Articles tagged as "South Africa"

Profound effect of ART on mortality through reduction of opportunistic infections

Incidence of opportunistic infections and the impact of antiretroviral therapy among HIV-infected adults in low and middle income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 

Low A, Gavriilidis G, Larke N, Lajoie MR, Drouin O, Stover J, Muhe L, Easterbrook P. Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Mar 6. pii: ciw125. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: To understand regional burdens and inform delivery of health services, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the effect of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on incidence of key opportunistic infections (OIs) in HIV-infected adults in low and middle-income countries (LMIC).

Methods: Eligible studies describing the cumulative incidence of OIs and proportion on ART from 1990 to November 2013 were identified using multiple databases. Summary incident risks for the ART-naive period, and during and after the first year of ART, were calculated using random effects meta-analyses. Summary estimates from ART subgroups were compared using meta-regression. The number of OI cases and associated costs averted if ART was initiated at CD4 ≥200 cells/µl was estimated using UNAIDS country estimates and global average OI treatment cost per case.

Results: We identified 7965 citations, and included 126 studies describing 491 608 HIV-infected persons. In ART-naive patients, summary risk was highest (>5%) for oral candidiasis, tuberculosis, herpes zoster, and bacterial pneumonia. The reduction in incidence was greatest for all OIs during the first 12 months of ART (range 57-91%) except for tuberculosis, and was largest for oral candidiasis, PCP and toxoplasmosis. Earlier ART was estimated to have averted 857 828 cases in 2013 (95% confidence interval [CI], 828 032-874 853), with cost savings of $46.7 million (95% CI, 43.8-49.4).

Conclusions: There was a major reduction in risk for most OIs with ART use in LMICs, with the greatest effect seen in the first year of treatment. ART has resulted in substantial cost savings from OIs averted.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Opportunistic infections (OIs) remain the major cause of HIV-associated mortality. OIs account for substantially higher mortality in low and middle income countries (LMICs) compared to high income countries (HICs).

This paper describes the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis including about 500 000 people on ART in LMICs across three regions (sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America). These large numbers enabled the investigators to look at the effect of ART on the incidence of key OIs during and after the first year of treatment.

Not surprisingly they found that the effect of ART reduced the risk of all OIs during the first year after ART initiation, although the reduction was less for tuberculosis. The authors attribute this to the occurrence of tuberculosis across a wide range of CD4 cell counts, a smaller effect of early immune restoration and the contribution of TB as a manifestation of immune reconstitution syndrome during the first months after ART initiation. Beyond one year after ART initiation, the reduction in tuberculosis was greater.

They conclude that the effect of ART on the incidence of most HIV-associated OIs is the key reason for the global decline in HIV-associated mortality. However, a significant proportion of HIV-positive persons still continue to present with advanced disease. Besides timely ART initiation, additional measures such as CTX prophylaxis, screening for TB and cryptococcal disease, and the use of isoniazid and fluconazole prophylaxis should be considered for late presenters. 

Africa, Asia, Latin America
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Risky young love

Perspectives on intimate relationships among young people in rural South Africa: the logic of risk. 

Edin K, Nilsson B, Ivarsson A, Kinsman J, Norris SA, Kahn K. Cult Health Sex. 2016 Mar 17:1-15. [Epub ahead of print]

This paper explores how young people in rural South Africa understand gender, dating, sexuality and risk-taking in adolescence. The empirical material drawn upon consists of 20 interviews with young men and women (aged 18-19) and reflects normative gender patterns characterised by compulsory heterosexuality and dating as obligatory, and representing key symbols of normality. However, different meanings of heterosexual relationships are articulated in the interviews, for example in the recurring concept of 'passing time', and these meanings show that a relationship can be something arbitrary: a way to reduce boredom and have casual sex. Such a rationale for engaging in a relationship reflects one of several other normative gender patterns, which relate to the trivialisation of dating and sexual risk-taking, and which entail making compromises and legitimising deviations from the 'ideal' life-script and the hope of a better future. However, risks do not exclusively represent something bad, dangerous or immoral, because they are also used as excuses to avoid sex, HIV acquisition and early pregnancy. In conclusion, various interrelated issues can both undermine and/or reinforce risk awareness and subsequent risk behaviour. Recognition of this tension is essential when framing policies to support young people to reduce sexual risk-taking behaviour.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: This article explores how young people in a poor, rural area in South Africa articulate and understand gender, dating, sexuality, and risk-taking.  Twenty young people (10 female, 10 male) aged between 18 and 19 years of age were randomly selected from three villages that participate in the Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System in Mpumalanga Province in north-eastern South Africa. 

