (hazard ratio, 2.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-4.6). After controlling for other variables, hospital identification did not independently predict mortality.

Conclusions: Routine inpatient HIV testing identifies a subset of younger HIV-infected children with more severe, rapidly progressing disease that traditional community-based testing modalities are currently missing.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Less than a quarter of children eligible for ART are receiving it, and one of the most important barriers is that HIV-positive children are not diagnosed.  Routine HIV counselling and testing of paediatric inpatients is a critical point of entry into HIV care. The longitudinal design of this study from Lilongwe, Malawi, compares long-term outcomes in children identified through provider-initiated testing and counselling (PITC) and community-based testing. The children identified through PITC were distinctly different from the community-identified children - being younger, more malnourished and with more advanced HIV disease and a higher early mortality rate.  However, among those who survived to one year, the clinical profile was very similar to the children identified in the community. This study provides strong evidence for the role of PITC in identifying and treating young, high-risk, HIV positive children.

Africa
Malawi
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