Articles tagged as "Nigeria"

Effective, long-term programmes for alcohol and sexual risk reduction are yet to be shown

HIV-alcohol risk reduction interventions in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review of the literature and recommendations for a way forward.

Carrasco MA, Esser MB, Sparks A, Kaufman MR. AIDS Behav. 2015 Oct 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Sub-Saharan Africa bears 69% of the global burden of HIV, and strong evidence indicates an association between alcohol consumption, HIV risk behavior, and HIV incidence. However, characteristics of efficacious HIV-alcohol risk reduction interventions are not well known. The purpose of this systematic review is to summarize the characteristics and synthesize the findings of HIV-alcohol risk reduction interventions implemented in the region and reported in peer-reviewed journals. Of 644 citations screened, 19 met the inclusion criteria for this review. A discussion of methodological challenges, research gaps, and recommendations for future interventions is included. Relatively few interventions were found, and evidence is mixed about the efficacy of HIV-alcohol risk reduction interventions. There is a need to further integrate HIV-alcohol risk reduction components into HIV prevention programming and to document results from such integration. Additionally, research on larger scale, multi-level interventions is needed to identify effective HIV-alcohol risk reduction strategies.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Alcohol and risk of HIV have been shown to be linked, yet little is known about which programmes are best at reducing this risk. This paper features a systematic review updating a previous review published by the authors in 2011. While this update found several more programmes aimed at reducing risky behaviour caused by alcohol use and in more countries than just the one previously, South Africa, the results of the review are largely the same. Most programmes had limited follow-up time of participants and found a dissipating effect over time. Additionally, older models of behaviour change were primarily used as the frameworks upon which these programmes were built. These models focus only on individual behaviour and not on the structural factors further affecting consumption of alcohol and risky sexual behaviour. On a positive note, some studies found moderate success based on location of the programme, clinic versus bar or tavern setting for instance. This review clearly demonstrates the need for further efforts to integrate alcohol risk reduction components into HIV prevention programmes, particularly for populations in which alcohol consumption is common.

Africa
Angola, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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AIDS and bacterial disease remain leading causes of hospital admission

Causes of hospital admission among people living with HIV worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Ford N, Shubber Z, Meintjes G, Grinsztejn B, Eholie S, Mills EJ, Davies MA, Vitoria M, Penazzato M, Nsanzimana S, Frigati L, O'Brien D, Ellman T, Ajose O, Calmy A, Doherty M. Lancet HIV. 2015 Oct;2(10):e438-44. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00137-X. Epub 2015 Aug 11.

Background: Morbidity associated with HIV infection is poorly characterised, so we aimed to investigate the contribution of different comorbidities to hospital admission and in-hospital mortality in adults and children living with HIV worldwide.

Methods: Using a broad search strategy combining terms for hospital admission and HIV infection, we searched MEDLINE via PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, LILACS, AIM, IMEMR and WPIMR from inception to Jan 31, 2015, to identify studies reporting cause of hospital admission in people living with HIV. We focused on data reported after 2007, the period in which access to antiretroviral therapy started to become widespread. We estimated pooled proportions of hospital admissions and deaths per disease category by use of random-effects models. We stratified data by geographical region and age.

Findings: We obtained data from 106 cohorts, with reported causes of hospital admission for  313 006 adults and 6182 children living with HIV. For adults, AIDS-related illnesses (25 119 patients, 46%, 95% CI 40-53) and bacterial infections (14 034 patients, 31%, 20-42) were the leading causes of hospital admission. These two categories were the most common causes of hospital admission for adults in all geographical regions and the most common causes of mortality. Common region-specific causes of hospital admission included malnutrition and wasting, parasitic infections, and haematological disorders in the Africa region; respiratory disease, psychiatric disorders, renal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, and liver disease in Europe; haematological disorders in North America; and respiratory, neurological, digestive and liver-related conditions, viral infections, and drug toxicity in South and Central America. For children, AIDS-related illnesses (783 patients, 27%, 95% CI 19-34) and bacterial infections (1190 patients, 41%, 26-56) were the leading causes of hospital admission, followed by malnutrition and wasting, haematological disorders, and, in the African region, malaria. Mortality in individuals admitted to hospital was 20% (95% CI 18-23, 12 902 deaths) for adults and 14% (10-19, 643 deaths) for children.

