Articles tagged as "Malawi"

Hepatitis B virus co-infection: a challenge to successful ART in sub-Saharan Africa?

Prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B virus co-infection in sub-Saharan Africa and the potential impact and program feasibility of hepatitis B surface antigen screening in resource-limited settings.

Stabinski L, OʼConnor S, Barnhart M, Kahn RJ, Hamm TE. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Apr 15;68 Suppl 3:S274-85. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000496.

Background: Screening people living with HIV for hepatitis B virus (HBV) co-infection is recommended in resource-rich settings to optimize HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) and mitigate HBV-related liver disease. This review examines the need, feasibility, and impact of screening for HBV in resource-limited settings (RLS).

Methods: We searched 6 databases to identify peer-reviewed publications between 2007 and 2013 addressing (1) HIV/HBV co-infection frequency in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); (2) performance of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) rapid strip assays (RSAs) in RLS; (3) impact of HBV co-infection on morbidity, mortality, or liver disease progression; and/or (4) impact of HBV-suppressive antiretroviral medications as part of ART on at least one of 5 outcomes (mortality, morbidity, HIV transmission, retention in HIV care, or quality of life). We rated the quality of individual articles and summarized the body of evidence and expected impact of each intervention per outcome addressed.

Results: Of 3940 identified studies, 85 were included in the review: 55 addressed HIV/HBV co-infection frequency; 6 described HBsAg RSA performance; and 24 addressed the impact of HIV/HBV co-infection and ART. HIV/HBV frequency in sub-Saharan Africa varied from 0% to >28.4%. RSA performance in RLS showed good, although variable, sensitivity and specificity. Quality of studies ranged from strong to weak. Overall quality of evidence for the impact of HIV/HBV co-infection and ART on morbidity and mortality was fair and good to fair, respectively.

Conclusions: Combined, the body of evidence reviewed suggests that HBsAg screening among people living with HIV could have substantial impact on preventing morbidity and mortality among HIV/HBV co-infected individuals in RLS.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: The routes of transmission for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV are the same, and they frequently co-infect individuals in high HIV prevalence settings. HIV has also been shown to accelerate the progression of HBV. This has important implications for ART programmes, given also the potential for hepatotoxicity of ART. The response of both infections to certain antivirals gives an opportunity to treat both infections simultaneously, but also the potential to engender resistant strains of virus if treatment is optimised for one and not the other.

This paper reviews the evidence that might support inclusion of HBV screening as part of HIV care programmes. No clinical trials have been done in this area, so the review is based on observational studies. The data are incomplete and geographically patchy, largely from Nigeria and South Africa. However, this does not prevent the authors to conclude that the co-infection risk is sufficiently high and the consequences of lack of treatment sufficiently severe to consider allocation of scarce resources to identify and manage HBV co-infection in HIV programmes. Appropriate validated screening tools such as rapid tests for hepatitis B surface antigen are available. The potential benefit warrants consideration of this issue in sub-Saharan Africa, and inclusion of HBV surveillance alongside HIV to resolve the paucity of data in most countries. This should be rapidly followed by further consideration of the cost- and risk-benefit of introduction of an HBV screening and treatment programme.

Interested readers might also refer to a review by Matthews et al. (J Clin Virol 2014;6:20-33) which considers similar questions and also discusses hepatitis C co-infection.

Avoid TB deaths
  • share

Economic strengthening programmes for people living with HIV may increase their quality of life

The impact of social services interventions in developing countries: a review of the evidence of impact on clinical outcomes in people living with HIV.

Bateganya MH, Dong M, Oguntomilade J, Suraratdecha C. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Apr 15;68 Suppl 3:S357-67. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000498.

Background: Social service interventions have been implemented in many countries to help people living with HIV (PLHIV) and household members cope with economic burden as a result of reduced earning or increased spending on health care. However, the evidence for specific interventions-economic strengthening and legal services-on key health outcomes has not been appraised.

Methods: We searched electronic databases from January 1995 to May 2014 and reviewed relevant literature from resource-limited settings on the impact of social service interventions on mortality, morbidity, retention in HIV care, quality of life, and ongoing HIV transmission and their cost-effectiveness.

