Articles tagged as "Uganda"

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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Abacavir: a safe first line drug for children

Adverse events associated with abacavir use in HIV-infected children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Jesson J, Dahourou DL, Renaud F, Penazzato M, Leroy V. Lancet HIV. 2016 Feb;3(2):e64-75. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00225-8. Epub 2015 Dec 7.

Background: Concerns exist about the toxicity of drugs used in the implementation of large-scale antiretroviral programmes, and documentation of antiretroviral toxicity is essential. We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of adverse events among children and adolescents receiving regimens that contain abacavir, a widely used antiretroviral drug.

Methods: We searched bibliographic databases and abstracts from relevant conferences from Jan 1, 2000, to March 1, 2015. All experimental and observational studies of HIV-infected patients aged 0-18 years who used abacavir, were eligible. Incidence of adverse outcomes in patients taking abacavir (number of new events in a period divided by population at risk at the beginning of the study) and relative risks (RR) compared with non-abacavir regimens were pooled with random effects models.

Findings: Of 337 records and 21 conference abstracts identified, nine studies (eight full-text articles and one abstract) collected information about 2546 children, of whom 1769 (69%) were on abacavir regimens. Among children and adolescents taking abacavir, hypersensitivity reactions (eight studies) had a pooled incidence of 2.2% (95% CI 0.4-5.2); treatment switching or discontinuation (seven studies) pooled incidence was 10.9% (2.1-24.3); of grade 3-4 adverse events (six studies) pooled incidence was 9.9% (2.4-20.9); and adverse events other than hypersensitivity reaction (six studies) pooled incidence was 21.5% (2.8-48.4). Between-study inconsistency was significant for all outcomes (p<0.0001 for all inconsistencies). Incidence of death (four studies) was 3.3% (95% CI 1.5-5.6). In the three randomised clinical trials with comparative data, no increased risk of hypersensitivity reaction (pooled RR 1.08; 95% CI 0.19-6.15), grade 3 or 4 events (0.79 [0.44-1.42]), or death (1.72 [0.77-3.82]) was noted for abacavir relative to non-abacavir regimens. None of the reported deaths were related to abacavir.

Interpretation: Abacavir-related toxicity occurs early after ART initiation and is manageable. Abacavir can be safely used for first-line or second-line antiretroviral regimens in children and adolescents, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where HLA B5701 genotype is rare.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Abacavir is a nucleoside reverse transciptase inhibitor (NRTI), available as a paediatric formulation. Abacavir in combination with lamivudine is the preferred NRTI backbone for children aged three to ten years and for adolescents weighing under 35 kilograms. It is thus part of both first- and second-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens recommended for children by World Health Organization (WHO), American and European guidelines.  

In the context of implementation of large-scale ART programmes where abacavir is recommended as the NRTI of choice, understanding its toxicity is crucial. In adults the main concern is the increased risk of hypersensitivity reactions, particularly among people with the HLA B5701 genotype, and of myocardial infarction. Children have specific characteristics that affect both the pharmacokinetic profiles of drugs, and also drug tolerability in the short and the long term. Despite the widespread use of abacavir, there has been no systematic evaluation of the toxicity profile of abacavir in children. 

This systematic review of nine studies conducted between 2000 and 2015 demonstrates that there is a low risk of hypersensitivity reactions, especially for children living in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of children with HIV live. This is consistent with studies in adults which illustrates that the frequency of the HLAB5701 allele genotype in African populations is low, estimated to be less than two percent.

Other adverse events such as gastrointestinal symptoms and laboratory abnormalities were common. Rates of adverse events should be interpreted with caution as these could depend on factors such as other drugs in the regimen, adherence and so on. Furthermore, data on adverse events were obtained from cohort studies that were not blinded and selection or recall bias cannot be excluded.

Notwithstanding this, most adverse events occurred early after initiation of abacavir, were no more common than with other NRTI regimens, and were manageable. Importantly, there were no deaths associated with abacavir in any of the reported studies. This study supports the use of abacavir as a preferred drug in the NRTI backbone for treatment of children living with HIV. 

HIV Treatment
Africa, Europe, Latin America
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The dapivirine ring confers moderate efficacy, but hope for a new prevention option

Use of a vaginal ring containing dapivirine for HIV-1 prevention in women.