Interpretation: This review shows the importance of prompt HIV diagnosis and treatment, and the need to reinforce existing recommendations to provide chemoprophylaxis and vaccination against major preventable infectious diseases to people living with HIV to reduce serious AIDS and non-AIDS morbidity.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Despite the widening availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV-associated disease remains an important cause of illness and death. In this systematic review the authors summarise published data concerning causes of hospital admission among HIV-positive people since 2007. This date was selected on the basis that access to ART was limited prior to 2007.

Overall the most common causes of admission among adults, across all geographical regions, were AIDS-associated illness and bacterial infections. Tuberculosis was the most common cause among adults, accounting for 18% of all admissions, followed by bacterial pneumonia (15%). Among children, similarly AIDS-associated illnesses (particularly tuberculosis and Pneumocystis pneumonia) and bacterial infections were the most common causes of admission. Among the 20% of adults who died during their admission, the most common causes of death were tuberculosis, bacterial infections, cerebral toxoplasmosis and cryptococcal meningitis. Among children the most common causes of death were tuberculosis, bacterial infections and Pneumocystis pneumonia. Tuberculosis is likely to have been underestimated in these studies. Autopsy studies consistently illustrate that around half of HIV-positive people who have tuberculosis identified at autopsy had not been diagnosed prior to death.

The review highlights that the majority of severe HIV-associated disease remains attributable to advanced immunosuppression. This is reflected by a median CD4 count at admission among adults of 168 cells per µl. Some 30% of people first tested HIV positive at the time of the admission. The review underlines the need to promote HIV testing so that HIV-positive people can access ART, and prevent the complications of advanced HIV disease. It also underscores the need for better coverage of screening for tuberculosis and preventive therapy for people without active disease.  

Avoid TB deaths
Comorbidity, Epidemiology
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Better integration of programmes against alcohol use necessary at every step of the HIV treatment cascade

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

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

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

Abstract access 

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

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A combination approach – the most impactful mechanism to reduce new HIV cases in Nigeria

Modelling the impact and cost-effectiveness of combination prevention amongst HIV serodiscordant couples in Nigeria.

Mitchell KM, Lepine A, Terris-Prestholt F, Torpey K, Khamofu H, Folayan MO, Musa J, Anenih J, Sagay AS, Alhassan E, Idoko J, Vickerman P. AIDS. 2015 Sep 24;29(15):2035-44. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000798.

Objective: To estimate the impact and cost-effectiveness of treatment as prevention (TasP), pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and condom promotion for serodiscordant couples in Nigeria.

Design: Mathematical and cost modelling.

Methods: A deterministic model of HIV-1 transmission within a cohort of serodiscordant couples and to/from external partners was parameterized using data from Nigeria and other African settings. The impact and cost-effectiveness were estimated for condom promotion, PrEP and/or TasP, compared with a baseline where antiretroviral therapy (ART) was offered according to 2010 national guidelines (CD4 <350 cells/µl) to all HIV-positive partners. The impact was additionally compared with a baseline of current ART coverage (35% of those with CD4 <350 cells/µl). Full costs (in US $2012) of programme introduction and implementation were estimated from a provider perspective.

Results: Substantial benefits came from scaling up ART to all HIV-positive partners according to 2010 national guidelines, with additional smaller benefits of providing TasP, PrEP or condom promotion. Compared with a baseline of offering ART to all HIV-positive partners at the 2010 national guidelines, condom promotion was the most cost-effective strategy [US $1206/disability-adjusted-life-year (DALY)], the next most cost-effective intervention was to additionally give TasP to HIV-positive partners (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio US $1607/DALY), followed by additionally giving PrEP to HIV-negative partners until their HIV-positive partners initiate ART (US $7870/DALY). When impact was measured in terms of infections averted, PrEP with condom promotion prevented double the number of infections as condom promotion alone.

Conclusions: The first priority intervention for serodiscordant couples in Nigeria should be scaled up ART access for HIV-positive partners. Subsequent incremental benefits are greatest with condom promotion and TasP, followed by PrEP.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Despite large reductions in incident HIV infections, Nigeria still has the second largest epidemic globally. Only 35% of  eligible individuals (under NIgerian guidelines) receive antiretroviral treatment. A mathematical model was developed describing HIV-1 transmission between serodiscordant heterosexual partnerships and to/from external partners. The impact and cost-effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), Treatment as Prevention (TasP) and condom promotion for serodiscordant couples was estimated. Two baseline scenarios were used. The first was offering ART at 2010 national guidelines (CD4+<350cells/µl) to all positive individuals. The second assumed current ART coverage (35%) among eligible HIV positive partners.