Results: Of 1685 citations, 8 articles reported the health impact of economic strengthening interventions among PLHIV in resource-limited settings. None reported on legal services. Six of the 8 studies were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa: 1 reported on all 5 outcomes and 2 reported on 4 and 2 outcomes, respectively. The remaining 5 reported on 1 outcome each. Seven studies reported on quality of life. Although all studies reported some association between economic strengthening interventions and HIV care outcomes, the quality of evidence was rated fair or poor because studies were of low research rigor (observational or qualitative), had small sample size, or had other limitations. The expected impact of economic strengthening interventions was rated as high for quality of life but uncertain for all the other outcomes.

Conclusions: Implementation of economic strengthening interventions is expected to have a high impact on the quality of life for PLHIV but uncertain impact on mortality, morbidity, retention in care, and HIV transmission. More rigorous research is needed to explore the impact of more targeted intervention components on health outcomes.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: To mitigate the impact of HIV on people living with HIV and their households, economic strengthening programmes and legal services have often been implemented. However, few have been rigorously evaluated in terms of their impact on HIV outcomes. This review of the literature reveals a limited and weak evidence base on the impact of such social services programmes for people living with HIV on mortality, morbidity, retention in HIV care, quality of life, and ongoing HIV transmission. It only identifies eight studies, all of them on economic strengthening activities, and most of them qualitative or observational in design. The authors conclude that the evidence suggests a high impact of such programmes on the quality of life for people living with HIV, which was consistently reported in the studies identified. Access to other confounding services, such as ART and broader community-based support, requires these findings to be interpreted with caution.     

The study clearly highlights the need for more rigorous impact and economic evaluations in this area. Indeed, the review did not identify any studies considering costs or cost-effectiveness. The authors also recommend more research into the feasibility and sustainability of these programmes, as well as greater focus of the implemented programmes on population groups in the greatest need.  

Africa, Asia, Latin America
  • share

High levels of unmet contraceptive needs among women living with HIV in Malawi

Pregnancy prevention and condom use practices among HIV-infected women on antiretroviral therapy seeking family planning in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Haddad LB, Feldacker C, Jamieson DJ, Tweya H, Cwiak C, Chaweza T, Mlundira L, Chiwoko J, Samala B, Kachale F, Bryant AG, Hosseinipour MC, Stuart GS, Hoffman I, Phiri S. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 26;10(3):e0121039. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121039. eCollection 2015.

Background: Programs for integration of family planning into HIV care must recognize current practices and desires among clients to appropriately target and tailor interventions. We sought to evaluate fertility intentions, unintended pregnancy, contraceptive and condom use among a cohort of HIV-infected women seeking family planning services within an antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic.

Methods: 200 women completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire during enrollment into a prospective contraceptive study at the Lighthouse Clinic, an HIV/ART clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi, between August and December 2010.

Results: Most women (95%) did not desire future pregnancy. Prior reported unintended pregnancy rates were high (69% unplanned and 61% unhappy with timing of last pregnancy). Condom use was inconsistent, even among couples with discordant HIV status, with lack of use often attributed to partner's refusal. Higher education, older age, lower parity and having an HIV negative partner were factors associated with consistent condom usage.

Discussion: High rates of unintended pregnancy among these women underscore the need for integrating family planning, sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention, and HIV services. Contraceptive access and use, including condoms, must be improved with specific efforts to enlist partner support. Messages regarding the importance of condom usage in conjunction with more effective modern contraceptive methods for both infection and pregnancy prevention must continue to be reinforced over the course of ongoing ART treatment.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This paper highlights the high rate of unmet contraceptive need in sub-Saharan Africa. Almost all of the women living with HIV included in this study in Malawi reported that they did not desire future fertility. Most stated that their partners also did not desire more children.  Despite this, levels of consistent condom use were low. To ensure appropriate delivery of HIV and family planning services, it is important to understand the specific needs of women living with HIV. The study has a number of limitations, such as subjective retrospective reporting by the participants. However, the high rate of unintended pregnancies highlights the continued need to integrate family planning into HIV care. Despite the biases associated with self-reported condom use, the inconsistent condom use reported by women in this study emphasises the need for additional efforts to increase access to and uptake of effective contraceptive services to couples living with HIV, in addition to other HIV prevention and treatment services.