Baeten JM, Palanee-Phillips T, Brown ER, Schwartz K, Soto-Torres LE, Govender V, Mgodi NM, Matovu Kiweewa F, Nair G, Mhlanga F, Siva S, Bekker LG, Jeenarain N, Gaffoor Z, Martinson F, Makanani B, Pather A, Naidoo L, Husnik M, Richardson BA, Parikh UM, Mellors JW, Marzinke MA, Hendrix CW, van der Straten A, Ramjee G, Chirenje ZM, Nakabiito C, Taha TE, Jones J, Mayo A, Scheckter R, Berthiaume J, Livant E, Jacobson C, Ndase P, White R, Patterson K, Germuga D, Galaska B, Bunge K, Singh D, Szydlo DW, Montgomery ET, Mensch BS, Torjesen K, Grossman CI, Chakhtoura N, Nel A, Rosenberg Z, McGowan I, Hillier S, Team M-AS N Engl J Med. 2016 Feb 22. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Antiretroviral medications that are used as prophylaxis can prevent acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. However, in clinical trials among African women, the incidence of HIV-1 infection was not reduced, probably because of low adherence. Longer-acting methods of drug delivery, such as vaginal rings, may simplify use of antiretroviral medications and provide HIV-1 protection.

Methods: We conducted a phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a monthly vaginal ring containing dapivirine, a non-nucleoside HIV-1 reverse-transcriptase inhibitor, involving women between the ages of 18 and 45 years in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Results: Among the 2629 women who were enrolled, 168 HIV-1 infections occurred: 71 in the dapivirine group and 97 in the placebo group (incidence, 3.3 and 4.5 per 100 person-years, respectively). The incidence of HIV-1 infection in the dapivirine group was lower by 27% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1 to 46; P=0.05) than that in the placebo group. In an analysis that excluded data from two sites that had reduced rates of retention and adherence, the incidence of HIV-1 infection in the dapivirine group was lower by 37% (95% CI, 12 to 56; P=0.007) than that in the placebo group. In a post hoc analysis, higher rates of HIV-1 protection were observed among women over the age of 21 years (56%; 95% CI, 31 to 71; P<0.001) but not among those 21 years of age or younger (-27%; 95% CI, -133 to 31; P=0.45), a difference that was correlated with reduced adherence. The rates of adverse medical events and antiretroviral resistance among women who acquired HIV-1 infection were similar in the two groups.

Conclusions: A monthly vaginal ring containing dapivirine reduced the risk of HIV-1 infection among African women, with increased efficacy in subgroups with evidence of increased adherence.

 Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Women bear a larger proportion of the HIV burden worldwide due to biological and behavioural factors. As a result, the HIV prevention field has focused research over the past couple of decades to identify new prevention options especially for women, to reduce this burden. The study presented in this paper is the first to publish phase III efficacy trial results for a vaginal ring containing the antiretroviral drug dapivirine for HIV prevention. The ring is designed to prevent HIV acquisition locally within the vagina in HIV negative women and kept in the body for a period of four weeks. This strategy is meant to address two components of adherence and side effects. A longer-acting product and local application is contrasted with the daily and systemic use of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, a regimen which can be difficult to maintain. This study found that the dapivirine ring did not protect women with a high rate of efficacy, 27% overall. Interestingly, the sub-analyses of the data illustrated that there was better protection in women with better adherence, and in women who were over the age of 21. Further explorations of the data along with the qualitative findings from the study will surely provide more valuable insights into the low overall rate of efficacy, and perhaps most importantly into why age made such a difference in rates of protection. As mentioned in the paper, a second study on the ring, which was presented at CROI 2016, publishing similar results, and those results combined with the data from this study will further our knowledge regarding the viability of this HIV prevention option.  

Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe
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The effects of trauma follow people on the move

A systematic review of HIV risk behaviors and trauma among forced and unforced migrant populations from low and middle-income countries: state of the literature and future directions.

Michalopoulos LM, Aifah A, El-Bassel N. AIDS Behav. 2016 Feb;20(2):243-61. doi: 10.1007/s10461-015-1014-1.