Scaling up current ART has the greatest impact, and is the most cost effective method for reducing new HIV infections in Nigeria, averting 15% of infections over 20 years. This equated to 35% of all infections under the strategy with the highest impact, which included TasP, long-term PrEP and condom promotion, and 73% of DALYs. The results were most strongly influenced by assumptions around frequency of sex within partnerships, per-act transmission rates, programme efficacy and dropout rates. As more resources become available, after giving ART to all eligible individuals, condom promotion was the next most cost-effective approach. In terms of DALYS averted however, TasP was more likely to be the most cost-effective initial programme.

The study illustrates that the first priority in Nigeria should be scaling up ART to all individuals who are already eligible under Nigerian guidelines from its current level of 35%. Condom promotion within serodiscordant couples was also predicted to be highly cost-effective. Additionally, initiating treatment regardless of CD4 count was predicted to bring about substantial and highly cost-effective additional gains in DALYs averted.

The authors illustrate that combination approaches are important in this setting and should be considered for future programme policy.

condoms, treatment
Africa
Nigeria
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HIV-associated stigma may impede HIV medication adherence among people living with HIV

The association of HIV-related stigma to HIV medication adherence: a systematic review and synthesis of the literature.

Sweeney SM, Vanable PA. AIDS Behav. 2015 Aug 25. [Epub ahead of print]

This paper provides a review of the quantitative literature on HIV-related stigma and medication adherence, including: (1) synthesis of the empirical evidence linking stigma to adherence, (2) examination of proposed causal mechanisms of the stigma and adherence relationship, and (3) methodological critique and guidance for future research. We reviewed 38 studies reporting either cross-sectional or prospective analyses of the association of HIV-related stigma to medication adherence since the introduction of antiretroviral therapies (ART). Although there is substantial empirical evidence linking stigma to adherence difficulties, few studies provided data on psychosocial mechanisms that may account for this relationship. Proposed mechanisms include: (a) enhanced vulnerability to mental health difficulties, (b) reduction in self-efficacy, and (c) concerns about inadvertent disclosure of HIV status. Future research should strive to assess the multiple domains of stigma, use standardized measures of adherence, and include prospective analyses to test mediating variables.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: People living with HIV often experience stigma and discrimination including social isolation and negative stereotyping. Recent evidence suggests that stigma may influence adherence to HIV medication among people living with HIV. This paper presents findings from a systematic review of the evidence on the impact of HIV-associated stigma on HIV medication adherence. The authors identified 38 studies which quantitatively assessed the association between stigma and medication adherence. All studies found evidence indicating that stigma contributed to adherence difficulties among people living with HIV. Included studies looked at diverse patient populations sampled from different countries and contexts. While stigma is heavily influenced by the socio-cultural context, the association between stigma and adherence across diverse contexts indicates that there may be commonalities in what causes stigma and how this relates to adherence.

The authors of this review suggest three possible causal mechanisms of HIV-associated stigma and medication adherence: (1) There may be links between stigma and depressive symptoms, and between depressive symptoms and adherence. Internalized stigma may enhance vulnerability to depressive symptoms, and this may influence adherence to HIV medication. (2) Stigma may cause reductions in self-efficacy – a person’s judgment of his or her ability to organize and execute behaviours - which may influence medication adherence. (3) People may fear HIV status disclosure by being seen taking HIV medication. Fear of status disclosure, and associated stigma, may cause people to avoid taking HIV medication.

The studies included in this review indicate a clear link between HIV-associated stigma and HIV medication adherence. There may be commonalities in what causes stigma across multiple populations. Future research should assess the influence of multiple forms of stigma on adherence, and on testing causal mechanisms between stigma and adherence. 

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START trial illustrates benefit of ART start with CD4>500

Initiation of antiretroviral therapy in early asymptomatic HIV infection.

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

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

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

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

HIV Treatment
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Switching to second-line ART – we need to do better

Monitoring and switching of first-line antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa: collaborative analysis of adult treatment cohorts.