  • share

Boosted protease inhibitor monotherapy as second-line ART: a strategy for resource-limited settings?

Lopinavir/ritonavir monotherapy as second-line antiretroviral treatment in resource-limited settings - week 104 analysis of ACTG A5230.

Kumarasamy N, Aga E, Ribaudo HJ, Wallis CL, Katzenstein DA, Stevens WS, Norton MR, Klingman KL, Hosseinipour MC, Crump JA, Supparatpinyo K, Badal-Faesen S, Bartlett JA. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Feb 18. pii: civ109. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: ACTG A5230 evaluated lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r) monotherapy following virologic failure on first-line regimens in Africa and Asia.

Methods: Eligible subjects had received first-line regimens for at least 6 months and had plasma HIV-1 RNA levels 1000-200 000copies/mL. All subjects received LPV/r 400/100mg twice daily. Virologic failure (VF) was defined as failure to suppress to <400 copies/mL by week 24, or confirmed rebound to >400 copies/mL at or after week 16 following confirmed suppression. Subjects with VF added emtricitabine 200mg/tenofovir 300mg (FTC/TDF) once daily. The probability of continued HIV-1 RNA <400 copies/mL on LPV/r-monotherapy through week 104 was estimated with a 95% confidence interval (CI); predictors of treatment success were evaluated with Cox proportional hazards models.

Results: 123 subjects were enrolled. Four subjects died and 2 discontinued prematurely; 117 /123 (95%) completed 104 weeks. Through week 104, 49 subjects met the primary endpoint; 47 had VF, and 2 intensified treatment without VF. Of the 47 subjects with VF, 41 (33%) intensified treatment, and 39/41 subsequently achieved levels <400 copies/mL. The probability of continued suppression <400copies/mL over 104 weeks on LPV/r-monotherapy was 60% [95% CI 50%, 68%]; 80-85% maintained levels <400 copies/mL with FTC/TDF intensification as needed. Ultrasensitive assays on specimens with HIV-1 RNA level<400 copies/mL at weeks 24, 48 and 104 revealed that 61%, 62% and 65% were suppressed to <40 copies/mL, respectively.

Conclusion: LPV/r monotherapy after first-line virologic failure with FTC/TDF intensification when needed provides durable suppression of HIV-1 RNA over 104 weeks.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: First-line antiretroviral therapy failure is increasingly encountered in resource-limited settings. However limited access to viral load monitoring means that treatment failure is often not recognised until immunological or clinical failure occurs. Late switching can lead to the accumulation of resistance mutations. Resistance to nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI) is of particular concern as this class remains a component of second-line, boosted protease inhibitor (bPI)-based regimens. Several studies have now looked at boosted protease inhibitor monotherapy as an alternative strategy. A strategy which aims to limit the toxicity and additional cost associated with NRTIs. In general boosted protease inhibitor monotherapy has been found to have inferior virologic outcomes when compared to bPI plus two NRTIs or bPI plus raltegravir.

In this study, while short term virologic outcomes were favourable (87% probability of continued virologic suppression over 24 weeks); longer term outcomes with bPI monotherapy were less good. However, with frequent viral load monitoring, 4-12 weekly, early detection of virologic failure and intensification with two NRTIs, outcomes in the bPI monotherapy arm improved substantially. This strategy warrants further investigation. But without markedly increasing access to viral load monitoring and lowering the cost to allow frequent testing, it is difficult to see how this strategy could be implemented in practice in resource-constrained settings. 

HIV Treatment
Africa, Asia
  • share

Further evidence of an association with the injectable contraceptive, depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate with risk of HIV

Hormonal contraception and the risk of HIV acquisition: an individual participant data meta-analysis.

Morrison CS, Chen PL, Kwok C, Baeten JM, Brown J, Crook AM, Van Damme L, Delany-Moretlwe S, Francis SC, Friedland BA, Hayes RJ, Heffron R, Kapiga S, Karim QA, Karpoff S, Kaul R, McClelland RS, McCormack S, McGrath N, Myer L, Rees H, van der Straten A, Watson-Jones D, van de Wijgert JH, Stalter R, Low N. PLoS Med. 2015 Jan 22;12(1):e1001778. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001778. eCollection 2015.