Participants’ narratives highlight how normative gender patterns characterised by compulsory heterosexuality and dating as obligatory represent key symbols of normality. The authors highlight how two themes, early pregnancy and HIV, are central to understanding practices of dating and heterosexual relationships. They are also important for understanding ideas about the consequences of a dissolute lifestyle and the risk it exerts on plans and hopes for a better future. This risk was perceived to be particularly acute by, and for, young women who are seen to bear the brunt of negative outcomes, particularly relating to early school dropout.

The findings of this study have important implications for HIV prevention programmes, particularly for adolescent girls and young women. Where intimate relationships are trivialised as guided by normative gender patterns and pressure to have heterosexual relationships, young people risk becoming infected with HIV, becoming parents too early, and interrupting their education. The findings highlight the potential for context-sensitive programmes which play careful attention to local norms and young people’s internalised relationship discourses. These could usefully include opportunities for critical reflection in order to support young people to reduce their exposure to risks.  It is also important to recognise young people’s aspirations, and the perceived benefits they derive from relationships.

Africa
South Africa
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Couples programme illustrates benefits in effecting change in drinking and HIV risk behaviours among men

The male factor: outcomes from a cluster randomized field experiment with a couples-based HIV prevention intervention in a South African township.

Wechsberg WM, Zule WA, El-Bassel N, Doherty IA, Minnis AM, Novak SD, Myers B, Carney T. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Apr 1;161:307-15. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.02.017. Epub 2016 Feb 18.

Background: This study examined the effects of the Couples Health CoOp intervention on heavy drinking, condom use, and HIV incidence.

Methods: Thirty neighborhoods from one South African township were cluster randomized into three intervention arms: Couples Health CoOp (CHC), Women's Health CoOp/Men's Health CoOp (WHC/MHC), or a comparison arm. We recruited 290 men from informal drinking establishments who reported drinking alcohol regularly. We also recruited their main heterosexual sex partners.

Results: At 6-month follow-up, men in the CHC arm were less likely to report heavy drinking (OR 0.47, 95% CI: 0.25, 0.90) and were more likely to report consistent condom use during the past month (OR 2.66, 95% CI: 1.23, 5.76) than men in the comparison arm. At baseline, 26% of women and 13% of men were HIV-infected; at 6-month follow-up, 16 females and 5 males had seroconverted. HIV incidence was significantly lower among women in the CHC arm (IRR 0.22, 95% CI: 0.04, 1.01) than in the WHC/MHC arm.

Conclusions: A couples-based intervention focusing on intersecting risks for HIV can improve bio-behavioral outcomes, underscoring the importance of engaging couples together in HIV prevention.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: This study describes the benefits of a novel couples-based programme that addresses key drivers of HIV incidence in South Africa. It focuses on the intersection of alcohol use, relationship contexts, and gender norms. Heavy drinking among men in South Africa is associated with HIV risks including multiple concurrent sexual partnerships and low rates of condom use. In addition, heavy drinking alongside gender norms that disempower women can lead to increased HIV risk for female partners. For example, women may seek sexual partners outside of their main relationship for money, due to male regular partners spending household income on alcohol instead. The study extends the Women’s Health CoOp (an evidence-based programme to reduce substance use, violence, and sexual risks among vulnerable women) to include both partners. The hypothesis is that a programme addressing both partners together (the Couples Health CoOp [CHC] arm) would be more effective than the original female-focused programme at reducing alcohol use and risk behaviors. They found that men reported reduced heavy drinking in all three arms including the control arm after six months (compared to baseline) and the reduction in heavy drinking was greatest in the CHC arm. This highlights the role of couples-based programmes for HIV prevention in women. The high HIV incidence in this setting (16 per 100 person-years in women; 4 per 100 person-years in men) is a reminder that innovative activities are necessary. Future work should continue to include exploration of the effectiveness of adapting of single-gender programmes to be couple-based. 

Africa
South Africa
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Tackling taboos and preventing HIV: family programmes to prevent HIV in adolescence

Developing family interventions for adolescent HIV prevention in South Africa. 