Haas AD, Keiser O, Balestre E, Brown S, Bissagnene E, Chimbetete C, Dabis F, Davies MA, Hoffmann CJ, Oyaro P, Parkes-Ratanshi R, Reynolds SJ, Sikazwe I, Wools-Kaloustian K, Zannou DM, Wandeler G, Egger M, for IeDea Southern Africa EA, West A. Lancet HIV. 2015 Jul 1;2(7):e271-e278.

Background: HIV-1 viral load testing is recommended to monitor antiretroviral therapy (ART) but is not universally available. The aim of our study was to assess monitoring of first-line ART and switching to second-line ART in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We did a collaborative analysis of cohort studies from 16 countries in east Africa, southern Africa, and west Africa that participate in the international epidemiological database to evaluate AIDS (IeDEA). We included adults infected with HIV-1 who started combination ART between January, 2004, and January, 2013. We defined switching of ART as a change from a non-nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI)-based regimen to one including a protease inhibitor, with adjustment of one or more nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Virological and immunological failures were defined according to WHO criteria. We calculated cumulative probabilities of switching and hazard ratios with 95% CIs comparing routine viral load monitoring, targeted viral load monitoring, CD4 monitoring, and clinical monitoring, adjusting for programme and individual characteristics.

Findings: Of 297 825 eligible patients, 10 352 (3%) switched to second-line ART during 782 412 person-years of follow-up. Compared with CD4 monitoring, hazard ratios for switching were 3·15 (95% CI 2·92–3·40) for routine viral load monitoring, 1·21 (1·13–1·30) for targeted viral load monitoring, and 0·49 (0·43–0·56) for clinical monitoring. Of 6450 patients with confirmed virological failure, 58·0% (95% CI 56·5–59·6) switched by 2 years, and of 15 892 patients with confirmed immunological failure, 19·3% (18·5–20·0) switched by 2 years. Of 10 352 patients who switched, evidence of treatment failure based on one CD4 count or viral load measurement ranged from 86 (32%) of 268 patients with clinical monitoring to 3754 (84%) of 4452 with targeted viral load monitoring. Median CD4 counts at switching were 215 cells per μL (IQR 117–335) with routine viral load monitoring, but were lower with other types of monitoring (range 114–133 cells per μL).

Interpretation: Overall, few patients switched to second-line ART and switching happened late in the absence of routine viral load monitoring. Switching was more common and happened earlier after initiation of ART with targeted or routine viral load testing.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Routine viral load monitoring should allow the early identification of first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) failure, allowing prompt switch to second-line ART. Prolongation of treatment with a failing regimen compromises future therapeutic options (through the accumulation of drug resistance mutations) and potentially leads to increased morbidity and mortality. Previous reports from Africa have suggested that surprisingly few people switch to second-line therapy, even in programmes with routine viral load monitoring. This raises concerns that there are challenges on the ground with identification and management of ART failure.

This is a comprehensive analysis bringing together data from a number of well-characterised cohorts in Africa. In this analysis, switching to second-line ART was rare (3% over an average of almost three years follow-up). In programmes with routine viral load monitoring, only half of the people with confirmed virologic failure on first-line ART (two viral loads >1000 copies/ml) were recorded as having been switched to second-line ART. Furthermore, half of the people that were switched to a second-line regimen did not have evidence of confirmed virologic failure, suggesting that some may have been switched too early without first attempting adherence programmes which may achieve re-suppression on first-line ART. Unsurprisingly, rates of switching were lower in programmes with CD4+ monitoring (with or without targeted viral load testing) or clinical monitoring alone. 

While guidelines and algorithms around identification and management of first-line ART failure are relatively clear and straightforward, translating this into action on the ground seems to be difficult. At least part of this is likely to be due to the lack of tools to reliably measure adherence and the consequent difficulty that frontline health care workers have in identifying people that truly require a switch to second-line ART. Moreover, most programmes still do not routinely monitor indicators relating to virologic suppression or treatment failure and so this might not be seen as a priority by health care workers and programme managers. There is a need for research to explore how best to maximise virologic suppression in resource-constrained settings, as well as studies to evaluate the impact of programmes such as point-of-care viral load testing.

Africa
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Regressive laws on same sex relationships increases stigma and reduces health service use

The immediate effect of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act on stigma, discrimination, and engagement on HIV prevention and treatment services in men who have sex with men in Nigeria: analysis of prospective data from the TRUST cohort.

Schwartz SR, Nowak RG, Orazulike I, Keshinro B, Ake J, Kennedy S, Njoku O, Blattner WA, Charurat ME, Baral SD, TRUST Study Group. Lancet HIV. 2015 Jul 1;2(7):e299-e306.