Background: Observational studies of a putative association between hormonal contraception (HC) and HIV acquisition have produced conflicting results. We conducted an individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis of studies from sub-Saharan Africa to compare the incidence of HIV infection in women using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or the injectable progestins depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN) with women not using HC.

Methods and findings: Eligible studies measured HC exposure and incident HIV infection prospectively using standardized measures, enrolled women aged 15-49 y, recorded ≥15 incident HIV infections, and measured prespecified covariates. Our primary analysis estimated the adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) using two-stage random effects meta-analysis, controlling for region, marital status, age, number of sex partners, and condom use. We included 18 studies, including 37 124 women (43 613 woman-years) and 1830 incident HIV infections. Relative to no HC use, the aHR for HIV acquisition was 1.50 (95% CI 1.24-1.83) for DMPA use, 1.24 (95% CI 0.84-1.82) for NET-EN use, and 1.03 (95% CI 0.88-1.20) for COC use. Between-study heterogeneity was mild (I2 < 50%). DMPA use was associated with increased HIV acquisition compared with COC use (aHR 1.43, 95% CI 1.23-1.67) and NET-EN use (aHR 1.32, 95% CI 1.08-1.61). Effect estimates were attenuated for studies at lower risk of methodological bias (compared with no HC use, aHR for DMPA use 1.22, 95% CI 0.99-1.50; for NET-EN use 0.67, 95% CI 0.47-0.96; and for COC use 0.91, 95% CI 0.73-1.41) compared to those at higher risk of bias (pinteraction = 0.003). Neither age nor herpes simplex virus type 2 infection status modified the HC-HIV relationship.

Conclusions: This IPD meta-analysis found no evidence that COC or NET-EN use increases women's risk of HIV but adds to the evidence that DMPA may increase HIV risk, underscoring the need for additional safe and effective contraceptive options for women at high HIV risk. A randomized controlled trial would provide more definitive evidence about the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly DMPA, on HIV risk.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: As seen in the paper published this month by Ralph et al, observational studies have reported that hormonal contraception, in particular injectable progestins depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), may increase risk of HIV infection. This individual patient data meta-analysis adds further to the evidence. A major strength of the study is the large sample size. It provides sufficient power to examine associations between specific contraceptives and HIV risk and to investigate effect modification in pre-specified sub-group analyses. Furthermore, using individual-level data allowed a consistent approach to coding and adjustment for confounding. If the association is real, this has important implications for sexual and reproductive health in areas of sub-Saharan Africa where the incidence of HIV acquisition and unintended pregnancy is high.



Hormonal contraceptive use and women's risk of HIV acquisition: a meta-analysis of observational studies.

Ralph LJ, McCoy SI, Shiu K, Padian NS. Lancet Infect Dis. 2015 Jan 8. pii: S1473-3099(14)71052-7. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(14)71052-7. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: The evidence from epidemiological research into whether use of hormonal contraception increases women's risk of HIV acquisition is inconsistent. We did a robust meta-analysis of existing data to provide summary estimates by hormonal contraceptive method which can be used to inform contraceptive guidelines, models, and future studies.

Methods: We updated a recent systematic review to identify and describe studies that met inclusion criteria. To ensure inclusion of more recent research, we searched PubMed for articles published after December, 2011, using the terms "hormonal contraception", "HIV/acquisition", "injectables", "progestin", and "oral contraceptive pills". We assessed statistical heterogeneity for these studies, and, when appropriate, combined point estimates by hormonal contraception formulation using random-effects models. We assessed publication bias and investigated heterogeneity through subgroup and stratified analyses according to study population and design features.

Findings: We identified 26 studies, 12 of which met inclusion criteria. There was evidence of an increase in HIV risk in the ten studies of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (pooled hazard ratio [HR] 1.40, 95% CI 1.16-1.69). This risk was lower in the eight studies done in women in the general population (pooled HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.10-1.57). There was substantial between-study heterogeneity in secondary analyses of trials (n=7, I2 51.1%, 95% CI 0-79.3). Although individual study estimates suggested an increased risk, substantial heterogeneity between two studies done in women at high risk of HIV infection (I2 54%, 0-88.7) precluded pooling estimates. There was no evidence of an increased HIV risk in ten studies of oral contraceptive pills (pooled HR 1.00, 0.86-1.16) or five studies of norethisterone enanthate (pooled HR 1.10, 0.88-1.37).