Kuo C, Atujuna M, Mathews C, Stein DJ, Hoare J, Beardslee W, Operario D, Cluver L, L KB. AIDS Care. 2016 Mar;28 Suppl 1:106-10. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2016.1146396. Epub 2016 Feb 26.

Adolescents and young people account for 40% of all new HIV infections each year, with South Africa one of the hardest hit countries, and having the largest population of people living with HIV. Although adolescent HIV prevention has been delivered through diverse modalities in South Africa, and although family-based approaches for adolescent HIV prevention have great potential for highly affected settings such as South Africa, there is a scarcity of empirically tested family-based adolescent HIV preventive interventions in this setting. We therefore conducted focus groups and in-depth interviews with key informants including clinicians, researchers, and other individuals representing organizations providing HIV and related health services to adolescents and parents (N = 82). We explored family perspectives and interactions around topics such as communication about sex, HIV, and relationships. Participants described aspects of family interactions that presented both challenges and opportunities for family-based adolescent HIV prevention. Parent-child communication on sexual topics were taboo, with these conversations perceived by some adults as an invitation for children to engage in HIV risk behavior. Parents experienced social sanctions for discussing sex and adolescents who asked about sex were often viewed as disrespectful and needing discipline. However, participants also identified context-appropriate strategies for addressing family challenges around HIV prevention including family meetings, communal parenting, building efficacy around parent-adolescent communication around sexual topics, and the need to strengthen family bonding and positive parenting. Findings indicate the need for a family intervention and identify strategies for development of family-based interventions for adolescent HIV prevention. These findings will inform design of a family intervention to be tested in a randomized pilot trial.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This short paper presents a qualitative study about family discussions about HIV and sex in Khayelitsha, South Africa. The results illustrate that sex is considered by many adults a taboo subject with adolescents younger than 18 years old. Young people who initiate discussion about sex, HIV risk or pregnancy can be scolded for being disrespectful. Sex is often discussed as a problem after young people have already started being sexually active. Study participants identified ‘family conferences’, with parents but also relatives more broadly, as promising settings for programmes. The activities should facilitate discussions that frame communication about sex and HIV prevention as positive. 

Africa
South Africa
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An innovative method to evaluate community support for children: Using existing datasets

How effective is help on the doorstep? A longitudinal evaluation of community-based organisation support. 

Sherr L, Yakubovich AR, Skeen S, Cluver LD, Hensels IS, Macedo A, Tomlinson M. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 11;11(3):e0151305. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151305. eCollection 2016.

Community-based responses have a lengthy history. The ravages of HIV on family functioning has included a widespread community response. Although much funding has been invested in front line community-based organisations (CBO), there was no equal investment in evaluations. This study was set up to compare children aged 9-13 years old, randomly sampled from two South African provinces, who had not received CBO support over time (YC) with a group of similarly aged children who were CBO attenders (CCC). YC baseline refusal rate was 2.5% and retention rate was 97%. CCC baseline refusal rate was 0.7% and retention rate was 86.5%. 1848 children were included—446 CBO attenders compared to 1402 9-13 year olds drawn from a random sample of high-HIV prevalence areas. Data were gathered at baseline and 12-15 months follow-up. Standardised measures recorded demographics, violence and abuse, mental health, social and educational factors. Multivariate regression analyses revealed that children attending CBOs had lower odds of experiencing weekly domestic conflict between adults in their home (OR 0.17; 95% CI 0.09, 0.32), domestic violence (OR 0.22; 95% CI 0.08, 0.62), or abuse (OR 0.11; 95% CI 0.05, 0.25) at follow-up compared to participants without CBO contact. CBO attenders had lower odds of suicidal ideation (OR 0.41; 95% CI 0.18, 0.91), fewer depressive symptoms (B = -0.40; 95% CI -0.62, -0.17), less perceived stigma (B = -0.37; 95% CI -0.57, -0.18), fewer peer problems (B = -1.08; 95% CI -1.29, -0.86) and fewer conduct problems (B = -0.77; 95% CI -0.95, -0.60) at follow-up. In addition, CBO contact was associated with more prosocial behaviours at follow-up (B = 1.40; 95% CI 1.13, 1.67). No associations were observed between CBO contact and parental praise or post-traumatic symptoms. These results suggest that CBO exposure is associated with behavioural and mental health benefits for children over time. More severe psychopathology was not affected by attendance and may need more specialised input.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This study is novel in both its research question and its methodology. The study aims to assess whether receipt of support from community-based organisations (CBOs) impacts the mental and social well-being of children in high HIV prevalence areas. The CBOs studied include many different organisations with diverse services, giving the study the benefit of assessing the overall impact of a combination of small, motivated groups. This helps lend credibility to CBOs and to convince policymakers and funders to support small-scale CBOs.

In terms of methodology, the study utilises two longitudinal datasets from southern Africa to explore the study aims. One survey is from a study of children affected by HIV served by CBOs, while the other is from a study of children affect by HIV without CBO support. There are some limitations to using two different studies, most especially unclear comparability and, in this case, lack of control data to adjust for possible differences, for example on socio-economic status or how HIV specifically affected the child. Despite these, this paper has striking results, and is an innovative effort to improve our understanding of the impact of CBOs on children’s well-being and should spur further creativity in impact evaluation methods.

Africa
South Africa
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The conundrum of future funding for HIV – who pays and how?

Long-term financing needs for HIV control in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015-2050: a modelling study. 

Atun R, Chang AY, Ogbuoji O, Silva S, Resch S, Hontelez J, Barnighausen T. BMJ Open. 2016 Mar 6;6(3):e009656. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009656.

Objectives: To estimate the present value of current and future funding needed for HIV treatment and prevention in 9 sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries that account for 70% of HIV burden in Africa under different scenarios of intervention scale-up. To analyse the gaps between current expenditures and funding obligation, and discuss the policy implications of future financing needs.

Design: We used the Goals module from Spectrum, and applied the most up-to-date cost and coverage data to provide a range of estimates for future financing obligations. The four different scale-up scenarios vary by treatment initiation threshold and service coverage level. We compared the model projections to current domestic and international financial sources available in selected SSA countries.

Results: In the 9 SSA countries, the estimated resources required for HIV prevention and treatment in 2015-2050 range from US$98 billion to maintain current coverage levels for treatment and prevention with eligibility for treatment initiation at CD4 count of <500/mm3 to US$261 billion if treatment were to be extended to all HIV-positive individuals and prevention scaled up. With the addition of new funding obligations for HIV–which arise implicitly through commitment to achieve higher than current treatment coverage levels–overall financial obligations (sum of debt levels and the present value of the stock of future HIV funding obligations) would rise substantially.

Conclusions: Investing upfront in scale-up of HIV services to achieve high coverage levels will reduce HIV incidence, prevention and future treatment expenditures by realising long-term preventive effects of ART to reduce HIV transmission. Future obligations are too substantial for most SSA countries to be met from domestic sources alone. New sources of funding, in addition to domestic sources, include innovative financing. Debt sustainability for sustained HIV response is an urgent imperative for affected countries and donors

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: The authors of this interesting paper use the most up-to-date cost and coverage data to provide a range of estimates for future treatment financing obligations. Epidemiological parameters are included to fit the Goals model and key prevention services such as ‘prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission’ and ‘voluntary medical male circumcision’ are also included.

Financing needs for the nine countries are estimated by varying treatment initiation threshold (everyone initiated on treatment versus initiation at CD4 of <500cells/mm3) and/or coverage level for prevention and treatment (‘current’ levels and a ‘scale up’ scenario). The authors also attempt to assess both the ethics and the cost of different approaches.

For all scenarios, there is a steady decline in proportion of treatment costs and an increase in the proportion of prevention costs. This apparent contradiction is largely because there will be fewer individuals on treatment over time but prevention costs rise because they are mostly invested in non-infected populations, which increases with population growth.

In the nine countries, estimated resources required for HIV prevention and treatment from 2015-2050 will be large. This is increased further when human resources and supplies increase at the rate of GDP per capita.

However, there is undoubtedly an ethical responsibility to not only continue financing people receiving ART, but, that the responsibility extends to people in equal need who are not on treatment. The ethics is underpinned by the evidence. This illustrates how ‘front-loading’ investments in HIV scale-up now to ensure high levels of coverage, will significantly reduce future HIV incidence and prevalence. 

Africa
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Near-patient TB test reduces hospital deaths in HIV-positive adults

Effect on mortality of point-of-care, urine-based lipoarabinomannan testing to guide tuberculosis treatment initiation in HIV-positive hospital inpatients: a pragmatic, parallel-group, multicountry, open-label, randomised controlled trial. 

Peter JG, Zijenah LS, Chanda D, Clowes P, Lesosky M, Gina P, Mehta N, Calligaro G, Lombard CJ, Kadzirange G, Bandason T, Chansa A, Liusha N, Mangu C, Mtafya B, Msila H, Rachow A, Hoelscher M, Mwaba P, Theron G, Dheda K. Lancet. 2016 Mar 19;387(10024):1187-97. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01092-2. Epub 2016 Mar 10.

Background: HIV-associated tuberculosis is difficult to diagnose and results in high mortality. Frequent extra-pulmonary presentation, inability to obtain sputum, and paucibacillary samples limits the usefulness of nucleic-acid amplification tests and smear microscopy. We therefore assessed a urine-based, lateral flow, point-of-care, lipoarabinomannan assay (LAM) and the effect of a LAM-guided anti-tuberculosis treatment initiation strategy on mortality.

Methods: We did a pragmatic, randomised, parallel-group, multicentre trial in ten hospitals in Africa--four in South Africa, two in Tanzania, two in Zambia, and two in Zimbabwe. Eligible patients were HIV-positive adults aged at least 18 years with at least one of the following symptoms of tuberculosis (fever, cough, night sweats, or self-reported weight loss) and illness severity necessitating admission to hospital. Exclusion criteria included receipt of any anti-tuberculosis medicine in the 60 days before enrolment. We randomly assigned patients (1:1) to either LAM plus routine diagnostic tests for tuberculosis (smear microscopy, Xpert-MTB/RIF, and culture; LAM group) or routine diagnostic tests alone (no LAM group) using computer-generated allocation lists in blocks of ten. All patients were asked to provide a urine sample of at least 30 mL at enrolment, and trained research nurses did the LAM test in patients allocated to this group using the Alere Determine tuberculosis LAM Ag lateral flow strip test (Alere, USA) at the bedside on enrolment. On the basis of a positive test result, the nurses made a recommendation for initiating anti-tuberculosis treatment. The attending physician made an independent decision about whether to start treatment or not. Neither patients nor health-care workers were masked to group allocation and test results. The primary endpoint was 8-week all-cause mortality assessed in the modified intention-to-treat population (those who received their allocated intervention). This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01770730.

Findings: Between Jan 1, 2013, and Oct 2, 2014, we screened 8728 patients and randomly assigned 2659 to treatment (1336 to LAM, 1323 to no LAM). 108 patients did not receive their allocated treatment, mainly because they did not meet the inclusion criteria, and 23 were excluded from analysis, leaving 2528 in the final modified intention-to-treat analysis (1257 in the LAM group, 1271 in the no LAM group). Overall all-cause 8-week mortality occurred in 578 (23%) patients, 261 (21%) in LAM and 317 (25%) in no LAM, an absolute reduction of 4% (95% CI 1-7). The risk ratio adjusted for country was 0.83 (95% CI 0.73-0.96), p=0.012, with a relative risk reduction of 17% (95% CI 4-28). With the time-to-event analysis, there were 159 deaths per 100 person-years in LAM and 196 per 100 person-years in no LAM (hazard ratio adjusted for country 0.82 [95% CI 0.70-0.96], p=0.015). No adverse events were associated with LAM testing.

Interpretation: Bedside LAM-guided initiation of anti-tuberculosis treatment in HIV-positive hospital in-patients with suspected tuberculosis was associated with reduced 8-week mortality. The implementation of LAM testing is likely to offer the greatest benefit in hospitals where diagnostic resources are most scarce and where patients present with severe illness, advanced immunosuppression, and an inability to self-expectorate sputum.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: TB is a leading cause of hospitalization and in-hospital death among people living with HIV worldwide. This randomised controlled trial in southern Africa provides strong evidence of the impact of a simple, urine-based test in HIV-positive adults admitted to hospital with symptoms of TB. Use of the lateral flow lipoarabinomannan (LAM) test, in addition to a package of routine TB diagnostic tests, led to a modest reduction in all-cause mortality. This reduction in mortality occurred despite only a small increase in the proportion starting TB treatment, suggesting that LAM testing might have enabled more precision in the identification of people with TB.

Half of all deaths occurred in people with CD4 cell count ≤50 cells/µL and the impact of the urinary LAM test was greatest in this group, as suggested by previous studies. This may lead to strengthening of WHO policy recommendations to use the lateral flow LAM test to assist with TB diagnosis in people admitted to hospital with advanced HIV and with symptoms and signs of TB. There is still no strong evidence to suggest a role for LAM testing at more peripheral levels of the health system or in people who are not seriously ill.