Background: In January, 2014, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was signed into law in Nigeria, further criminalising same-sex sexual relationships. We aimed to assess the immediate effect of this prohibition act on stigma, discrimination, and engagement in HIV prevention and treatment services in men who have sex with men (MSM) in Nigeria.

Methods: The TRUST cohort study uses respondent-driven sampling to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of engagement of MSM in HIV prevention and treatment services at a clinical site located with a community-based organisation trusted by the MSM community. TRUST is a prospective implementation research cohort of MSM (≥16 years) in Abuja, Nigeria. We compared HIV clinical outcomes and stigma, including fear and avoidance of health care, across baseline and quarterly visits before and after implementation of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Outcomes assessed were measures of stigma and discrimination, loss to follow-up, antiretroviral therapy status, and viral load. We compared outcomes before and after the legislation with chi2 statistics, and estimated incident stigma-related events and loss to follow-up with Poisson regression.

Findings: Between March 19, 2013, and Aug 7, 2014, 707 MSM participated in baseline study procedures, contributing to 756 before legislation (prelaw) and 420 after legislation (postlaw) visits. Reported history of fear of seeking health care was significantly higher in postlaw visits than in prelaw visits (n=161 [38%] vs n=187 [25%]; p<0.0001), as was avoidance of health care (n=118 [28%] vs n=151 [20%]; p=0.001). In incidence analyses, of 192 MSM with follow-up data and no history of an event at baseline, reported fear of seeking health care was higher in the postlaw than the prelaw period (n=144; incidence rate ratio 2.57, 95% CI 1.29-5.10; p=0.007); loss to follow-up and incident healthcare avoidance were similar across periods. Of the 161 (89%) of 181 HIV-infected MSM with HIV viral loads available, those who had disclosed sexual behaviour with a health-care provider were more often virally suppressed at baseline than those with no previous disclosure (18 [29%] of 62 vs 13 [13%] of 99 men; p=0.013).

Interpretation: These analyses represent individual-level, quantitative, real-time prospective data for the health-related effects resulting from the enactment of legislation further criminalising same-sex practices. The negative effects of HIV treatment and care in MSM reinforce the unintended consequences of such legislation on global goals of HIV eradication. Strategies to reach MSM less likely to engage in HIV testing and care in highly stigmatised environments are needed to reduce time to HIV diagnosis and treatment.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Despite the recent implementation of progressive laws on same-sex relationships and marriage in several settings, other countries – including Nigeria – have moved to criminalise same sex practises. As well as broader human rights concerns, there is the risk that policies that criminalise same-sex practices, or the community groups addressing the health-related needs of these populations, might restrict the coverage of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes. However, despite these concerns, there is extremely limited quantitative evidence on the impact of such policies. In Nigeria, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was passed in 2011, coming into law in 2014. Before this legislation, consensual sex between male same-sex couples was already prohibited. The new law further criminalised same sex practices, including prohibiting participation in organisations and service provision. This study opportunistically analysed data from an on-going prospective cohort study of gay men and other men who have sex with men in Abuja, which had started prior to the law’s implementation, and continued after its introduction. The study assessed the degree to which this legislation impacted on gay men and other men who have sex with men’s fear and health service use. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the study illustrates that the law did impact negatively on gay men and other men who have sex with men – significantly increasing their fear of and avoidance of health services, as well as increasing their levels of harassment and experience of blackmail. Prior to the new legislation, levels were already high, with the new law seeming to exacerbate existing barriers and stigma. The findings are important, illustrating how regressive laws can increase the stigmatisation of already marginalised groups, and undermine the gay men and other men who have sex with men’s access to health associated services. Supportive policy environments, along with HIV programmes for marginalised populations, form an essential part of an effective HIV response.

Africa
Nigeria
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Expansions in HIV treatment believed to reduce HIV stigma

HIV treatment scale-up and HIV-related stigma in sub-Saharan Africa: a longitudinal cross-country analysis.

Chan BT, Tsai AC, Siedner MJ. Am J Public Health. 2015 Jun 11:e1-e7. [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302716

Objectives: We estimated the association between antiretroviral therapy (ART) uptake and HIV-related stigma at the population level in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We examined trends in HIV-related stigma and ART coverage in sub-Saharan Africa during 2003 to 2013 using longitudinal, population-based data on ART coverage from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and on HIV-related stigma from the Demographic and Health Surveys and AIDS Indicator Surveys. We fitted 2 linear regression models with country fixed effects, with the percentage of men or women reporting HIV-related stigma as the dependent variable and the percentage of people living with HIV on ART as the explanatory variable.