Interpretation: Our findings show a moderate increased risk of HIV acquisition for all women using depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, with a smaller increase in risk for women in the general population. Whether the risks of HIV observed in our study would merit complete withdrawal of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate needs to be balanced against the known benefits of a highly effective contraceptive.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: This meta-analysis has similar findings to the individual patient data (IPD) meta-analysis by Morrison et al, also published this month. The study finds that depot medroxyprogesterone (DMPA) is associated with a moderate increase in HIV risk, and little evidence of a risk associated with combined oral contraceptives or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN). The policy implications of this finding are unclear. As with the IPD analysis, this meta-analysis is based on observational studies and does not provide conclusive evidence that DMPA causes the increased risk of HIV. However, it does provide refined estimates for modelling studies to assess the implications of possible withdrawal of DMPA on maternal and HIV-associated mortality, so that context-specific contraceptive policies can be considered.

  • share

Late antiretroviral therapy start persists for children under two years of age in low- and middle-income countries

Immunodeficiency in children starting antiretroviral therapy in low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

Koller M, Patel K, Chi BH, Wools-Kaloustian K, Dicko F, Chokephaibulkit K, Chimbetete C, Avila D, Hazra R, Ayaya S, Leroy V, Truong HK, Egger M, Davies MA, IeDEA, NISDI, PHACS and IMPAACT 219C studies.  J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Jan 1;68(1):62-72. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000380.

Background: The CD4 cell count or percent (CD4%) at the start of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) is an important prognostic factor in children starting therapy and an important indicator of program performance. We describe trends and determinants of CD4 measures at cART initiation in children from low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

Methods: We included children aged <16 years from clinics participating in a collaborative study spanning sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Missing CD4 values at cART start were estimated through multiple imputation. Severe immunodeficiency was defined according to World Health Organization criteria. Analyses used generalized additive mixed models adjusted for age, country, and calendar year.

Results: A total of 34 706 children from 9 low-income, 6 lower middle-income, 4 upper middle-income countries, and 1 high-income country (United States) were included; 20 624 children (59%) had severe immunodeficiency. In low-income countries, the estimated prevalence of children starting cART with severe immunodeficiency declined from 76% in 2004 to 63% in 2010. Corresponding figures for lower middle-income countries were from 77% to 66% and for upper middle-income countries from 75% to 58%. In the United States, the percentage decreased from 42% to 19% during the period 1996 to 2006. In low- and middle-income countries, infants and children aged 12-15 years had the highest prevalence of severe immunodeficiency at cART initiation.

Conclusions: Despite progress in most low- and middle-income countries, many children continue to start cART with severe immunodeficiency. Early diagnosis and treatment of HIV-infected children to prevent morbidity and mortality associated with immunodeficiency must remain a global public health priority.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: This article describes trends and determinants of CD4 cell measures at antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation in about 35 000 children in low, middle, and high-income countries. Temporal trends in CD4 measures at ART initiation are a useful indicator of the health system’s ability to identify and treat eligible children in a timely fashion. They are also a useful measure of responsiveness to guideline changes.

Previous WHO guidelines recommended early ART initiation, regardless of immunologic or clinical thresholds. But the authors found that in 2010, approximately two-thirds of children below two years of age, in low- and middle-income countries were still starting ART with severe immunodeficiency.

Delayed country-level implementation of WHO guidelines, poor access to early infant diagnosis, slow turn-around time of test results, and limited ART availability for infants and young children are all contributing factors to this delayed ART initiation. The authors point out that timely diagnosis of paediatric HIV does not necessarily result in timely ART. The main reasons for this diagnosis to treatment gap include HIV diagnostic tests and paediatric ART being located at separate sites without robust referral mechanisms between services. There are challenges with CD4 measurement to determine eligibility. These include access to tests, turn-around time and interpretation of results and health care worker discomfort with treating children.