The aim of the current systematic review is to examine the relationship between trauma and HIV risk behaviors among both forced and unforced migrant populations from low and middle income countries (LMIC). We conducted a review of studies published from 1995 to 2014. Data were extracted related to (1) the relationship between trauma and HIV risk behaviors, (2) methodological approach, (3) assessment methods, and (4) differences noted between forced and unforced migrants. A total of 340 records were retrieved with 24 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Our review demonstrated an overall relationship between trauma and HIV risk behaviors among migrant populations in LMIC, specifically with sexual violence and sexual risk behavior. However, findings from 10 studies were not in full support of the relationship. Findings from the review suggest that additional research using more rigorous methods is critically needed to understand the nature of the relationship experienced by this key-affected population.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: The number of forced and unforced migrants is growing globally. Refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons (IDP) are forced migrants who often migrate due to political violence or conflict. Labour migrants are seen as unforced migrants who choose to emigrate for economic reasons. About half of labour migrants worldwide are women who are increasingly migrating on their own being the sole income provider for their families. With respect to trauma exposure and HIV risk in settings of long-term political violence and conflict, the distinction between war migrant, non-war migrant, and long-term resident is blurred. This in-depth review of 24 studies related to low-and middle-income countries (LMIC), mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, found findings similar to those from non-migrant populations in high-income countries. These linked traumatic experiences among migrant populations with HIV risk behaviours. Sexual violence was consistently associated with HIV sexual risk behaviours and HIV infection across the studies. But there are big gaps in the scientific literature. For example, the relationship between trauma and HIV risks has been explored for female labour migrants who are sex workers but not among women who have other occupations. Most studies addressed sexual risk and alcohol dependence, but injecting drug risk behaviours and use of any illicit drugs were virtually ignored by most studies. Few studies examined a possible link for trauma that occurred pre-migration and post-migration. Three qualitative studies examined male migrants who have sex with men, finding that violent experiences and discrimination and stigma associated with homophobia, combined with other migrant-associated traumas, can compound their mental health outcomes and subsequent HIV risk behaviours – but all were only conducted in the last four years. No studies were found that focused on HIV prevention programmes to address trauma and HIV risks among migrant workers in LMIC. However, the studies do reveal important factors that prevention programmes would have to consider. For example, concerns among labour migrants about dangerous working conditions may take precedence over HIV risk perceptions and the need for safer sex. This systematic review presents a wealth of information while highlighting the need to improve the quality of scientific research examining the link between HIV and trauma among both forced and unforced migrants in LMIC. 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America
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Routine use of steroids harmful in cryptococcal meningitis

Adjunctive Dexamethasone in HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis.

Beardsley J, Wolbers M, Kibengo FM, Ggayi AB, Kamali A, Cuc NT, Binh TQ, Chau NV, Farrar J, Merson L, Phuong L, Thwaites G, Van Kinh N, Thuy PT, Chierakul W, Siriboon S, Thiansukhon E, Onsanit S, Supphamongkholchaikul W, Chan AK, Heyderman R, Mwinjiwa E, van Oosterhout JJ, Imran D, Basri H, Mayxay M, Dance D, Phimmasone P, Rattanavong S, Lalloo DG, Day JN, CryptoDex Investigations. N Engl J Med. 2016 Feb 11;374(6):542-54. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1509024.

Background: Cryptococcal meningitis associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection causes more than 600 000 deaths each year worldwide. Treatment has changed little in 20 years, and there are no imminent new anticryptococcal agents. The use of adjuvant glucocorticoids reduces mortality among patients with other forms of meningitis in some populations, but their use is untested in patients with cryptococcal meningitis.

Methods: In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, we recruited adult patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Uganda, and Malawi. All the patients received either dexamethasone or placebo for 6 weeks, along with combination antifungal therapy with amphotericin B and fluconazole.

Results: The trial was stopped for safety reasons after the enrollment of 451 patients. Mortality was 47% in the dexamethasone group and 41% in the placebo group by 10 weeks (hazard ratio in the dexamethasone group, 1.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84 to 1.47; P=0.45) and 57% and 49%, respectively, by 6 months (hazard ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.91 to 1.53; P=0.20). The percentage of patients with disability at 10 weeks was higher in the dexamethasone group than in the placebo group, with 13% versus 25% having a prespecified good outcome (odds ratio, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.25 to 0.69; P<0.001). Clinical adverse events were more common in the dexamethasone group than in the placebo group (667 vs. 494 events, P=0.01), with more patients in the dexamethasone group having grade 3 or 4 infection (48 vs. 25 patients, P=0.003), renal events (22 vs. 7, P=0.004), and cardiac events (8 vs. 0, P=0.004). Fungal clearance in cerebrospinal fluid was slower in the dexamethasone group. Results were consistent across Asian and African sites.