Results: Eighteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa were included in our analysis. For each 1% increase in ART coverage, we observed a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of women (b = -0.226; P = .007; 95% confidence interval [CI] = -0.383, -0.070) and men (b = -0.281; P = .009; 95% CI = -0.480, -0.082) in the general population reporting HIV-related stigma.

Conclusions: An important benefit of ART scale-up may be the diminution of HIV-related stigma in the general population. .

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Focused on sub-Saharan Africa, this study suggests that a benefit of the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) may have been a reduction in HIV-associated stigma. The authors combine data on HIV-associated stigma from the Demographic and Health Surveys and AIDS Indicator Surveys with data on ART coverage from UNAIDS. The results are presented for each of 18 countries and the authors suggest that increases in ART coverage are correlated with decreasing stigma, especially among countries with high HIV prevalence. The authors hypothesise that by allowing a person with HIV to experience a healthier life, ART reduces the stigma of HIV’s association with moral deviance. The authors also attribute knowledge to decreases in stigma.

While addressing an interesting and important question, the paper has some limitations. We suggest that participant responses to questions about whether they would be willing to care for someone “sick with AIDS”, and whether they would want a family member to keep an AIDS diagnosis “secret” cannot safely be interpreted as reflecting stigmatising attitudes or anticipated stigma. It would have been interesting to know if the methods used in the analysis could assess the role of ART relative to other factors in being associated with any changes over time in HIV-associated stigma.

Africa
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Men who have sex with men in sub-Saharan Africa: a review of the evidence

Emerging themes for sensitivity training modules of African healthcare workers attending to men who have sex with men: a systematic review.

Dijkstra M, van der Elst EM, Micheni M, Gichuru E, Musyoki H, Duby Z, Lange JM, Graham SM, Sanders EJ. Int Health. 2015 May;7(3):151-162. Epub 2015 Jan 16.

Sensitivity training of front-line African health care workers (HCWs) attending to men who have sex with men (MSM) is actively promoted through national HIV prevention programming in Kenya. Over 970 Kenyan-based HCWs have completed an eight-modular online training free of charge (http://www.marps-africa.org) since its creation in 2011. Before updating these modules, we performed a systematic review of published literature of MSM studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa (sSA) in the period 2011-2014, to investigate if recent studies provided: important new knowledge currently not addressed in existing online modules; contested information of existing module topics; or added depth to topics covered already. We used learning objectives of the eight existing modules to categorise data from the literature. If data could not be categorised, new modules were suggested. Our review identified 142 MSM studies with data from sSA, including 34 studies requiring module updates, one study contesting current content, and 107 studies reinforcing existing module content. ART adherence and community engagement were identified as new modules. Recent MSM studies conducted in sSA provided new knowledge, contested existing information, and identified new areas of MSM service needs currently unaddressed in the online training.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Same sex practices remain criminalised in sub-Saharan Africa. Gay men and other men who have sex with men face stigma, discrimination, harassment and arrest. Health care workers frequently have no training on issues affecting gay men and other men who have sex with men and are ill-prepared to work sensitively with them. Together these can deter these men from accessing health care and HIV/STI services, increasing their risk of HIV and other poor health outcomes.

This study conducted a systematic review of gay men and other men who have sex with men in sub-Saharan Africa. The findings were used to update an on-line training programme for health care workers in Kenya. This previously comprised modules on i) men who have sex with men and HIV in Africa ii) homophobia: stigma and its effects; iii) sexual identity, coming out and disclosure; iv) anal sex and common sexual practices; v) HIV and STIs; vi) condom and lubricant use; vii) mental health: anxiety, depression and substance use; and viii) risk-reduction counselling. The review updated the training programme with new evidence and two new modules were introduced: ix) ART adherence; and x) community engagement.

Health care workers play a crucial role in reducing stigma and discrimination facing gay men and other men who have sex with men. This systematic review provided a valuable step in updating an important, accessible training programme. Reducing homoprejudice and ensuring health care workers have accurate and up-to-date knowledge are key to improving service uptake by gay men and other men who have sex with men.

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