Currently, only 22% of children living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are receiving ART. To decrease the treatment gap among children, WHO 2013 guidelines recommend universal ART for all children living with HIV, aged below five years of age, irrespective of CD4 count or clinical stage. Removing the requirement for a CD4 measurement also removes the time lag while waiting for CD4 results. Thus the guidelines aim both to increase treatment accessibility and to accelerate treatment initiation for all children. 

HIV Treatment
Africa, Asia, Northern America
  • share

Counsellor-initiated testing doubles the proportion of people in hospital knowing their HIV status

Implementation of routine counselor-initiated opt-out HIV testing on the adult medical ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi.

LaCourse SM, Chester FM, Matoga M, Munthali C, Nsona D, Haac B, Hoffman IF, Hosseinipour MC. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Jan 23. [Epub ahead of print]

The optimal approach of provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling (PITC) for inpatients in high-burden settings is unknown. We prospectively evaluated the implementation of task-shifting from clinician-referral to counselor-initiated PITC on the medical wards of Kamuzu Central Hospital, Malawi. The majority of patients (1905/3154, 60.4%) had an unknown admission HIV status. Counselors offered testing to 66.6% (1268/1905). HIV prevalence was 39.3%. Counselor-initiated PITC significantly increased HIV testing by 85% (643/2957 vs. 1268/3154), resulting in an almost 2-fold increase in patients with known HIV status (2447/3154 vs. 1249/3154) (both p<.0001), with 17.9% of those tested receiving a new diagnosis of HIV.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: UNAIDS estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa more than half of all people living with HIV remain unaware of their status and thus have no opportunity to access HIV care. Provider-initiated testing and counselling has been successful in increasing coverage of HIV testing in antenatal and tuberculosis clinics. In in-patient settings, it is most often the responsibility of a clinician to initiate the offer of HIV testing. Even when the universal offer of HIV testing is policy, many people may be missed.

In this study from a tertiary referral hospital in Malawi, counsellors were given responsibility for offering testing to all in-patients in the short-stay and medical wards. Prior to this programme, only 22% of people in these wards had an HIV test, and 31% of people tested were HIV-positive. During the programme period, some 60% of people admitted had unknown HIV status, of whom 67% were tested by counsellors. The refusal rate was very low, 3.2%. Some 39% of people tested were HIV positive. This seems a very effective way to maximise the number of medical in-patients who know their HIV status, thus allowing people to access appropriate care. Similar task-shifting activities have been undertaken to identify in-patients who are coughing and to ensure that their sputum is tested for tuberculosis. In settings where both HIV and tuberculosis are common, a programme combining counsellor-initiated HIV testing and cough screening could maximise case finding for both diseases. This would enable earlier initiation of treatment and reduce the risk of nosocomial transmission of tuberculosis.

HIV testing
  • share

More research is needed for understanding predictors of internalized stigma among people living with HIV

Predictors of internalised HIV-related stigma: a systematic review of studies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Pantelic M, Shenderovich Y, Cluver L, Boyes M. Health Psychol Rev. 2015 Jan 3:1-45. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: This systematic review aims to synthesize evidence on predictors of internalised HIV stigma amongst people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

Method: PRISMA guidelines were used. Studies were identified through electronic databases, grey literature, reference harvesting and contacts with key researchers. Quality of findings was assessed through an adapted version of the Cambridge Quality Checklists.

Results: A total of 590 potentially relevant titles were identified. Seventeen peer-reviewed articles and one draft book chapter were included. Studies investigated socio-demographic, HIV-related, intra-personal and inter-personal correlates of internalised stigma. Eleven articles used cross-sectional data, six articles used prospective cohort data and one used both prospective cohort and cross-sectional data to assess correlates of internalised stigma. Poor HIV-related health weakly predicted increases in internalized HIV stigma in three longitudinal studies. Lower depression scores and improvements in overall mental health predicted reductions in internalized HIV stigma in two longitudinal studies, with moderate and weak effects respectively. No other consistent predictors were found.