The heterogeneity in effect between countries is notable, although the trial was not powered to detect mortality differences at each site. The availability and use of other diagnostics (which could include sputum smear microscopy, Xpert®, chest X-ray, ultrasound and computed tomography), and the level of physician input in clinical management, differed substantially across sites and could have modified the effect of LAM testing. Additional exploration of data from this trial and from other ongoing studies should help to further define the role of urine LAM in the TB diagnostic bundle in different health care settings.

Africa
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Empirical TB treatment no better than isoniazid among people with low CD4 counts and negative TB tests

Empirical tuberculosis therapy versus isoniazid in adult outpatients with advanced HIV initiating antiretroviral therapy (REMEMBER): a multicountry open-label randomised controlled trial. 

Hosseinipour MC, Bisson GP, Miyahara S, Sun X, Moses A, Riviere C, Kirui FK, Badal-Faesen S, Lagat D, Nyirenda M, Naidoo K, Hakim J, Mugyenyi P, Henostroza G, Leger PD, Lama JR, Mohapi L, Alave J, Mave V, Veloso VG, Pillay S, Kumarasamy N, Bao J, Hogg E, Jones L, Zolopa A, Kumwenda J, Gupta A, Adult ACTGAST. Lancet. 2016 Mar 19;387(10024):1198-209. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00546-8.

Background: Mortality within the first 6 months after initiating antiretroviral therapy is common in resource-limited settings and is often due to tuberculosis in patients with advanced HIV disease. Isoniazid preventive therapy is recommended in HIV-positive adults, but subclinical tuberculosis can be difficult to diagnose. We aimed to assess whether empirical tuberculosis treatment would reduce early mortality compared with isoniazid preventive therapy in high-burden settings.

Methods: We did a multicountry open-label randomised clinical trial comparing empirical tuberculosis therapy with isoniazid preventive therapy in HIV-positive outpatients initiating antiretroviral therapy with CD4 cell counts of less than 50 cells per µL. Participants were recruited from 18 outpatient research clinics in ten countries (Malawi, South Africa, Haiti, Kenya, Zambia, India, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Peru, and Uganda). Individuals were screened for tuberculosis using a symptom screen, locally available diagnostics, and the GeneXpert® MTB/RIF assay when available before inclusion. Study candidates with confirmed or suspected tuberculosis were excluded. Inclusion criteria were liver function tests 2.5 times the upper limit of normal or less, a creatinine clearance of at least 30 mL/min, and a Karnofsky score of at least 30. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) to either the empirical group (antiretroviral therapy and empirical tuberculosis therapy) or the isoniazid preventive therapy group (antiretroviral therapy and isoniazid preventive therapy). The primary endpoint was survival (death or unknown status) at 24 weeks after randomisation assessed in the intention-to-treat population. Kaplan-Meier estimates of the primary endpoint across groups were compared by the z-test. All participants were included in the safety analysis of antiretroviral therapy and tuberculosis treatment. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01380080.

Findings: Between Oct 31, 2011, and June 9, 2014, we enrolled 850 participants. Of these, we randomly assigned 424 to receive empirical tuberculosis therapy and 426 to the isoniazid preventive therapy group. The median CD4 cell count at baseline was 18 cells per µL (IQR 9-32). At week 24, 22 (5%) participants from each group died or were of unknown status (95% CI 3.5-7.8) for empirical group and for isoniazid preventive therapy (95% CI 3.4-7.8); absolute risk difference of -0.06% (95% CI -3.05 to 2.94). Grade 3 or 4 signs or symptoms occurred in 50 (12%) participants in the empirical group and 46 (11%) participants in the isoniazid preventive therapy group. Grade 3 or 4 laboratory abnormalities occurred in 99 (23%) participants in the empirical group and 97 (23%) participants in the isoniazid preventive therapy group.

Interpretation: Empirical tuberculosis therapy did not reduce mortality at 24 weeks compared with isoniazid preventive therapy in outpatient adults with advanced HIV disease initiating antiretroviral therapy. The low mortality rate of the trial supports implementation of systematic tuberculosis screening and isoniazid preventive therapy in outpatients with advanced HIV disease.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Tuberculosis (TB) remains the leading cause of death among HIV-positive people worldwide. Existing diagnostic tests for TB lack sensitivity, particularly among HIV-positive people, and autopsy studies consistently illustrate that TB is common at death, but often not identified prior to death. This has led to questions about whether empirical TB treatment, meaning treatment for TB in the absence of bacteriological confirmation, should be more widely used among HIV-positive people.

This trial compared empirical TB treatment to isoniazid preventive therapy among adult outpatients with very low CD4 counts starting antiretroviral therapy (ART). People could be enrolled in the study if they did not have confirmed or suspected TB based on symptoms, locally-accessible diagnostic tests (including chest radiography and sputum smear) and, when available, testing with Xpert® MTB/RIF. There was no difference in mortality at six months between participants given empirical TB treatment compared to isoniazid preventive therapy. Mortality was remarkably low overall, particularly considering that participants had very low CD4 counts. It seems likely that the enrolment criteria excluded people at highest risk of death from participating in the study.

Screening for TB at the time of starting ART could reduce mortality if the tests are sufficiently sensitive, and if people identified to have TB receive effective treatment. However, this study was not designed to address how best to do this in resource-limited settings, where chest radiography and Xpert® MTB/RIF are often not accessible. This study does suggest that isoniazid preventive therapy can be given at the time of ART initiation among people who have been effectively screened for TB. The results of other studies of empirical TB treatment, with different designs in different populations, are awaited. Data from all these studies together may provide evidence to guide the optimal package of care for people presenting with advanced HIV disease. 

Comorbidity, HIV Treatment
Africa, Asia, Latin America
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ART reduces fertility differences by HIV status among women living in sub-Saharan Africa

Measuring the impact of antiretroviral therapy roll-out on population level fertility in three African countries. 

Marston M, Nakiyingi-Miiro J, Hosegood V, Lutalo T, Mtenga B, Zaba B, and on behalf of the ALPHA network. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 25;11(3):e0151877. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151877. eCollection 2016.

Background: UNAIDS official estimates of national HIV prevalence are based on trends observed in antenatal clinic surveillance, after adjustment for the reduced fertility of HIV positive women. Uptake of ART may impact on the fertility of HIV positive women, implying a need to re-estimate the adjustment factors used in these calculations. We analyse the effect of antiretroviral therapy (ART) provision on population-level fertility in Southern and East Africa, comparing trends in HIV infected women against the secular trends observed in uninfected women.

Methods: We used fertility data from four community-based demographic and HIV surveillance sites: Kisesa (Tanzania), Masaka and Rakai (Uganda) and uMkhanyakude (South Africa). All births to women aged 15-44 years old were included in the analysis, classified by mother's age and HIV status at time of birth, and ART availability in the community. Calendar time period of data availability relative to ART introduction varied across the sites, from 5 years prior to ART roll-out, to 9 years after. Calendar time was classified according to ART availability, grouped into pre ART, ART introduction (available in at least one health facility serving study site) and ART available (available in all designated health facilities serving study site). We used Poisson regression to calculate age adjusted fertility rate ratios over time by HIV status, and investigated the interaction between ART period and HIV status to ascertain whether trends over time were different for HIV positive and negative women.

Results: Age-adjusted fertility rates declined significantly over time for HIV negative women in all four studies. However HIV positives either had no change in fertility (Masaka, Rakai) or experienced a significant increase over the same period (Kisesa, uMkhanyakude). HIV positive fertility was significantly lower than negative in both the pre ART period (age adjusted fertility rate ratio (FRR) range 0.51 95%CI 0.42-0.61 to 0.73 95%CI 0.64-0.83) and when ART was widely available (FRR range 0.57 95%CI 0.52-0.62 to 0.83 95%CI 0.78-0.87), but the difference has narrowed. The interaction terms describing the difference in trends between HIV positives and negatives are generally significant.

Conclusions: Differences in fertility between HIV positive and HIV negative women are narrowing over time as ART becomes more widely available in these communities. Routine adjustment of ANC data for estimating national HIV prevalence will need to allow for the impact of treatment.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Antenatal care (ANC) clinics records on demographic characteristics and HIV status of attenders are a major component of primary data used to estimate HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART), the fertility of women living with HIV was lower than that for people without HIV. This means that prevalence estimates from ANC data were adjusted to avoid underestimating the true population fertility rates.

This paper analyses the changing fertility patterns in four longitudinal community-based cohorts in eastern and southern Africa. The study finds that differences in fertility rates between women living with HIV and women without HIV are narrowing as ART is scaled-up, although substantial differences still exist. There was considerable variation in the patterns between the sites reflecting the differing local epidemic profiles. The authors explain this variation as being due to various factors including biological (increased fertility associated with viral suppression), or behavioural (increased fertility among women experiencing widowhood and then forming new partnerships). The impact of treatment on fertility needs to be incorporated into models of HIV prevalence estimated from ANC data, to inform national policy makers measuring their progress towards HIV elimination targets.

Africa
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Tenofovir resistance – need for caution but not panic

Global epidemiology of drug resistance after failure of WHO recommended first-line regimens for adult HIV-1 infection: a multicentre retrospective cohort study.

TenoRes Study Group. Lancet Infect Dis. 2016 Jan 28. pii: S1473-3099(15)00536-8. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00536-8. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is crucial for controlling HIV-1 infection through wide-scale treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Potent tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-containing regimens are increasingly used to treat and prevent HIV, although few data exist for frequency and risk factors of acquired drug resistance in regions hardest hit by the HIV pandemic. We aimed to do a global assessment of drug resistance after virological failure with first-line tenofovir-containing ART.

Methods: The TenoRes collaboration comprises adult HIV treatment cohorts and clinical trials of HIV drug resistance testing in Europe, Latin and North America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. We extracted and harmonised data for patients undergoing genotypic resistance testing after virological failure with a first-line regimen containing tenofovir plus a cytosine analogue (lamivudine or emtricitabine) plus a non-nucleotide reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI; efavirenz or nevirapine). We used an individual participant-level meta-analysis and multiple logistic regression to identify covariates associated with drug resistance. Our primary outcome was tenofovir resistance, defined as presence of K65R/N or K70E/G/Q mutations in the reverse transcriptase (RT) gene.

Findings: We included 1926 patients from 36 countries with treatment failure between 1998 and 2015. Prevalence of tenofovir resistance was highest in sub-Saharan Africa (370/654 [57%]). Pre-ART CD4 cell count was the covariate most strongly associated with the development of tenofovir resistance (odds ratio [OR] 1.50, 95% CI 1.27-1.77 for CD4 cell count <100 cells per µL). Use of lamivudine versus emtricitabine increased the risk of tenofovir resistance across regions (OR 1.48, 95% CI 1.20-1.82). Of 700 individuals with tenofovir resistance, 578 (83%) had cytosine analogue resistance (M184V/I mutation), 543 (78%) had major NNRTI resistance, and 457 (65%) had both. The mean plasma viral load at virological failure was similar in individuals with and without tenofovir resistance (145 700 copies per mL [SE 12 480] versus 133 900 copies per mL [SE 16 650; p=0.626]).

Interpretation: We recorded drug resistance in a high proportion of patients after virological failure on a tenofovir-containing first-line regimen across low-income and middle-income regions. Effective surveillance for transmission of drug resistance is crucial.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Global surveillance for tenofovir (TDF) resistance is important at a time of expanding use of TDF-containing regimens for treatment and prevention. This collaborative analysis used data collated from several small studies in different settings. Overall, around one in three people who had failed on TDF-containing treatment had evidence of TDF resistance, although this frequency varied between 20% in Europe to almost 60% in Africa. Mutations associated with NNRTIs and lamivudine/emtricitabine resistance were more common overall and were present in most people with TDF resistance.

The regional variation probably reflects differences in clinical practice and study inclusion criteria. All European studies involved cohorts with frequent viral load monitoring, whereas half of the African cohorts had no routine viral load monitoring. All European studies included people with virologic failure but with low-level viraemia (viral load <1000 copies/ml) whereas almost all African studies included only people with viral load >1000 copies/ml.

While these data provide useful estimates of the frequency of drug resistance mutations in people with virologic failure on first-line ART, there should be caution about extrapolating beyond this. Reports from cohort studies with an accurate denominator of all people starting TDF-containing first-line ART would be useful to give more reliable estimates of overall incidence of acquired TDF resistance. Moreover, there remains a need for representative population-based surveillance for acquired and transmitted drug resistance. So far, global surveillance has detected limited evidence of transmitted TDF-associated mutations, but this needs to be monitored closely, especially in high incidence settings.

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