Conclusions: Dexamethasone did not reduce mortality among patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis and was associated with more adverse events and disability than was placebo.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Outcomes from cryptococcal meningitis in people living with HIV are very poor. This was highlighted here. Three out of five people overall had died or were severely disabled ten weeks after enrolment. This clinical trial provides strong evidence that steroids cause more harm than good and therefore routine use should not be recommended. Dexamethasone was not only associated with higher risk of death or disability but also with higher risk of significant adverse events, particularly bacterial sepsis.

The majority of deaths occurred early, in the first three weeks. Most participants were ART naïve and severely immunosuppressed (CD4+ cell count <50 cells/µL) and most deaths look to have occurred prior to the scheduled start of antiretroviral therapy. This may also partly explain the low frequency of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) and the lack of any observed benefit of dexamethasone in reducing IRIS.

Although dexamethasone was associated with greater decline in intracranial pressure, this did not translate into improved neurological outcomes. All participants had regular lumbar punctures for pressure monitoring. This might have limited the potential to observe a benefit from dexamethasone. Some explanation for the adverse outcomes might come from the impaired fungal clearance in cerebrospinal fluid – a marker of poor outcomes in previous studies. It should be noted that antifungal treatment in this trial was suboptimal. The combination of amphotericin and flucytosine was not used, despite evidence of improved outcomes and more rapid fungal clearance with this regimen.

While the search should go on for better treatment strategies, the findings in this study emphasise the importance of prevention, focused firmly, on earlier HIV diagnosis and treatment.  

Comorbidity, HIV Treatment
Indonesia, Laos, Malawi, Thailand, Uganda, Viet Nam
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Fewer deaths with empirical TB treatment among seriously ill people

Empiric TB treatment of severely ill patients with HIV and presumed pulmonary TB improves survival.

Katagira W, Walter ND, den Boon S, Kalema N, Ayakaka I, Vittinghoff E, Worodria W, Cattamanchi A, Huang L, Davis JL. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 Feb 24. [Epub ahead of print]

Rationale: In 2007, WHO issued emergency recommendations on empiric treatment of sputum acid-fast bacillus (AFB) smear-negative patients with possible tuberculosis (TB) in HIV-prevalent areas, and called for operational research to evaluate their effectiveness. We sought to determine if early, empiric TB treatment of possible TB patients with abnormal chest radiography or severe illness as suggested by the 2007 WHO guidelines is associated with improved survival.

Methods: We prospectively enrolled consecutive HIV-seropositive inpatients at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, from 2007 to 2011 with cough 2 weeks. We retrospectively examined the effect of empiric TB treatment before discharge on eight-week survival among those with and without a WHO-defined 'danger sign,' including fever >39 degrees C, tachycardia >120 beats-per-minute, or tachypnea >30 breaths-per-minute. We modeled the interaction between empiric TB treatment and danger signs and their combined effect on eight-week survival and adjusted for relevant covariates.

Results: Among 631 sputum smear-negative patients, 322(51%) had danger signs. Cumulative eight-week survival of patients with danger signs was significantly higher with empiric TB treatment (80%) than without (64%, p<0.001). After adjusting for duration of cough and concurrent hypoxemia, patients with danger signs who received empiric TB treatment had a 44% reduction in eight-week mortality(Risk Ratio 0.54, 95%CI 0.32-0.91, p=0.020).

Conclusions: Empiric TB treatment of HIV-seropositive, smear-negative, presumed pulmonary TB patients with one or more danger signs is associated with improved eight-week survival. Enhanced implementation of the 2007 WHO empiric-treatment recommendations should be encouraged whenever and wherever rapid and highly sensitive diagnostic tests for TB are unavailable.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: TB remains the most important cause of death among people living with HIV worldwide. Empirical TB treatment, meaning treatment without bacteriological confirmation, is common practice among people with symptoms suggesting TB, where diagnostic tests are unsatisfactory and the risk of death is high if TB were left untreated.

WHO recommends empirical TB treatment for people living with HIV who are seriously ill, for example as indicated by one or more “danger signs” (respiratory rate over 30 per minute, temperature over 39ºC, pulse over 120, unable to walk unaided).  However the evidence to guide the use of empirical TB treatment is very limited. This study adds to that evidence base. HIV-positive adult in-patients with a cough of at least two weeks duration were recruited as part of a study of pneumonia, in a referral hospital in Uganda, and underwent a standard set of investigations. This sub-analysis included people who were sputum smear negative, and investigated the association of empirical TB treatment with survival at eight weeks. Among individuals who had one or more danger signs, people who were treated for TB were more likely to be alive at eight weeks (80% versus 64%). Among people without danger signs, mortality was not associated with empirical TB treatment (survival at eight weeks, 76% among people treated empirically versus 74% among people not treated).

It is important to keep in mind that this was an observational cohort, not a randomised trial, and the implementation of empirical TB treatment according to WHO guidelines was far from complete. Among HIV-positive adults eligible for the study (cough for at least two weeks and sputum smear negative), over half had one or more danger signs, but only 23% of them received TB treatment. Some 20% of the people included in the study were already taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). It is implied that few started ART during admission, and this may also have contributed to high mortality.

This study is particularly relevant in the context of the results of two recent trials of empirical TB treatment. One, the REMEMBER trial will be discussed in next month’s digest. Briefly this study found no mortality benefit of empirical TB treatment over isoniazid preventive therapy among HIV-positive people with CD4 counts below 50 among whom locally-available diagnostic tests had not detected TB. The other trial, TB Fast Track, was presented at CROI in February. This trial found no difference in mortality among adult out-patients, with CD4 counts of 150 or fewer. The patients were managed according to a nurse-led algorithm using point of-care tests to stratify TB risk. Immediate empirical TB treatment for people at highest risk was compared to standard management. The results of all these studies should lead to better definition of criteria for the use of empirical TB treatment. Ultimately, however, better tests for TB that can be used in primary care settings are urgently needed. 

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Time to consider older adults on ART

Risk factors for mortality during antiretroviral therapy in older populations in resource-limited settings.

O'Brien D, Spelman T, Greig J, McMahon J, Ssonko C, Casas E, Mesic A, Du Cros P, Ford N. J Int AIDS Soc. 2016 Jan 14;19(1):20665. doi: 10.7448/IAS.19.1.20665. eCollection 2016.

Introduction: An increasing proportion of adult patients initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-limited settings are aged >50 years. Older populations on ART appear to have heightened risk of death, but little is known about factors influencing mortality in this population.

Methods: We performed a retrospective observational multisite cohort study including all adult patients (≥15 years) initiating ART between 2003 and 2013 in programmes supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres across 12 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Patients were stratified into two age groups, >50 years and 15 to 50 years. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to explore factors associated with mortality.

Results: The study included 41 088 patients: 2591 (6.3%) were aged >50 years and 38 497 (93.7%) were aged 15 to 50 years. The mortality rate was significantly higher in the age group >50 years [367 (14.2%) deaths; mortality rate 7.67 deaths per 100 person-years (95% confidence interval, CI: 6.93 to 8.50)] compared to the age group 15 to 50 years [3788 (9.8%) deaths; mortality rate 4.18 deaths per 100 person-years (95% CI: 4.05 to 4.31)], p<0.0001. Higher CD4 levels at baseline were associated with significantly reduced mortality rates in the 15 to 50 age group but this association was not seen in the >50 age group. WHO Stage 4 conditions were more strongly associated with increased mortality rates in the 15 to 50 age group compared to populations >50 years. WHO Stage 3 conditions were associated with an increased mortality rate in the 15 to 50 age group but not in the >50 age group. Programme region did not affect mortality rates in the >50 age group; however being in an Asian programme was associated with a 36% reduced mortality rate in populations aged 15 to 50 years compared to being in an African programme. There was a higher overall incidence of Stage 3 WHO conditions in people >50 years (12.8/100 person-years) compared to those 15 to 50 years (8.1/100 person-years) (p<0.01). The rate of Stage 4 WHO conditions was similar (5.8/100 versus 6.1/100 respectively, p=0.52). Mortality rates on ART associated with the majority of specific WHO conditions were similar between the 15 to 50 and >50 age groups.

Conclusions: Older patients on ART in resource-limited settings have increased mortality rates, but compared to younger populations this appears to be less influenced by baseline CD4 count and WHO clinical stage. HIV treatment programmes in resource-limited settings need to consider risk factors associated with mortality on ART in older populations, which may differ to those related to younger adults.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This article reports on a retrospective multisite cohort analysis that examined mortality rates and factors associated with mortality on ART for older individuals (> 50 years). The authors found that mortality was nearly two times greater in populations aged >50 years compared with people aged 15 to 50 years.

Contrary to other recent research, they did not find that the effect of age on mortality was stronger at lower CD4 cell counts. However, the analysis used pooled data from very diverse settings, with the great majority of patients (77%) from Asian programmes, and only 22% from Africa (and from nine different countries). This makes it difficult to tease out risk factors for mortality.

Interestingly they found that being in an Asian programme was associated with a 36% reduction in mortality (aHR: 0.64, 95%CI 0.59-0.69) among populations between 15 and 50 years compared to being in an African programme. The authors suggest that this might be due to a lower incidence of co-morbidities including opportunistic infections in Asian populations below 50 years compared to African populations.

As little is known about what it is like living with HIV for older people in resource-limited settings, the authors conclude with suggesting further social science research to address this issue. 

Africa, Asia, Europe
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The power of PEPFAR programmes: estimates of infections averted and life years gained in Africa

Estimating the impact of the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief on HIV treatment and prevention programmes in Africa.

Heaton LM, Bouey PD, Fu J, Stover J, Fowler TB, Lyerla R, Mahy M. Sex Transm Infect. 2015 Dec;91(8):615-20. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2014-051991. Epub 2015 Jun 8.

Background: Since 2004, the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has supported the tremendous scale-up of HIV prevention, care and treatment services, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. We evaluate the impact of antiretroviral treatment (ART), prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programmes on survival, mortality, new infections and the number of orphans from 2004 to 2013 in 16 PEPFAR countries in Africa.

Methods: PEPFAR indicators tracking the number of persons receiving ART for their own health, ART regimens for PMTCT and biomedical prevention of HIV through VMMC were collected across 16 PEPFAR countries. To estimate the impact of PEPFAR programmes for ART, PMTCT and VMMC, we compared the current scenario of PEPFAR-supported interventions to a counterfactual scenario without PEPFAR, and assessed the number of life years gained (LYG), number of orphans averted and HIV infections averted. Mathematical modelling was conducted using the SPECTRUM modelling suite V.5.03.

Results: From 2004 to 2013, PEPFAR programmes provided support for a cumulative number of     24 565 127 adults and children on ART, 4 154 878 medical male circumcisions, and ART for PMTCT among 4 154 478 pregnant women in 16 PEPFAR countries. Based on findings from the model, these efforts have helped avert 2.9 million HIV infections in the same period. During 2004-2013, PEPFAR ART programmes alone helped avert almost 9 million orphans in 16 PEPFAR countries and resulted in 11.6 million LYG.

Conclusions: Modelling results suggest that the rapid scale-up of PEPFAR-funded ART, PMTCT and VMMC programmes in Africa during 2004-2013 led to substantially fewer new HIV infections and orphaned children during that time and longer lives among people living with HIV. Our estimates do not account for the impact of the PEPFAR-funded non-biomedical interventions such as behavioural and structural interventions included in the comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment strategy used by PEPFAR countries. Therefore, the number of HIV infections and orphans averted and LYG may be underestimated by these models.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was initiated in 2004 with $42 billion spent up until the end of 2013. Despite limitations in monitoring the overall contribution of PEPFAR to individual programmes, this article attempts to provide an overview of PEPFAR support for ART, prevention of mother to child transmission and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programmes using the 2014 version of Spectrum Software model. The Spectrum modules used included DemProj, AIDS Impact Model (AIM) and Goals, which interact to model the impact and future course of the HIV epidemic at the population level.  An estimate of PEPFAR’s contribution was obtained by subtracting it from the total for the national programme statistics reported by UNAIDS on ART, PMTCT and VMMC.

The baseline scenario of PEPFAR-supported programmes in 2013 was compared to a counterfactual scenario, which subtracts the direct contribution of PEPFAR. The results estimate that the combined programmes have averted 2.7 million infections in Africa, with over 11.5 million life years gained and the aversion of almost nine million orphans. Other key population programmes that the funding supported including gender equity and health strengthening were not evaluated and therefore, the estimate for impact may be conservative. A limitation of the analysis is that it is unable to predict the national response without PEPFAR and the impact of ART calculated by the model is sensitive to the distribution of new ART patients by CD4 count at the initiation of treatment. In addition, few countries have sufficient death registration systems to validate mortality estimates, which may result in the accomplishments of PEPFAR’s impact being overestimated. However, with the operation of PEPFAR in a larger context of partnership consortiums, an improvement in evaluation methods will be necessary. 

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When are children ‘mature enough’ to know their HIV status? Caregivers’ and children’s perspectives on discussing HIV and ART at home in Jinja District, Uganda

Tensions in communication between children on antiretroviral therapy and their caregivers: a qualitative study in Jinja district, Uganda.

Kajubi P, Whyte SR, Kyaddondo D, Katahoire AR. PLoS One. 2016 Jan 19;11(1):e0147119. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147119. eCollection 2016.

Introduction: HIV treatment and disclosure guidelines emphasize the importance of communicating diagnosis and treatment to infected children in ways that are appropriate to children's developmental stage and age. Minimal attention, however, has been given to communication challenges confronted by HIV-infected children and their caregivers. This study examined the tensions between children and their caregivers arising from differing perspectives regarding when and what to communicate about antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Methods: This qualitative study was conducted between November 2011 and December 2012 and involved 29 HIV-infected children aged 8-17 years on ART and their caregivers. Data were collected through observations and in-depth interviews, which took place in homes, treatment centres and post-test clubs. Children and caregivers were sampled from among the 394 HIV-infected children and (their) 393 caregivers who participated in the cross-sectional survey that preceded the qualitative study. ATLAS.ti. Version 7 was used in the management of the qualitative data and in the coding of the emerging themes. The data were then analyzed using content thematic analysis.

Results: While the children felt that they were mature enough to know what they were suffering and what the medications were for, the caregivers wanted to delay discussions relating to the children's HIV diagnosis and medication until they felt that the children were mature enough to deal with the information and keep it a secret and this caused a lot of tension. The children employed different tactics including refusing to take the medicines, to find out what they were suffering from and what the medications were for. Children also had their own ideas about when, where and with whom to discuss their HIV condition, ideas that did not necessarily coincide with those of their caregivers, resulting in tensions.

Conclusions: Guidelines should take into consideration differing perceptions of maturity when recommending ages at which caregivers should communicate with their children about diagnosis and ART. Health care providers should also encourage caregivers to recognize and respect children's efforts to learn about and manage their condition. Children's questions and expressions of feelings should be treated as openings for communication on these issues.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Caregivers’ ideas of when children are ready to know about their HIV status can often differ from children’s own views. This qualitative study explored children’s and caregivers’ views about HIV status disclosure in the Jinja District in eastern Uganda. A purposive sample of 29 children living with HIV (aged 8-17) was recruited. Participants who were aware of their own HIV status were interviewed (21/29). Great care was taken to avoid accidental disclosure during the study. Caregivers’ views on children’s maturity were not linked to a specific age. Caregivers considered children ‘mature enough’ to know about their status when they believed that children could: 1) understand the implications of their diagnosis; 2) keep secrets 3) take responsibility for their antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 4) begin sexual activity. Some carers thought their child was not mature, but the child saw themselves as being mature enough. Children wanted to know what health condition they had and why they were taking treatment. Children perceived caregivers’ reticence as betrayal. Children deployed strategies such as refusing to take ART or go to the clinic unless they were told what the medication was for. However, children who had been told their status became responsible for their own ART adherence. Older children who were independent often did not discuss HIV or ART with anyone in the household. This could mean they lacked support with adherence issues they might have. The study offers an important and detailed account of the complicated question of disclosure and of communication about HIV and ART in the home. The authors advance our understanding of the importance of age in this process. They highlight the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to managing adherence in children. The study illustrates the need to improve and extend communication about HIV within and beyond the clinic. The authors highlight that discussions about HIV and ART should be revisited at different points in time to ensure comprehension. This useful paper adds to research exploring children’s agency and resilience strategies in the context of silence and stigma about their HIV status. 

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Untreated maternal HIV infection and poor perinatal outcomes

Perinatal outcomes associated with maternal HIV infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Wedi CO, Kirtley S, Hopewell S, Corrigan R, Kennedy SH, Hemelaar J. Lancet HIV. 2016 Jan;3(1):e33-48. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00207-6. Epub 2015 Nov 27.

Background: The HIV pandemic affects 36.9 million people worldwide, of whom 1.5 million are pregnant women. 91% of HIV-positive pregnant women reside in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that also has very poor perinatal outcomes. We aimed to establish whether untreated maternal HIV infection is associated with specific perinatal outcomes.

Methods: We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of the scientific literature by searching PubMed, CINAHL (Ebscohost), Global Health (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid), and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and four clinical trial databases (WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, the Pan African Clinical Trials Registry, the database, and the ISRCTN Registry) for studies published from Jan 1, 1980, to Dec 7, 2014. Two authors independently reviewed the studies retrieved by the scientific literature search, identified relevant studies, and extracted the data. We investigated the associations between maternal HIV infection in women naive to antiretroviral therapy and 11 perinatal outcomes: preterm birth, very preterm birth, low birthweight, very low birthweight, term low birthweight, preterm low birthweight, small for gestational age, very small for gestational age, miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death. We included prospective and retrospective cohort studies and case-control studies reporting perinatal outcomes in HIV-positive women naive to antiretroviral therapy and HIV-negative controls. We used a random-effects model for the meta-analyses of specific perinatal outcomes. We did subgroup and sensitivity analyses and assessed the effect of adjustment for confounders. This systematic review and meta-analysis is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42013005638.

Findings: Of 60 750 studies identified, we obtained data from 35 studies (20 prospective cohort studies, 12 retrospective cohort studies, and three case-control studies) including 53 623 women. Our meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies show that maternal HIV infection is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth (relative risk 1.50, 95% CI 1.24-1.82), low birthweight (1.62, 1.41-1.86), small for gestational age (1.31, 1.14-1.51), and stillbirth (1.67, 1.05-2.66). Retrospective cohort studies also suggest an increased risk of term low birthweight (2.62, 1.15-5.93) and preterm low birthweight (3.25, 2.12-4.99). The strongest and most consistent evidence for these associations is identified in sub-Saharan Africa. No association was identified between maternal HIV infection and very preterm birth, very small for gestational age, very low birthweight, miscarriage, or neonatal death, although few data were available for these outcomes. Correction for confounders did not affect the significance of these findings.

Interpretation: Maternal HIV infection in women who have not received antiretroviral therapy is associated with preterm birth, low birthweight, small for gestational age, and stillbirth, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Research is needed to assess how antiretroviral therapy regimens affect these perinatal outcomes.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes:  Maternal HIV infection is associated with maternal morbidity and mortality and risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Whether maternal HIV infection affects perinatal outcomes, which are major contributors to poor health worldwide, is less well understood. This systematic review and meta-analysis of retrospective and prospective cohort studies and case-control studies demonstrates that untreated maternal HIV infection is associated with increased risk of pre-term birth, low birthweight, small for gestational age and stillbirth. The risk of adverse perinatal outcomes appeared to increase with more advanced HIV disease, although only three of the 35 studies reported perinatal outcomes according to HIV disease stage. These findings persisted even after controlling for potential confounding factors and irrespective of the method used for determining gestational age. None of the studies used a first trimester ultrasound scan, the gold standard for determining gestational age. The association of perinatal outcomes with the infant’s HIV status was not investigated. The strongest evidence for these associations was found in sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of the studies were conducted.

These findings suggest that HIV is an important contributor to the global burden of perinatal and child morbidity and mortality particularly in countries with the highest burden of maternal HIV infection.     Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of stillbirths and neonatal deaths and is also the region where more than 90% of the world’s pregnant women living with HIV reside.

This study has important implications. Firstly, the coverage of antiretroviral therapy (ART) among pregnant women worldwide still remains suboptimal (estimated to be 68% in 2013), exposing women living with untreated HIV to an increased risk of adverse perinatal outcomes. The biological mechanisms underlying adverse perinatal outcomes in the context of HIV infection are not understood. ART in pregnancy may also adversely affect perinatal outcomes, and there is a pressing need to investigate this as ART is rapidly scaled up.     

Africa, Europe, Northern America
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