Conclusion: Studies utilizing analysis of change and accounting for confounding factors are necessary to guide policy and programming but are scarce. High-risk populations, other stigma markers that might layer upon internalised stigma, and structural drivers of internalised stigma need to be examined.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Internalized stigma can act as a barrier to HIV prevention and treatment. It can occur when a person living with HIV endorses negative attitudes associated with HIV and accepts these attitudes as applicable to themselves. Few stigma reduction programmes exist for people living with HIV. However, two recent studies have illustrated that internalized stigma reduction may be feasible through programmes targeting individual level factors. This paper systematically reviewed the evidence on predictors of internalized stigma among people living with HIV. The review included 18 papers looking at 13 unique studies in South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, United Republic of Tanzania, Swaziland, Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya and Burkina Faso. All included studies were observational including prospective cohort and cross-sectional study designs. In all studies, participants were recruited through health facilities. Most included studies did not report on sampling methods.

All included studies defined internalized stigma as a negative self-perception due to HIV status and the resultant feelings of shame, difficulties around disclosure and self-exclusion. Only one study looked at the effect of antiretroviral therapy (ART) use on internalized stigma and found no evidence of an association. There was weak evidence across three studies that improved physical health (measured as improved physical functioning and fewer HIV-associated symptoms) lead to reductions in internalized HIV stigma. Two studies found some evidence that lower depression scores and improvements in overall mental health predicted reductions in internalized HIV stigma. There were inconsistent findings on whether time on ART had any association with internalized stigma. No other associations with socio-demographic or interpersonal factors were found. This is a field of new and emerging research and no implications for practice can be drawn given the inconsistent findings across studies. The cross-sectional nature of most of the included studies means that it is not possible to assess long-term associations. Further research is needed to understand the factors associated with internalized stigma and how these might change over time. Future research should use rigorous study methods and should focus on key populations, HIV transmission, and structural drivers of HIV.

  • share

Associations between HIV and intimate partner violence in ten African countries

Intimate partner violence and HIV in ten sub-Saharan African countries: what do the Demographic and Health Surveys tell us?

Durevall D, Lindskog A. Lancet Glob Health. 2015 Jan;3(1):e34-43. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(14)70343-2. Epub 2014 Nov 21.

Background: Many studies have identified a significant positive relation between intimate partner violence and HIV in women, but adjusted analyses have produced inconsistent results. We systematically assessed the association, and under what condition it holds, using nationally representative data from ten sub-Saharan African countries, focusing on physical, sexual, and emotional violence, and on the role of male controlling behaviour.

Methods: We assessed cross-sectional data from 12 Demographic and Health Surveys from ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The data are nationally representative for women aged 15-49 years. We estimated odds ratios using logistic regression with and without controls for demographic and socioeconomic factors and survey-region fixed effects. Exposure was measured using physical, sexual, emotional violence, and male controlling behaviour, and combinations of these. The samples used were ever-married women, married women, and women in their first union. Depending on specification, the sample size varied between 11 231 and 45 550 women.

Findings: There were consistent and strong associations between HIV infection in women and physical violence, emotional violence, and male controlling behaviour (adjusted odds ratios ranged from 1.2 to 1.7; p values ranged from <0.0001 to 0.0058). The evidence for an association between sexual violence and HIV was weaker and only significant in the sample with women in their first union. The associations were dependent on the presence of controlling behaviour and a high regional HIV prevalence rate; when women were exposed to only physical, sexual, or emotional violence, and no controlling behaviour, or when HIV prevalence rates are lower than 5%, the adjusted odds ratios were, in general, close to 1 and insignificant.

Interpretation: The findings indicate that male controlling behaviour in its own right, or as an indicator of ongoing or severe violence, puts women at risk of HIV infection. HIV prevention interventions should focus on high-prevalence areas and men with controlling behaviour, in addition to violence.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Despite two cohort studies illustrating that exposures to intimate partner violence are associated with incident HIV infection, evidence from cross-sectional analysis of population data is more mixed. Using Demographic and Health Surveys data for women aged 15-49 years from 10 sub-Saharan countries, this paper illustrates that HIV infection is strongly associated with physical violence and/or emotional violence and controlling behaviour, with a weaker association with sexual violence. For all forms of violence, the association was strongest among women who also reported that their partner was controlling, and in settings where HIV prevalence exceeds five percent. This study adds to the growing literature on HIV and intimate partner violence that suggests that risk is not only linked to forced sex, but rather to being in a violent and controlling relationship. The paper highlights the importance of male control as a risk factor for HIV, and supports the need for HIV prevention programmes that focus on reducing intimate partner violence in higher-prevalence settings.

  • share

Increasing transmitted resistance to antiretroviral therapy in low/middle-income countries - highest prevalence in MSM

Global burden of transmitted HIV drug resistance and HIV-exposure categories: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Pham QD, Wilson DP, Law MG, Kelleher AD, Zhang L. AIDS. 2014 Nov 28;28(18):2751-62. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000494.

Objectives: Our aim was to review the global disparities of transmitted HIV drug resistance (TDR) in antiretroviral-naive MSM, people who inject drugs (PWID) and heterosexual populations in both high-income and low/middle-income countries.

Design/methods: We undertook a systematic review of the peer-reviewed English literature on TDR (1999-2013). Random-effects meta-analyses were performed to pool TDR prevalence and compare the odds of TDR across at-risk groups.

Results: A total of 212 studies were included in this review. Areas with greatest TDR prevalence were North America (MSM: 13.7%, PWID: 9.1%, heterosexuals: 10.5%); followed by western Europe (MSM: 11.0%, PWID: 5.7%, heterosexuals: 6.9%) and South America (MSM: 8.3%, PWID: 13.5%, heterosexuals: 7.5%). Our data indicated disproportionately high TDR burdens in MSM in Oceania (Australia 15.5%), eastern Europe/central Asia (10.2%) and east Asia (7.8%). TDR epidemics have stabilized in high-income countries, with a higher prevalence (range 10.9-12.6%) in MSM than in PWID (5.2-8.3%) and heterosexuals (6.4-9.0%) over 1999-2013. In low/middle-income countries, TDR prevalence in all at-risk groups in 2009-2013 almost doubled than that in 2004-2008 (MSM: 7.8 vs. 4.2%, P = 0.011; heterosexuals: 4.1 vs. 2.6%, P < 0.001; PWID: 4.8 vs. 2.4%, P = 0.265, respectively). The risk of TDR infection was significantly greater in MSM than that in heterosexuals and PWID. We observed increasing trends of resistance to non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase and protease inhibitors among MSM.

Conclusion: TDR prevalence is stabilizing in high-income countries, but increasing in low/middle-income countries. This is likely due to the low, but increasing, coverage of antiretroviral therapy in these settings. Transmission of TDR is most prevalent among MSM worldwide.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: HIV mutates very rapidly, and many early antiretroviral agents had a low genetic barrier to the development of resistance. Thus the emergence of virus resistant to antiretroviral agents, particularly to early drug classes, was inevitable. Surveillance for drug-resistant virus among people with no prior history of taking antiretroviral drugs (transmitted drug resistance) is essential to monitor the spread of drug resistance at population level.

This systematic review aimed to compare transmitted drug resistance in different geographical regions and between subpopulations of HIV-positive people by likely route of transmission. Transmitted resistance was most prevalent in high income settings. This is not surprising given wide use of suboptimal drug regimens before effective triple therapy was available. Reassuringly, the prevalence of transmitted resistance seems to have stabilised in high-income settings. The increase in transmitted resistance in low and middle income countries is of more concern. It is not surprising, given that first-line regimens comprising two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor are vulnerable to the development of resistance if the drug supply is interrupted or adherence is suboptimal. In addition, if viral load monitoring is not available, people remain on failing drug regimens for longer, and thus have more risk of transmitting resistant virus.

Within the subpopulations examined in this review, transmitted resistance was consistently higher in men who have sex with men, suggesting that resistance testing prior to treatment is particularly valuable for this population.

Limitations of the review include exclusion of studies that did not compare transmitted resistance between the specified subpopulations, and small sample size in many subgroups.

Continued surveillance for transmitted drug resistance is critical. This is most important in settings where individualised resistance testing is not available. This will ensure that people starting antiretroviral therapy receive treatment that will suppress their viral load effectively. Wider use of viral load monitoring, combined with access to effective second and third line regimens, will also help limit spread of drug resistance.

HIV Treatment
Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Malawi, Malaysia, Moldova, Mozambique, Netherlands, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • share