Articles tagged as "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"

Excessive cardiovascular morbidity and mortality among people living with HIV – preventable with better services?

Editor’s notes: Opportunities to prevent mortality among people living with HIV also include careful attention to risk factors for modifiable cardiovascular health risk factors such as smoking, cholesterol levels, weight and exercise.  In an interesting study from Canada, Jeon and colleagues used the Ontario administrative databases to look at differences between 259 475 people being admitted with acute myocardial infarction according to their HIV status.  Overall, people living with HIV who had heart attacks were around 15 years younger and more than twice as likely to die within 30 days following discharge from the hospital compared to HIV-negative people.  This was not because people living with HIV had received care that was obviously different, with similar rates of revascularisation procedures and follow up visits to the cardiology services.  The study highlights the ongoing uncertainty about the reasons for increased morbidity and mortality among people living with HIV.  However, it is clear that we do have several well proven tools with which to reduce cardiovascular morbidity, so we should ensure that they are incorporated into HIV treatment services.

The relationship between known indicators of cardiovascular risk and HIV were also studied in 67 black South Africans living with HIV.  Borkum and colleagues demonstrate that HIV infection in black South Africans living with HIV was generally well controlled with 84% being virally suppressed and that they had a median CD4 count of over 500 cells per microlitre.  Nonetheless, most had a variety of characteristics that suggest that they were at high risk of cardiovascular events.  Markers of inflammation were raised in 68% and “non-dipping” blood pressure, which is a measure of excessive stiffness of the arteries, was present in 65%.  Straightforward measures that could be made even at the most peripheral ART clinic also demonstrated risk, with 67% being classified as overweight and 76% having an increased waist circumference, both well recognized independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Worryingly this sample, which was largely female (91%), had an average age of only 42 years.  It is clear that intervention on cardiovascular risks is something for all ART providers to consider in every setting.

The Australian Positive and Peers Longevity Evaluation study (beautifully given the acronym of APPLES) also points out the importance of making valid comparisons between people living with HIV and their HIV negative peers.  In Australia, almost half of all people living with HIV are now over the age of 50 years.  Petoumenos and colleagues show that among gay and bisexual men older than 55 years, recruited in Sydney, those living with HIV were more likely to report noncommunicable comorbidities including heart disease and diabetes. However, some of the more obvious risk factors, such as smoking status, were not different between the groups and people living with HIV drank less alcohol than their HIV negative peers.  The relationships between HIV, lifestyle and noncommunicable disease risk are complex but probably important as the population of people living with HIV continues to age.

In a study from the Cohorte de la Red de Investigación en Sida (CoRIS) in Spain, Masiá and colleagues have also explored long term outcomes of almost 9000 people living with HIV and their experience of non-AIDS defining events.  They show that mortality rates are considerably higher in people living with HIV who have any non-AIDS event, even if these are traditionally considered less severe, such as bacterial pneumonia, psychiatric diseases, bone fractures, or diabetes. In addition to standard indicators (such as low CD4 count at ART initiation), we should take the development of non-AIDS events as a warning to intensify management efforts and more targeted prevention of complications.

In the UK, Molloy and colleagues conducted an audit of clinical services provided at different sites.  They show that systems need to catch up with the changes in life experience of people living with HIV.  While sexual health screening was almost universally available, only 71.4% of sites were able to offer cervical cytology despite the increased risk of cervical cancer in women living with HIV.  Less than half of people taking ART had their risk for cardiovascular disease documented.  Regular audit of appropriate services, even with simple checklists for service providers is a strong tool to improve care for people living with HIV and should have a direct impact on mortality.

 

Mortality and health service use following acute myocardial infarction among persons with HIV: a population-based study

 

Jeon C, Lau C, Kendall CE, Burchell AN, Bayoumi AM, Loutfy M, Rourke SB, Antoniou T. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2017 Sep 14. doi: 10.1089/AID.2017.0128. [Epub ahead of print]

People with HIV have higher rates of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) than HIV-negative individuals. We compared mortality risk and health service use following AMI among people with and without HIV between January 1, 2002, and March 31, 2015. We conducted a population-based study using Ontario's administrative databases. Our primary outcomes were risk of inpatient death and death at 30 days following hospital discharge. In secondary analyses, we compared use of revascularization procedures within 90 days of AMI, as well as readmission or emergency department visits for heart disease and cardiology follow-up within 90 days of discharge. We studied 259 475 AMI patients, of whom 345 (0.13%) were people with HIV. AMI patients with HIV were younger than HIV-negative patients (mean age ± standard deviation: 54.4 ± 10.5 years vs. 69.3 ± 14.3 years). Following multivariable adjustment, the odds ratios for inpatient death and death at 30 days following discharge were 1.04 [95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.64-1.56] and 2.42 (95% CI 1.00-4.92), respectively. In secondary analyses, no differences were observed in receipt of revascularization procedures (hazard ratio (HR) 0.98; 95% CI 0.85-1.12), readmission or emergency department visit for heart disease (HR 1.18; 95% CI 0.85-1.62), or cardiology follow-up (HR 0.88; 95% CI 0.76-1.01). People with HIV experience AMI at younger ages and may be at higher risk of death in the 30 days following hospital discharge, underscoring the importance of targeting modifiable cardiovascular disease risk factors in these patients.

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High prevalence of "non-dipping" blood pressure and vascular stiffness in HIV-infected South Africans on antiretrovirals

Borkum MS, Heckmann JM, Manning K, Dave JA, Levitt NS, Rayner BL, Wearne N. PLoS One. 2017 Sep 20;12(9):e0185003. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185003. eCollection 2017.

Background: HIV-infected individuals are at increased risk of tissue inflammation and accelerated vascular aging ('inflamm-aging'). Abnormal diurnal blood pressure (BP) rhythms such as non-dipping may contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events in HIV infected individuals. However, little data exists on ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) and measures of vascular stiffness in the black African HIV infected population.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional analysis of otherwise well, HIV infected outpatients on ART for >5 years. Study assessments included: 24hr ABP monitoring, pulse wave velocity (PWV) and central aortic systolic pressure (CASP) using a AtCor Medical Sphygmocor device, fasting lipogram, oral glucose tolerance test, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and anthropometric data. Patients completed a questionnaire of autonomic symptoms. CD4+ counts and viral loads were obtained from the National Laboratory results system.

Results: Sixty-seven black participants were included in the analysis of whom 91% (n = 61) were female with a mean age of 42.2 ± 8.6 years. The median duration on ART was 7.5 years (IQR = 6-10), 84% were virally supressed and the median CD4 count was 529.5cells/mm3 (IQR = 372.0-686.5). The majority (67%) were classified as overweight and 76% had an increased waist circumference, yet only 88% of participants were normotensive. A hsCRP level in the high cardiovascular risk category was found in 68% of participants. The prevalence of non-dipping BP was 65%. Interestingly, there was no association on multivariable analysis between dipping status and traditional risk factors for non-dipping BP, such as: obesity, autonomic dysfunction and older age.

Conclusion: This relatively young cross-sectional sample of predominantly normotensive, but overweight black women on effective ART >5 years showed: a high prevalence of non-dipping BP, inflammation and vascular stiffness. Causality cannot be inferred but cardiovascular risk reduction should be emphasized in these patients.  

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Prevalence of self-reported comorbidities in HIV positive and HIV negative men who have sex with men over 55 years—The Australian Positive & Peers Longevity Evaluation Study (APPLES)

Petoumenos K, Huang R, Hoy J, Bloch M, Templeton DJ, Baker D, Giles M, Law MG, Cooper DA. PLoS One. 2017 Sep 8;12(9):e0184583. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184583. eCollection 2017.

In Australia, almost half of HIV-positive people are now aged over 50 and are predominately gay and bisexual men (GBM). Compared to the general HIV-negative population, GBM engage more in behaviours that may increase the risk of age-related comorbidities, including smoking, high alcohol consumption and recreational drug use. The objective of APPLES was to compare comorbidities and risk factors in HIV-positive older GBM with an appropriate control group of HIV-negative GBM. We undertook a prospectively recruited cross-sectional sample of HIV-positive and HIV-negative GBM ≥ 55 years. Detailed data collection included clinic data, a health and lifestyle survey, and blood sample collection. We report key demographic, laboratory markers and self-reported comorbidities by HIV status. For selected comorbidities we also adjust HIV status a priori for age, smoking and body mass index. Over 16 months 228 HIV-positive and 218 HIV-negative men were recruited. Median age was 63 years (IQR: 59-67). Although more HIV-positive men reported having ever smoked, smoking status was not statistically different between HIV positive and HIV negative men (p = 0.081). Greater alcohol use was reported by HIV-negative men (p = 0.002), and recreational drug use reported more often by HIV-positive men (p<0.001). After adjustment, HIV-positive men had significantly increased odds of diabetes (adjusted Odds ratio (aOR): 1.97, p = 0.038), thrombosis (aOR: 3.08, p = 0.007), neuropathy (aOR: 34.6, P<0.001), and non-significantly increased odds for heart-disease (aOR: 1.71, p = 0.077). In conclusion, HIV-positive GBM have significantly increased odds for key self-reported comorbidities. This study underscores the importance of an appropriate HIV-negative control group for more accurate evaluation of the risk and attribution of age-related comorbidities in HIV-positive people.

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Prediction of long-term outcomes of HIV-infected patients developing non-AIDS events using a multistate approach

Masiá M, Padilla S, Moreno S, Barber X, Iribarren JA, Del Romero J, Gómez-Sirvent JL, Rivero M, Vidal F, Campins AA, Gutiérrez F; Cohorte de la Red de Investigación en Sida (CoRIS). PLoS One. 2017 Sep 8;12(9):e0184329. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184329. eCollection 2017.

Objectives: Outcomes of people living with HIV (PLWH) developing non-AIDS events (NAEs) remain poorly defined. We aimed to classify NAEs according to severity, and to describe clinical outcomes and prognostic factors after NAE occurrence using data from CoRIS, a large Spanish HIV cohort from 2004 to 2013.

Design: Prospective multicenter cohort study.

Methods: Using a multistate approach we estimated 3 transition probabilities: from alive and NAE-free to alive and NAE-experienced ("NAE development"); from alive and NAE-experienced to death ("Death after NAE"); and from alive and NAE-free to death ("Death without NAE"). We analyzed the effect of different covariates, including demographic, immunologic and virologic data, on death or NAE development, based on estimates of hazard ratios (HR). We focused on the transition "Death after NAE".

Results: 8789 PLWH were followed-up until death, cohort censoring or loss to follow-up. 792 first incident NAEs occurred in 9.01% PLWH (incidence rate 28.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 26.80-30.84, per 1000 patient-years). 112 (14.14%) NAE-experienced PLWH and 240 (2.73%) NAE-free PLWH died. Adjusted HR for the transition "Death after NAE" was 12.1 (95%CI, 4.90-29.89). There was a graded increase in the adjusted HRs for mortality according to NAE severity category: HR (95%CI), 4.02 (2.45-6.57) for intermediate-severity; and 9.85 (5.45-17.81) for serious NAEs compared to low-severity NAEs. Male sex (HR 2.04; 95% CI, 1.11-3.84), age >50 years (1.78, 1.08-2.94), hepatitis C-coinfection (2.52, 1.38-4.61), lower CD4 cell count at cohort entry (HR 2.49; 95%CI 1.20-5.14 for CD4 cell count below 200 and HR 2.16; 95%CI 1.01-4.66 for CD4 cell count between 200-350, both compared to CD4 cell count higher than 500) and concomitant CD4 <200 cells/mL (2.22, 1.42-3.44) were associated with death after NAE. CD4 count and HIV-1 RNA at engagement, previous AIDS and hepatitis C-coinfection predicted mortality in NAE-free persons.

Conclusion: NAEs, including low-severity events, increase prominently the risk for mortality in PLWH. Prognostic factors differ between NAE-experienced and NAE-free persons. These findings should be taken into account in the clinical management of PLWH developing NAEs and may permit more targeted prevention efforts.

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Routine monitoring and assessment of adults living with HIV: results of the British HIV Association (BHIVA) national audit 2015

Molloy A, Curtis H, Burns F, Freedman A; BHIVA Audit and Standards Sub-Committee. BMC Infect Dis. 2017 Sep 13;17(1):619. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2708-y.

Background: The clinical care of people living with HIV changed fundamentally as a result of the development of effective antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV infection is now a long-term treatable condition. We report a national audit to assess adherence to British HIV Association guidelines for the routine investigation and monitoring of adult HIV-1-infected individuals.

Methods: All UK sites known as providers of adult HIV outpatient services were invited to complete a case-note review and a brief survey of local clinic practices. Participating sites were asked to randomly select 50-100 adults, who attended for specialist HIV care during 2014 and/or 2015. Each site collected data electronically using a self-audit spreadsheet tool. This included demographic details (gender, ethnicity, HIV exposure, and age) and whether 22 standardised and pre-defined clinical audited outcomes had been recorded.

Results: Data were collected on 8258 adults from 123 sites, representing approximately 10% of people living with HIV reported in public health surveillance as attending UK HIV services. Sexual health screening was provided within 96.4% of HIV services, cervical cytology and influenza vaccination within 71.4% of HIV services. There was wide variation in resistance testing across sites. Only 44.9% of patients on ART had a documented 10-year CVD risk within the past three years and fracture risk had been assessed within the past three years for only 16.7% patients aged over 50 years.

Conclusions: There was high participation in the national audit and good practice was identified in some areas. However, improvements can be made in monitoring of cardiovascular risk, bone and sexual health.

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Africa, Europe, Northern America, Oceania
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Cryptoccal meningitis – the unacceptable consequence of leaving people behind during ART scale up

Editor’s notes: Cryptococcal meningitis is a severe disease that occurs in people with advanced immune suppression.  Its occurrence is an indicator that an HIV treatment programme is not working well, as it is rare in people whose CD4 count is above 100 cells per microlitre.  Rajasingham and colleagues have tried to estimate the current burden of disease.  This is not straightforward, as the number and proportion of people with advanced HIV disease is changing with the increasing scale up of antiretroviral therapy and earlier HIV diagnosis.  Nonetheless, severe immune suppression still occurs in those whose HIV infection remains undiagnosed or is diagnosed too late; among those who are not started on effective ARVs promptly and among those in whom ART fails and who are not managed effectively by the ART treatment programme.  The authors estimate that there could be more than 180 000 deaths from cryptococcal meningitis with the large majority (136 000) in Africa.  This makes Cryptococcus responsible for more than 15% of HIV-related deaths, second only to tuberculosis as a documented cause.  The authors emphasize the need for earlier diagnosis of HIV and better linkage to quality care programmes.  In the meantime, there are also advances in the screening, prophylaxis and treatment of Cryptococcus itself, which require investment in laboratory services and affordable medicines that can save lives until the effects of good ART improves the immune status.

Cassim and colleagues have developed a novel approach to costing different approaches to the roll out of technology for screening for cryptococcal antigen in the blood of people with advanced HIV infection.  Depending on the numbers of samples to be tested in the laboratory, a mix of single use lateral flow assays and automated enzyme immunoassays makes most sense.  The aim is to allow the more cost-effective high-volume sites to subsidize the low volume sites in order to ensure that as many people living with advanced HIV infection as possible can be screened.

Global burden of disease of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis: an updated analysis

Rajasingham R, Smith RM, Park BJ, Jarvis JN, Govender NP, Chiller TM, Denning DW, Loyse A, Boulware DR. Lancet Infect Dis. 2017 Aug;17(8):873-881. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(17)30243-8. Epub 2017 May 5.

Background: Cryptococcus is the most common cause of meningitis in adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Global burden estimates are crucial to guide prevention strategies and to determine treatment needs, and we aimed to provide an updated estimate of global incidence of HIV-associated cryptococcal disease.

Methods: We used 2014 Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS estimates of adults (aged >15 years) with HIV and antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage. Estimates of CD4 less than 100 cells per μL, virological failure incidence, and loss to follow-up were from published multinational cohorts in low-income and middle-income countries. We calculated those at risk for cryptococcal infection, specifically those with CD4 less than 100 cells/μL not on ART, and those with CD4 less than 100 cells per μL on ART but lost to follow-up or with virological failure. Cryptococcal antigenaemia prevalence by country was derived from 46 studies globally. Based on cryptococcal antigenaemia prevalence in each country and region, we estimated the annual numbers of people who are developing and dying from cryptococcal meningitis.

Findings: We estimated an average global cryptococcal antigenaemia prevalence of 6·0% (95% CI 5·8-6·2) among people with a CD4 cell count of less than 100 cells per μL, with 278 000 (95% CI 195 500-340 600) people positive for cryptococcal antigen globally and 223 100 (95% CI 150 600-282 400) incident cases of cryptococcal meningitis globally in 2014. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 73% of the estimated cryptococcal meningitis cases in 2014 (162 500 cases [95% CI 113 600-193 900]). Annual global deaths from cryptococcal meningitis were estimated at 181 100 (95% CI 119 400-234 300), with 135 900 (75%; [95% CI 93 900-163 900]) deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, cryptococcal meningitis was responsible for 15% of AIDS-related deaths (95% CI 10-19).

Interpretation: Our analysis highlights the substantial ongoing burden of HIV-associated cryptococcal disease, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Cryptococcal meningitis is a metric of HIV treatment programme failure; timely HIV testing and rapid linkage to care remain an urgent priority.

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Estimating the cost-per-result of a national reflexed cryptococcal antigenaemia screening program: Forecasting the impact of potential HIV guideline changes and treatment goals

Cassim N, Coetzee LM, Schnippel K, Glencross DK. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 22;12(8):e0182154. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182154. eCollection 2017.

Introduction: During 2016, the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) introduced laboratory-based reflexed Cryptococcal antigen (CrAg) screening to detect early Cryptococcal disease in immunosuppressed HIV+ patients with a confirmed CD4 count of 100 cells/μl or less.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess cost-per-result of a national screening program across different tiers of laboratory service, with variable daily CrAg test volumes. The impact of potential ART treatment guideline and treatment target changes on CrAg volumes, platform choice and laboratory workflow are considered.

Methods: CD4 data (with counts ≤ 100 cells/μl) from the fiscal year 2015/16 were extracted from the NHLS Corporate Date Warehouse and used to project anticipated daily CrAg testing volumes with appropriately-matched CrAg testing platforms allocated at each of 52 NHLS CD4 laboratories. A cost-per-result was calculated for four scenarios, including the existing service status quo (Scenario-I), and three other settings (as Scenarios II-IV) which were based on information from recent antiretroviral (ART) guidelines, District Health Information System (DHIS) data and UNAIDS 90/90/90 HIV/AIDS treatment targets. Scenario-II forecast CD4 testing offered only to new ART initiates recorded at DHIS. Scenario-III projected all patients notified as HIV+, but not yet on ART (recorded at DHIS) and Scenario-IV forecast CrAg screening in 90% of estimated HIV+ patients across South Africa (also DHIS). Stata was used to assess daily CrAg volumes at the 5th, 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, 90th and 95th percentiles across 52 CD4-laboratories. Daily volumes were used to determine technical effort/ operator staff costs (% full time equivalent) and cost-per-result for all scenarios.

Results: Daily volumes ranged between 3 and 64 samples for Scenario-I at the 5th and 95th percentile. Similarly, daily volumes ranges of 1-12, 2-45 and 5-100 CrAg-directed samples were noted for Scenario's II, III and IV respectively. A cut-off of 30 CrAg tests per day defined use of either LFA or EIA platform. LFA cost-per-result ranged from $8.24 to $5.44 and EIA cost-per-result between $5.58 and $4.88 across the range of test volumes. The technical effort across scenarios ranged from 3.2-27.6% depending on test volumes and platform used.

Conclusion: The study reported the impact of programmatic testing requirements on varying CrAg test volumes that subsequently influenced choice of testing platform, laboratory workflow and cost-per-result. A novel percentiles approach is described that enables an overview of the cost-per-result across a national program. This approach facilitates cross-subsidisation of more expensive lower volume sites with cost-efficient, more centralized higher volume laboratories, mitigating against the risk of costing tests at a single site.

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Understanding different levels and different models of integration

Editor’s notes: Integration between HIV services and programmes and other services and programmes sounds like common sense.  As people with HIV live longer they are more likely to develop other chronic conditions.  Some of these conditions may also be exacerbated by some anti-retroviral medicines, although modern treatment regimens have much less effect on lipid and insulin metabolism.  Low grade chronic inflammation may continue even in people whose HIV is suppressed and people whose CD4 count sunk to a low level before starting seem to be at greater risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease.  Then there are diseases that are more common among people living with HIV, such as tuberculosis and invasive cervical cancer.  And HIV programmes around the world have established some of the best clinical services for chronic care, with regular appointments, decentralized follow-up, algorithmic approaches to clinical changes and so on.  So it seems sensible to look for the synergies and build on them.

However, research on integration makes it clear that there are many different interpretations of what integration should or could mean.  In different epidemiological settings, the priorities will inevitably be very different.  Two useful systematic reviews this month by the same team, review this territory for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cervical cancer. 

Haldane et al. distinguish between the levels of integration.  Micro level integration involves direct patient care and adjusting diagnosis, treatment and support appropriately.  Meso level integration refers to changes made at the clinic or delivery system level, while macro level integration is about programme management, supply chains and systems organisation.  Despite a large literature (over 7600 papers) on the overlaps between HIV and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, the authors found only 14 studies that allowed aspects of the integration to be assessed, and only one of these evaluated outcomes.  The others were descriptive studies which highlighted many innovative models, almost all at the meso-level.

Similarly for invasive cervical cancer, which is at least four times as common among women living with HIV as seronegative women, Sigfrid et al. found many papers but only 21 that met their inclusion criteria.  Their models of integration could all be said to be at the meso-level, with one stop shops; co-located services or more complex integrated pathways described.  Again, there were no good evaluations of the outcomes of these systematic changes to the way that services are delivered.  In most countries, all women with cervical cancer should at least be offered an HIV test and appropriate linkage to care expedited for those found to be seropositive.  Women living with HIV need regular screening for early cervical cancer and (as discussed last month) screening for human papillomavirus, the underlying cause of cervical cancer.  However, many ART clinics are now busy and crowded so that even if staff are trained, they do not have time or space or privacy to do cervical examinations.  HPV vaccination campaigns need to be carried out in schools before girls become sexually active.  This could be a good time to engage with sexuality education. However, many campaigns have tended to avoid the challenges of discussing sex with girls who are not yet sexually active, preferring to focus on the vaccine as a cancer prevention tool.  So, the lesson from both these papers is that we need to define more rigorously what we want to achieve with integration and then ensure that we evaluate whether or not our interventions achieve it.

Tuberculosis and HIV have been dancing together since the first descriptions of HIV in the 1980s.  The large majority of tuberculosis patients in many countries are now screened for HIV, with appropriate referral and increasing numbers of people living with HIV are screened regularly for the four classic symptoms of tuberculosis (weight loss, cough, night sweats and fever) and referred onwards for diagnosis.  Yet we still find that collaboration between programmes is not always easy. The number of people living with HIV who are also on tuberculosis treatment reported by the HIV programme may not be the same as the number of people on tuberculosis treatment who are also living with HIV reported by the tuberculosis programme.  Osei et al. report from the Volta Region of Ghana that more than 90% of tuberculosis patients had an HIV test recorded in the tuberculosis register, with an HIV prevalence of 18%.  As has been reported frequently elsewhere, the authors found that HIV was commoner in those with smear negative tuberculosis, and the outcome of treatment was less good.  Their recommendation for strengthening the collaboration between tuberculosis and HIV makes sense, although it has been WHO policy for many years.

The WHO guidance on collaborative TB/HIV activities has always included isoniazid preventive therapy.  However, this remains poorly implemented for reasons that are never very clear.  Despite no good evidence, many tuberculosis programme staff and clinicians worry about the risk of generating isoniazid resistant tuberculosis.  Many HIV programme staff feel that isoniazid remains in the realm of the tuberculosis programme, so that although they are happy to promote cotrimoxazole, they are much slower to prescribe isoniazid.  Many also feel that ART alone should be sufficient to prevent tuberculosis, despite randomized trials in high prevalence settings that demonstrate the additional benefits of isoniazid.  Shayo et al. make a strong economic argument for promoting isoniazid in their study in Tanzania.  They base their model on the rates of tuberculosis and mortality seen during the expansion of pilot programmes for isoniazid in Dar es Salaam.  Both tuberculosis and mortality were significantly lower in the clinics which were part of the pilot programme.  In fact, mortality was approximately tenfold lower, which seems unlikely to be simply due to isoniazid.  Some studies such as TEMPRANO have shown a mortality benefit from isoniazid, while many trials have failed to do so.  Given the non-randomized nature of the comparison, the authors do point out that their conclusions must be tentative.  Nonetheless, it is a convincing demonstration that isoniazid preventive therapy can be incorporated into a busy HIV care clinic and there is abundant evidence that this is the right thing to do.

One more tuberculosis study this month was carried out in Germany.  Karo et al. reviewed the immunology of the 139 people who developed tuberculosis among more than 10 000 people living with HIV in the German ClinSurv cohort.  The authors excluded people who already had tuberculosis at the time that HIV was diagnosed, and found that new diagnoses of tuberculosis were most common in the first couple of years after starting ART.  The authors also show that immune restoration was slower in people who developed tuberculosis.  There was still some deficit up to seven years after ART was started.  Again, their conclusion is that we should be using isoniazid to prevent tuberculosis in people living with HIV, especially people who have spent much of their lives in areas of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa where tuberculosis is much more prevalent than in Europe.  It is often said that Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a very slow growing organism.  We must work harder to ensure that our response to it is not very slow too.  Tuberculosis remains the biggest killer of people with HIV in most of the world, yet for years we have known that a simple, cheap, non-toxic treatment can prevent it. 

 

Integrating cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes with HIV services: a systematic review.

Haldane V, Legido-Quigley H, Chuah FLH, Sigfrid L, Murphy G, Ong SE, Cervero-Liceras F, Watt N, Balabanova D, Hogarth S, Maimaris W, Buse K, McKee M, Piot P, Perel P. AIDS Care. 2017 Jul 5:1-13. doi:10.1080/09540121.2017.1344350. [Epub ahead of print]

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), hypertension and diabetes together with HIV infection are among the major public health concerns worldwide. Health services for HIV and NCDs require health systems that provide for people's chronic care needs, which present an opportunity to coordinate efforts and create synergies between programs to benefit people living with HIV and/or AIDS and NCDs. This review included studies that reported service integration for HIV and/or AIDS with coronary heart diseases, chronic CVD, cerebrovascular diseases (stroke), hypertension or diabetes. We searched multiple databases from inception until October 2015. Articles were screened independently by two reviewers and assessed for risk of bias. 11 057 records were identified with 7 616 after duplicate removal. After screening titles and abstracts, 14 papers addressing 17 distinct interventions met the inclusion criteria. We categorized integration models by diseases (HIV with diabetes, HIV with hypertension and diabetes, HIV with CVD and finally HIV with hypertension and CVD and diabetes). Models also looked at integration from micro (patient focused integration) to macro (system level integrations). Most reported integration of hypertension and diabetes with HIV and AIDS services and described multidisciplinary collaboration, shared protocols, and incorporating screening activities into community campaigns. Integration took place exclusively at the meso-level, with no micro- or macro-level integrations described. Most were descriptive studies, with one cohort study reporting evaluative outcomes. Several innovative initiatives were identified and studies showed that CVD and HIV service integration is feasible. Integration should build on existing protocols and use the community as a locus for advocacy and health services, while promoting multidisciplinary teams, including greater involvement of pharmacists. There is a need for robust and well-designed studies at all levels - particularly macro-level studies, research looking at long-term outcomes of integration, and research in a more diverse range of countries.

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Integrating cervical cancer with HIV healthcare services: A systematic review.

Sigfrid L, Murphy G, Haldane V, Chuah FLH, Ong SE, Cervero-Liceras F, Watt N, Alvaro A, Otero-Garcia L, Balabanova D, Hogarth S, Maimaris W, Buse K, Mckee M, Piot P, Perel P, Legido-Quigley H. PLoS One. 2017 Jul 21;12(7):e0181156. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181156. eCollection 2017.

Background: Cervical cancer is a major public health problem. Even though readily preventable, it is the fourth leading cause of death in women globally. Women living with HIV are at increased risk of invasive cervical cancer, highlighting the need for access to screening and treatment for this population. Integration of services has been proposed as an effective way of improving access to cervical cancer screening especially in areas of high HIV prevalence as well as lower resourced settings. This paper presents the results of a systematic review of programs integrating cervical cancer and HIV services globally, including feasibility, acceptability, clinical outcomes and facilitators for service delivery.

Methods: This is part of a larger systematic review on integration of services for HIV and non-communicable diseases. To be considered for inclusion studies had to report on programs to integrate cervical cancer and HIV services at the level of service delivery. We searched multiple databases including Global Health, Medline and Embase from inception until December 2015. Articles were screened independently by two reviewers for inclusion and data were extracted and assessed for risk of bias.

Main results: 11 057 records were identified initially. 7616 articles were screened by title and abstract for inclusion. A total of 21 papers reporting interventions integrating cervical cancer care and HIV services met the criteria for inclusion. All but one study described integration of cervical cancer screening services into existing HIV services. Most programs also offered treatment of minor lesions, a 'screen-and-treat' approach, with some also offering treatment of larger lesions within the same visit. Three distinct models of integration were identified. One model described integration within the same clinic through training of existing staff. Another model described integration through co-location of services, with the third model describing programs of integration through complex coordination across the care pathway. The studies suggested that integration of cervical cancer services with HIV services using all models was feasible and acceptable to patients. However, several barriers were reported, including high loss to follow up for further treatment, limited human-resources, and logistical and chain management support. Using visual screening methods can facilitate screening and treatment of minor to larger lesions in a single 'screen-and-treat' visit. Complex integration in a single-visit was shown to reduce loss to follow up. The use of existing health infrastructure and funding together with comprehensive staff training and supervision, community engagement and digital technology were some of the many other facilitators for integration reported across models.

Conclusions: This review shows that integration of cervical cancer screening and treatment with HIV services using different models of service delivery is feasible as well as acceptable to women living with HIV. However, the descriptive nature of most papers and lack of data on the effect on long-term outcomes for HIV or cervical cancer limits the inference on the effectiveness of the integrated programs. There is a need for strengthening of health systems across the care continuum and for high quality studies evaluating the effect of integration on HIV as well as on cervical cancer outcomes.

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The burden of HIV on tuberculosis patients in the Volta region of Ghana from 2012 to 2015: implication for tuberculosis control.

Osei E, Der J, Owusu R, Kofie P, Axame WK. BMC Infect Dis. 2017 Jul 19;17(1):504. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2598-z.

Background: The impact of HIV on TB, and the implications for TB control, has been acknowledged as a public health challenge. It is imperative therefore to assess the burden of HIV on TB patients as an indicator for monitoring the control efforts of the two diseases in this part of the world. This study aimed at determining the burden of HIV infection in TB patients.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of TB registers in five districts of the Volta Region of Ghana. Prevalence of TB/HIV co-infection was determined. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression were used to identify the predictors of HIV infection among TB patients and statistical significance was set at p-value <0.05.

Results: Of the 1772 TB patients, 1633 (92.2%) were tested for HIV. The overall prevalence of TB/HIV co-infection was (18.2%; 95% CI: 16.4-20.1). The prevalence was significantly higher among females (24.1%; 95%CI: 20.8-27.7), compared to males (15.1%; 95% CI: 13.1-17.4) (p < 0.001) and among children <15 years of age (27.0%; 95% CI: 18.2-38.1), compared to the elderly ≥70 years (3.5%; 95% CI: 1.6-7.4) (p < 0.001). Treatment success rate was higher among patients with only TB (90%; 95% CI: 88.1-91.5) than among TB/HIV co-infected patients (77.0%; 95% CI: 71.7-81.7) (p < 0.001). Independent predictors of HIV infection were found to be: being female (AOR: 1.79; 95% CI: 1.38-2.13; p < 0.001); smear negative pulmonary TB (AOR: 1.84; 95% CI: 1.37-2.47; p < 0.001); and patients registered in Hohoe, Kadjebi, and Kpando districts with adjusted odds ratios of 1.69 (95% CI: 1.13-2.54; p = 0.011), 2.29 (95% CI: 1.46-3.57; p < 0.001), and 2.15 (95% CI: 1.44-3.21; p < 0.001) respectively. Patients ≥70 years of age and those registered in Keta Municipal were less likely to be HIV positive with odds ratios of 0.09 (95% CI: 0.04-0.26; p < 0.001) and 0.62 (95% CI: 0.38-0.99; p = 0.047) respectively.

Conclusion: TB/HIV co-infection rate in five study districts of the Volta region is quite high, occurs more frequently in female patients than males; among smear negative pulmonary TB patients, and children <15 years of age. Findings also demonstrate that HIV co-infection affects TB treatment outcomes adversely. Strengthening the TB/HIV collaborative efforts is required in order to reduce the burden of co-infection in patients.

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Cost-effectiveness of isoniazid preventive therapy among HIV-infected patients clinically screened for latent tuberculosis infection in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: a prospective cohort study.

Shayo GA, Chitama D, Moshiro C, Aboud S, Bakari M, Mugusi F. BMC Public Health. 2017 Jul 19;18(1):35. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4597-9.

Background: One of the reasons why Isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) for Tuberculosis (TB) is not widely used in low income countries is concerns on cost of excluding active TB. We analyzed the cost-effectiveness of IPT provision in Tanzania having ruled out active TB by a symptom-based screening tool.

Methods: Data on IPT cost-effectiveness was prospectively collected from an observational cohort study of 1283 HIV-infected patients on IPT and 1281 controls; followed up for 24 months. The time horizon for the analysis was 2 years. Number of TB cases prevented and deaths averted were used for effectiveness. A micro costing approach was used from a provider perspective. Cost was estimated on the basis of clinical records, market price or interviews with medical staff. We annualized the cost at a discount of 3%. A univariate sensitivity analysis was done. Results are presented in US$ at an average annual exchange rate for the year 2012 which was Tanzania shillings 1562.4 for 1 US $.

Results: The number of TB cases prevented was 420/100 000 persons receiving IPT. The number of deaths averted was 979/100 000 persons receiving IPT. Incremental cost due to IPT provision was US$ 170 490. The incremental cost-effective ratio was US $ 405.93 per TB case prevented and US $ 174.15 per death averted. These costs were less than 3 times the 768 US $ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita for Tanzania in the year 2014, making IPT provision after ruling out active TB by the symptom-based screening tool cost-effective. The results were robust to changes in laboratory and radiological tests but not to changes in recurrent, personnel, medication and utility costs.

Conclusion: IPT should be given to HIV-infected patients who screen negative to symptom-based TB screening questionnaire. Its cost-effectiveness supports government policy to integrate IPT to HIV/AIDS care and treatment in the country, given the availability of budget and the capacity of health facilities.

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Immunological recovery in tuberculosis/HIV co-infected patients on antiretroviral therapy: implication for tuberculosis preventive therapy.

Karo B, Krause G, Castell S, Kollan C, Hamouda O, Haas W; ClinSurv HIV Study Group. BMC Infect Dis. 2017 Jul 25;17(1):517. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2627-y.

Background: Understanding the immune response to combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) is essential for a clear approach to tuberculosis (TB) preventive therapy. We investigated the immunological recovery in cART-treated HIV-infected patients developing TB compared to those who remained free of TB.

Methods: We extracted data of HIV-infected patients from a multicenter cohort for the HIV clinical surveillance in Germany. No patients included in our study had TB at the beginning of the observation. Using a longitudinal mixed model, we assessed the differences in the mean change of biomarkers (CD4+ cell count, CD8+ cell count, CD4:CD8 ratio and viral load) since cART initiation in patients who remained free of TB vs. those developing TB. To detect the best-fit trajectories of the immunological biomarkers, we applied a multivariable fractional polynomials model.

Results: We analyzed a total of 10 671 HIV-infected patients including 139 patients who developed TB during follow-up. The highest TB incidences were observed during the first two years since cART initiation (0.32 and 0.50 per 100 person-years). In an adjusted multivariable mixed model, we found that the average change in CD4+ cell count recovery was significantly greater by 33 cells/μl in patients who remained free of TB compared with those developing TB. After the initial three months of cART, 65.6% of patients who remaining free of TB achieved CD4+ count of ≥400 cells/μl, while only 11.3% of patients developing TB reached this immunological status after the three months of cART. We found no differences in the average change of CD8+ cell count, CD4:CD8 ratio or viral load between the two-patient groups.

Conclusion: All HIV-infected patients responded to cART. However, patients developing TB showed reduced recovery in CD4+ cell count and this might partly explain the incident TB in HIV-infected patients receiving cART. These findings reinforce the importance of adjunctive TB preventive therapy for patients with reduced recovery in CD4+ cell count.

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90-90-90: a clear roadmap for HIV treatment. But each 90 brings with it opportunities and challenges

Editor’s notes: The discovery of effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) will go down in history as the greatest success of biomedical science of the past decades.  Landmark studies have shown that the earlier people living with HIV start ART, not only is their clinical outlook improved, but also their likelihood of transmitting infection to their sexual partners falls dramatically.  People who take their ART effectively and in whom the virus is suppressed to undetectable levels are no longer infectious.  A massive public health and social justice response has led to unprecedented scale up of this miraculous treatment.  There is widespread adoption of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target.  The target is easy to recite: 90% of people living with HIV know their status; 90% of people who know their status are on ART and 90% of people taking ART have suppressed their viral load.  Many mathematical models show that if these targets are achieved, there should be a substantial impact on the trajectory of the epidemic with a large reduction in new HIV infections and HIV-related deaths, leading to huge cost-savings in the future.

Several large community based studies have been established to examine both the necessary processes to reach these goals and the impact at community level of the wider coverage with effective ART.  We have commented in previous editions on the ANRS Treatment as Prevention (TasP) study in rural Kwazulu-Natal and on papers from the SEARCH study in rural Kenya and Uganda.  Not surprisingly, given the different contexts, approaches, methods and definitions, the studies each shed light on different aspects of the 90-90-90 target.

This month, there are two new papers from the PopART (HPTN071) study, along with an accompanying commentary from the TasP study team.  PopART is the largest of the large community randomized studies of the universal test and treat approach, nested within a broader combination prevention package.  The population covered by the trial is around one million people living in largely urban or peri-urban communities in Zambia and the Western Cape province of South Africa.  The approach used in two of the three arms of the trial, is to deliver HIV testing and other prevention services by means of community health workers.  These so called CHiPs (Community HIV care Providers) also encourage linkage of people either known to be or newly found to be living with HIV to the local government health facilities, where ART is started regardless of CD4 count in one arm of the study, or in line with government guidelines (which is now also regardless of CD4 count in both countries) in the other. In the third arm of the trial, there are no CHiPs and HIV testing and linkage to treatment is performed by routine services, with treatment also offered to all, regardless of CD4 count.

The papers in this month’s edition cover only the four Zambian communities receiving the most intensive package during the first year of the intervention. Shanaube and colleagues focus on the first 90, while Hayes and colleagues focus on the second 90.  The overall conclusion is that the CHiPs approach leads to a very high uptake of HIV testing, but that linkage to care still takes longer than expected.  However, there is a wealth of detail in both the process and the ways to measure these apparently straightforward statistics.  When the CHiPs actually see people, acceptance of HIV testing is very high, unless people have recently had an HIV test.  Even then, almost three quarters of women are happy to have another test four to six months after their most recent negative test, whereas for men, there is somewhat more reluctance.  The main challenges for the CHiPs are that people may need more than one visit to decide to test and that men are often not at home, despite multiple visits and scheduled appointments.  Furthermore, as Iwuju and Newell point out in their slightly pessimistic commentary, people move around and migration makes it hard to define a reliable denominator (a challenge also faced by the SEARCH team in Uganda and Kenya).  Around 20% of the people who knew they were HIV positive were not able to be seen at one year follow-up, so it is not possible to know whether they were linked to care or not.  The TasP study also found that the second 90 was the real challenges, with a very high coverage of HIV testing, but not enough linkage to lead to a reduction in incidence at the community level.

The PopART study is ongoing, and recent presentations suggest that with time, a larger proportion of people are indeed linking to care.  The lesson may be that it requires ongoing and continuing support in an urban and peri-urban community to achieve high levels of coverage.  We await eagerly the next instalments and final results demonstrating whether there is a wider public health impact which will not be available before 2019!

These huge longitudinal studies also remind us that the 90-90-90 target is defined as cross-sectional measurements, and does not take into account directly the length of time that it takes to start treatment or to become virally supressed.  The information from large cross-sectional studies, such as ICAP and PEPFAR’s population-based HIV impact assessments (PHIA) give a direct measurement of 90-90-90.  However, in contrast to PopART and the other community-based studies, gives no insight into the dynamics of the processes through which people decide to get tested, link to care and remain in care.

McCreesh and colleagues used an individual-based mathematical model of the flow through testing, linkage to treatment and retention based on data from Uganda and using a novel method of calibration.  They show that removing the CD4 threshold (as is recommended by WHO and the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target) is very likely to be the most cost-effective approach to reduce the burden of HIV over the years up to 2030.  However, they also found that their model predicts that efforts to improve linkage to and retention in care are likely to be more cost-effective than increased coverage of testing in Uganda.  This is in part because many Ugandans already know their HIV status as a result of previous efforts, so it should not be taken as a general recommendation not to work to improve the first 90 as well as the second two!  The authors state clear conclusions: “Our results strongly suggest that an increase in the rates of HIV testing in the general population in Uganda ….. should not be prioritized above interventions to improve linkage to, and retention in, care…..  In Uganda, interventions to improve retention in and movement through the HIV care pathway should be prioritized over case finding interventions in the general population.”

In rural Kwazulu-Natal, the challenge of retention among populations that are by necessity mobile was also shown in a study by Arnesen and colleagues.  In this study of risk factors for people on ART being lost to follow up they found that more than one quarter of the 3242 people on the treatment register in 15 primary care clinics were thought to be lost.  However, the authors found that one-third of these people labelled as lost were in fact taking treatment at another clinic.  As in other similar studies men were more likely to discontinue treatment, as were people with advanced immunosuppression (who are at high risk of dying in the absence of treatment) and being on ART for less than six months. This is a useful reminder of priorities.  Providing more support to men, and the sickest patients, maintaining closer supervision for the first year, might lead to better programme outcomes and (as predicted by the Ugandan model) save money in the medium term.

By comparison, a large records-based study in the United States of America by Youn and colleagues examined time trends in retention on treatment (persistence in the authors’ terminology).  The author used insurance claims for prescriptions for ART and for other medicines for heart disease, hypertension or diabetes taken regularly over a long time by both HIV positive and HIV-negative people.  They were able to examine persistence in over 40 000 people living with HIV starting treatment in 2001-2003 (when ART was more cumbersome and more toxic) compared to 2004-2006 and 2007-2010.  Persistence improved dramatically over this time period for ART, but hardly changed at all for the other medicines studied.  This demonstrates that the changes were not merely secular trends in the likelihood of remaining on treatment.  Interestingly, in people living with HIV, persistence on the non-HIV related medicines also improved, suggesting that HIV care provided additional benefits in terms of retention and adherence to medicines that went beyond ART. 

There was also good news from Australia, where Medland and colleagues used records from the two largest HIV treatment clinics in the state of Victoria to examine time trends in the delay from HIV diagnosis to starting ART.  Among 729 people started on ART, the proportion of patient in care and on ART within one year of diagnosis increased from 43.4% to 78.9% from 2011 to 2014.  By 2014, 50% of people were starting ART within 77 days of being diagnosed.  The authors point out that this is a key measurement of programme effectiveness that is not routinely captured.  Nor does it form part of the 90-90-90 targets.  Of course, it is important to remember that the period prior to HIV diagnosis is probably even more important in terms of risks of transmission, as there have been numerous studies showing that people who know their HIV status are less likely to transmit HIV.  So we really need to know the period from infection to HIV diagnosis, as well as the time from diagnosis to treatment, and perhaps also the time to become virally supressed.  Viral suppression can take months or even more than a year depending on an individual’s initial virological and immunological state and variations in response to treatment as well as with the choice of ART regimen.

Despite massive scale up of ART, there are still many people living with HIV who present to services late with a CD4 count of <200 cells per ml.  A recent report in MMWR, showed that in 10 PEPFAR supported countries, there are still as many as one third of people presenting late.  Many of these people have opportunistic infections that have characterised HIV infection since the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic.  Botswana has made huge progress towards 90-90-90, but Tenforde and colleagues show that cryptococcal meningitis is still a major health problem.  They were able to collect laboratory based data over the past decade, as well as more detailed records from the two largest referral centres.  Although the number of cases of cryptococcal meningitis has halved since 2004, when the scale up of ART in Botswana really got going, the two referral hospitals still see more than 150 cases per year.  Mortality is still horribly high.  Overall, the authors explored data from more than 5000 episodes of cryptococcal meningitis in 4702 individuals over the period 2004-2014.  For people who could be linked to their clinical medical records, they demonstrate that the risk rises dramatically as the CD4 count falls – people with a CD4 count of < 50 cells per ml have an incidence of around 2000/100 000 person years, whereas the rates of people with 50-100 or 100-200 cells per ml are around 350 and 80 respectively.  More than 90% of the cases identified occurred in people whose CD4 cell count was <200 cells per ml.  As other studies might have predicted, men are more affected, as they tend to present to services later.  The most useful medicines for cryptococcal meningitis, i.e., liposomal Amphotericin and 5 flucytosine, remain too expensive or not available in most African countries.  Not only do we need to bring the prices of these commodities down to affordable levels, but we also need continued efforts to engage men (and other populations who get left behind) earlier in the course of their HIV infection.

The improvements in overall survival and life expectancy for people living with HIV if they have access to effective treatments are well known.  A large collaborative study (the ART Cohort Collaboration) has brought together 18 European and North American cohorts in order to look at the mortality experienced in the first years after starting ART.  They found the biggest improvements in people who started treatment in the last period that they studied (2008-2010).  There were also greater changes in mortality in the second and third years after starting ART.  Even so, they conclude that life expectancy is still not as good as that of HIV negative people.  Previous studies have sometimes been biased towards people who survive longer, partly through not including as many people in the first year after ART when mortality is at its highest.  They propose that much of the improvement seen is due to newer drugs and more options for treatment failure.  They therefore caution against the temptation to save money on cheaper generics as they become available for older medicines that may be less palatable or less effective.

What works-reaching universal HIV testing: lessons from HPTN 071 (PopART) trial in Zambia

Shanaube K, Schaap A, Floyd S, Phiri M, Griffith S, Chaila J, Bock P, Hayes R, Fidler S, Ayles H; HPTN 071 (PopART) Study Team. AIDS. 2017 Jul 17;31(11):1555-1564. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001514..

Objective: To determine the uptake of home-based HIV counselling and testing (HCT) in four HPTN071 (PopART) trial communities (implementing a 'full' combination HIV prevention package that includes universal HIV testing and treatment) in Zambia. We also explore factors associated with uptake of HCT in these communities.

Design: HPTN071 (PopART) is a 3-arm community-randomized trial in 12 communities in Zambia and 9 communities in South Africa evaluating the impact of a combination HIV prevention package, including universal HIV testing and treatment, on HIV incidence.

Methods: Using a door-to-door approach that includes systematically re-visiting households, individuals were offered participation in the intervention and verbal consent was obtained. Data were analysed for the first 18 months of the intervention, December 2013 to June 2015 for individuals 18 years and older.

Results: Among 121 130 enumerated household members, 101 102 (83.5%) accepted the intervention. HCT uptake was 72.2% (66 894/92 612), similar by sex but varied across communities. HCT uptake was associated with younger age, sex, community, being symptomatic for TB and STI and longer time since previous HIV test. Knowledge of HIV status due to the intervention increased by 36% overall and by 66% among HIV positives; the highest impact was among 18-24 year olds.

Conclusion: Overall acceptance of HIV-testing through offering a door-to-door-based combination HIV prevention package was 72.2%. The intervention increased knowledge of HIV status from 50% to 90%. However, challenges still remain and a one-off intervention is unlikely to be successful but will require repeated visits and multiple strategies.

Abstract access

A universal testing and treatment intervention to improve HIV control: One-year results from intervention communities in Zambia in the HPTN 071 (PopART) cluster-randomised trial

Hayes R, Floyd S, Schaap A, Shanaube K, Bock P, Sabapathy K, Griffith S, Donnell D, Piwowar-Manning E, El-Sadr W, Beyers N, Ayles H, Fidler S; HPTN 071 (PopART) Study Team. PLoS Med. 2017 May 2;14(5):e1002292. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002292. eCollection 2017 May.

Objective: The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 targets require that, by 2020, 90% of those living with HIV know their status, 90% of known HIV-positive individuals receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90% of individuals on ART have durable viral suppression. The HPTN 071 (PopART) trial is measuring the impact of a universal testing and treatment intervention on population-level HIV incidence in 21 urban communities in Zambia and South Africa. We report observational data from four communities in Zambia to assess progress towards the UNAIDS targets after 1 y of the PopART intervention.

Methods and Findings: The PopART intervention comprises annual rounds of home-based HIV testing delivered by community HIV-care providers (CHiPs) who also support linkage to care, ART retention, and other services. Data from four communities in Zambia receiving the full intervention (including immediate ART for all individuals with HIV) were used to determine proportions of participants who knew their HIV status after the CHiP visit; proportions linking to care and initiating ART following referral; and overall proportions of HIV-infected individuals who knew their status (first 90 target) and the proportion of these on ART (second 90 target), pre- and post-intervention. We are not able to assess progress towards the third 90 target at this stage of the study. Overall, 121 130 adults (59 283 men and 61 847 women) were enumerated in 46 714 households during the first annual round (December 2013 to June 2015). Of the 45 399 (77%) men and 55 703 (90%) women consenting to the intervention, 80% of men and 85% of women knew their HIV status after the CHiP visit. Of 6197 HIV-positive adults referred by CHiPs, 42% (95% CI: 40%-43%) initiated ART within 6 mo and 53% (95% CI: 52%-55%) within 12 mo. In the entire population, the estimated proportion of HIV-positive adults who knew their status increased from 52% to 78% for men and from 56% to 87% for women. The estimated proportion of known HIV-positive individuals on ART increased overall from 54% after the CHiP visit to 74% by the end of the round for men and from 53% to 73% for women. The estimated overall proportion of HIV-positive adults on ART, irrespective of whether they knew their status, increased from 44% to 61%, compared with the 81% target (the product of the first two 90 targets). Coverage was lower among young men and women than in older age groups. The main limitation of the study was the need for assumptions concerning knowledge of HIV status and ART coverage among adults not consenting to the intervention or HIV testing, although our conclusions were robust in sensitivity analyses.

Conclusions: In this analysis, acceptance of HIV testing among those consenting to the intervention was high, although linkage to care and ART initiation took longer than expected. Knowledge of HIV-positive status increased steeply after 1 y, almost attaining the first 90 target in women and approaching it in men. The second 90 target was more challenging, with approximately three-quarters of known HIV-positive individuals on ART by the end of the annual round. Achieving higher test uptake in men and more rapid linkage to care will be key objectives during the second annual round of the intervention.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Universal test, treat, and keep: improving ART retention is key in cost-effective HIV control in Uganda

McCreesh N, Andrianakis I, Nsubuga RN, Strong M, Vernon I, McKinley TJ, Oakley JE, Goldstein M, Hayes R, White RG. BMC Infect Dis. 2017 May 3;17(1):322. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2420-y.

Background: With ambitious new UNAIDS targets to end AIDS by 2030, and new WHO treatment guidelines, there is increased interest in the best way to scale-up ART coverage. We investigate the cost-effectiveness of various ART scale-up options in Uganda.

Methods: Individual-based HIV/ART model of Uganda, calibrated using history matching. 22 ART scale-up strategies were simulated from 2016 to 2030, comprising different combinations of six single interventions (1. increased HIV testing rates, 2. no CD4 threshold for ART initiation, 3. improved ART retention, 4. increased ART restart rates, 5. improved linkage to care, 6. improved pre-ART care). The incremental net monetary benefit (NMB) of each intervention was calculated, for a wide range of different willingness/ability to pay (WTP) per DALY averted (health-service perspective, 3% discount rate).

Results: For all WTP thresholds above $210, interventions including removing the CD4 threshold were likely to be most cost-effective. At a WTP of $715 (1 × per-capita-GDP) interventions to improve linkage to and retention/re-enrolment in HIV care were highly likely to be more cost-effective than interventions to increase rates of HIV testing. At higher WTP (> ~ $1690), the most cost-effective option was 'Universal Test, Treat, and Keep' (UTTK), which combines interventions 1-5 detailed above.

Conclusion: Our results support new WHO guidelines to remove the CD4 threshold for ART initiation in Uganda. With additional resources, this could be supplemented with interventions aimed at improving linkage to and/or retention in HIV care. To achieve the greatest reductions in HIV incidence, a UTTK policy should be implemented.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Predictors of loss to follow-up among patients on ART at a rural hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Arnesen R, Moll AP, Shenoi SV. PLoS One. 2017 May 24;12(5):e0177168. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177168. eCollection 2017

Introduction: Improved HIV outcomes as a result of expanded antiretroviral therapy (ART) access is threatened by increasing rates of loss to follow up (LTFU) among those on ART, largely reported in urban populations. Some reports suggest that LTFU rates are overestimated due to patient movement to other facilities and inadequate medical records.

Study Objective: To define the proportion disengaging from HIV care as well as the characteristics of those LTFU in order to design and implement appropriate interventions to increase retention.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of patients who discontinued ART at a central hospital ART clinic in rural South Africa and compared with patients receiving care at the 15 primary health clinics (PHCs) to determine the true proportion of those who were LTFU. We also compared those who discontinued ART with those who did not at the central hospital ART clinic to determine predictors of loss to follow up.

Results: Among 3242 patients on ART, 820 were originally marked as LTFU. Among all patients, 272 (8.4%) were found at a clinic on treatment, 56 (1.7%) were found at a clinic from which they had since discontinued treatment, and 10 (0.3%) returned to care between June and July 2016, leaving 475 (14.7%) unaccounted for and thus categorized as 'true' LTFU. Factors found to be associated with discontinuation include being male, age 18-35, having a CD4 count under 200 cells/μL, and being on ART for under six months.

Conclusions: Young men with low CD4 counts early after ART initiation are at highest risk of ART disengagement in this rural South African HIV clinic. Novel interventions targeting this group are needed to improve retention in care.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Ten-year trends in anti-retroviral therapy persistence among US Medicaid beneficiaries, 2001-2010

Youn B, Shireman TI, Lee Y, Galárraga O, Rana AI, Justice AC, Wilson IB. AIDS. 2017 May 16. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001541. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: Whether the rate of HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) persistence has improved over time in the U.S. is unknown. We examined ART persistence trends between 2001 and 2010, using non-HIV medications as a comparator.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study using Medicaid claims. We defined persistence as the duration of treatment from the first to the last fill date before a 90-day permissible gap, and used Kaplan-Meier curves and Cox proportional hazard models to assess crude and adjusted non-persistence. The secular trends of ART persistence in 43 598 HIV patients were compared with the secular trends of persistence with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), statins, and metformin in (1) non-HIV-infected patients and (2) subgroups of HIV patients who started these control medications while using ART.

Results: Median time to ART non-persistence increased from 23.9 months in 2001-2003 to 35.4 months in 2004-2006, and was not reached for those starting ART in 2007-2010. In adjusted models, ART initiators in 2007-2010 had 11% decreased hazards of non-persistence compared with those who initiated in 2001-2003 (p < 0.001). For non-HIV patients initiating ACE/ARB, statins, and metformin, the hazard ratios (HR) for non-persistence comparing 2007-2010 to 2001-2003 were 1.07, 0.94, and 1.02, respectively (all p < 0.001). For HIV patients initiating the three control medications, the HRs of non-persistence comparing 2007-2010 to 2001-2003 were 0.71, 0.65, and 0.63, respectively (all p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Persistence with ART improved between 2001 and 2010. Persistence with control medications improved at a higher rate among HIV patients using ART than HIV-negative controls.

Abstract

Time from HIV diagnosis to commencement of antiretroviral therapy as an indicator to supplement the HIV cascade: Dramatic fall from 2011 to 2015

Medland NA, Chow EP, McMahon JH, Elliott JH, Hoy JF, Fairley CK. PLoS One. 2017 May 16;12(5):e0177634. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177634. eCollection 2017.

Introduction:  The HIV care cascade is increasingly used to evaluate HIV treatment programs at the population level. However, the cascade indicators lack the ability to show changes over time, which reduces their utility to guide health policy. Alternatives have been proposed but are complex or result in a delay in results. We propose a new indicator of ART uptake, the time from HIV diagnosis to commencement of ART, and compare it to the existing cascade indicator of proportion of patients on treatment and the WHO proposed cohort cascade indicator of proportion of patients on treatment within one year of diagnosis.

Methods and Materials: Records from patients from the two largest HIV treatment centres in the state of Victoria, Australia (Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and The Alfred Hospital Department of Infectious Diseases) from 2011 to 2015 were extracted. The intervals between date of diagnosis, entry into care and initiation of ART were compared.

Results and Discussion: From 2011 to 2015 the proportion of in-care patients who were on ART rose from 87% to 93% (p<0.0001). From 2011 to 2014, the proportion of patients in care and on ART within one year of diagnosis increased from 43.4% to 78.9% (p = 0.001). The median time from diagnosis to ART fell from 418 days (IQR: 91-1176) to 77 days (IQR: 39-290)(p<0.001) by calendar year in which ART was commenced.

Conclusions: From 2011 to 2015 there were substantial and clinically important falls in the median time from diagnosis to commencing ART in those that commenced ART. The size of this dramatic change was not apparent when only reporting the proportion of patients on ART. Time to ART is a useful indicator and can be used to supplement existing cascade indicators in measuring progress toward universal ART coverage.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Trends in prevalence of advanced HIV disease at antiretroviral therapy enrollment — 10 countries, 2004–2015

Auld AF, Shiraishi RW, Oboho I, Ross C, Bateganya M, Pelletier V, Dee J, Francois K, Duval N, Antoine M, Delcher C, Desforges G, Griswold M, Domercant JW, Joseph N, Deyde V, Desir Y, Van Onacker JD, Robin E, Chun H, Zulu I, Pathmanathan I, Dokubo EK, Lloyd S, Pati R, Kaplan J, Raizes E, Spira T, Mitruka K, Couto A, Gudo ES, Mbofana F, Briggs M, Alfredo C, Xavier C, Vergara A, Hamunime N, Agolory S, Mutandi G, Shoopala NN, Sawadogo S, Baughman AL, Bashorun A, Dalhatu I, Swaminathan M, Onotu D, Odafe S, Abiri OO, Debem HH, Tomlinson H, Okello V, Preko P, Ao T, Ryan C, Bicego G, Ehrenkranz P, Kamiru H, Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha H, Kwesigabo G, Ramadhani AA, Ng'wangu K, Swai P, Mfaume M, Gongo R, Carpenter D, Mastro TD, Hamilton C, Denison J, Wabwire-Mangen F, Koole O, Torpey K, Williams SG, Colebunders R, Kalamya JN, Namale A, Adler MR, Mugisa B, Gupta S, Tsui S, van Praag E, Nguyen DB, Lyss S, Le Y, Abdul-Quader AS, Do NT, Mulenga M, Hachizovu S, Mugurungi O, Barr BAT, Gonese E, Mutasa-Apollo T, Balachandra S, Behel S, Bingham T, Mackellar D, Lowrance D, Ellerbrock TV.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017 Jun 2;66(21):558-563. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6621a3.

Monitoring prevalence of advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease (i.e., CD4+ T-cell count <200 cells/μL) among persons starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) is important to understand ART program outcomes, inform HIV prevention strategy, and forecast need for adjunctive therapies. To assess trends in prevalence of advanced disease at ART initiation in 10 high-burden countries during 2004-2015, records of 694 138 ART enrollees aged ≥15 years from 797 ART facilities were analyzed. Availability of national electronic medical record systems allowed up-to-date evaluation of trends in Haiti (2004-2015), Mozambique (2004-2014), and Namibia (2004-2012), where prevalence of advanced disease at ART initiation declined from 75% to 34% (p<0.001), 73% to 37% (p<0.001), and 80% to 41% (p<0.001), respectively. Significant declines in prevalence of advanced disease during 2004-2011 were observed in Nigeria, Swaziland, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. The encouraging declines in prevalence of advanced disease at ART enrollment are likely due to scale-up of testing and treatment services and ART-eligibility guidelines encouraging earlier ART initiation. However, in 2015, approximately a third of new ART patients still initiated ART with advanced HIV disease. To reduce prevalence of advanced disease at ART initiation, adoption of World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended "treat-all" guidelines and strategies to facilitate earlier HIV testing and treatment are needed to reduce HIV-related mortality and HIV incidence.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Advanced HIV disease in Botswana following successful antiretroviral therapy rollout: Incidence of and temporal trends in cryptococcal meningitis

Tenforde MW, Mokomane M, Leeme T, Patel RK, Lekwape N, Ramodimoosi C, Dube B, Williams EA, Mokobela KO, Tawanana E, Pilatwe T, Hurt WJ, Mitchell H, Banda DL, Stone H, Molefi M, Mokgacha K, Phillips H, Mullan PC, Steenhoff AP, Mashalla Y, Mine M, Jarvis JN. Clin Infect Dis. 2017 May 13. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix430. [Epub ahead of print].

Background: Botswana has a well-developed antiretroviral therapy (ART) program which serves as a regional model. With wide ART availability, the burden of advanced HIV and associated opportunistic infections would be expected to decline. We performed a nationwide surveillance study to determine the national incidence of cryptococcal meningitis, and describe characteristics of cases 2000-2014 and temporal trends at two national referral hospitals.

Methods: Cerebrospinal fluid data from all 37 laboratories performing meningitis diagnostics in Botswana were collected 2000-2014 to identify cases of cryptococcal meningitis. Basic demographic and laboratory data were recorded. Complete national data from 2013-2014 were used to calculate national incidence using UNAIDS population estimates. Temporal trends in cases were derived from national referral centers 2004-2014.

Results: 5296 episodes of cryptococcal meningitis were observed in 4702 individuals; 60.6% were male, and median age was 36 years. Overall 2013-2014 incidence was 17.8 cases/100 000 person-years (95%CI 16.6 - 19.2). In the HIV-infected population, incidence was 96.8 cases/100 000 person-years (95%CI 90.0 - 104.0); male predominance was seen across CD4 strata. At national referral hospitals, cases decreased 2007-2009 but stabilized 2010-2014.

Conclusions: Despite excellent ART coverage in Botswana, there is still a substantial burden of advanced HIV, with 2013-2014 incidence of cryptococcal meningitis comparable to pre-ART era rates in South Africa. Our findings suggest a key population of individuals, often men, are developing advanced disease and associated opportunistic infections due to a failure to effectively engage in care, highlighting the need for differentiated care models.

Abstract

Survival of HIV-positive patients starting antiretroviral therapy between 1996 and 2013: a collaborative analysis of cohort studies

Trickey A, May MT, Vehreschild JJ, Obel N, Gill MJ, Crane HM, Boesecke C, Patterson S, Grabar S, Cazanave C, Cavassini M, Shepherd L, Monforte AD, van Sighem A, Saag M, Lampe F, Hernando V, Montero M, Zangerle R, Justice AC, Sterling T, Ingle SM, Sterne JAC (Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration). Lancet HIV. 2017 May 10. pii: S2352-3018(17)30066-8. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(17)30066-8. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Health care for people living with HIV has improved substantially in the past two decades. Robust estimates of how these improvements have affected prognosis and life expectancy are of utmost importance to patients, clinicians, and health-care planners. We examined changes in 3 year survival and life expectancy of patients starting combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) between 1996 and 2013.

Methods: We analysed data from 18 European and North American HIV-1 cohorts. Patients (aged ≥16 years) were eligible for this analysis if they had started ART with three or more drugs between 1996 and 2010 and had at least 3 years of potential follow-up. We estimated adjusted (for age, sex, AIDS, risk group, CD4 cell count, and HIV-1 RNA at start of ART) all-cause and cause-specific mortality hazard ratios (HRs) for the first year after ART initiation and the second and third years after ART initiation in four calendar periods (1996-99, 2000-03 [comparator], 2004-07, 2008-10). We estimated life expectancy by calendar period of initiation of ART.

Findings: 88 504 patients were included in our analyses, of whom 2106 died during the first year of ART and 2302 died during the second or third year of ART. Patients starting ART in 2008-10 had lower all-cause mortality in the first year after ART initiation than did patients starting ART in 2000-03 (adjusted HR 0·71, 95% CI 0·61-0·83). All-cause mortality in the second and third years after initiation of ART was also lower in patients who started ART in 2008-10 than in those who started in 2000-03 (0·57, 0·49-0·67); this decrease was not fully explained by viral load and CD4 cell count at 1 year. Rates of non-AIDS deaths were lower in patients who started ART in 2008-10 (vs 2000-03) in the first year (0·48, 0·34-0·67) and second and third years (0·29, 0·21-0·40) after initiation of ART. Between 1996 and 2010, life expectancy in 20-year-old patients starting ART increased by about 9 years in women and 10 years in men.

Interpretation: Even in the late ART era, survival during the first 3 years of ART continues to improve, which probably reflects transition to less toxic antiretroviral drugs, improved adherence, prophylactic measures, and management of comorbidity. Prognostic models and life expectancy estimates should be updated to account for these improvements.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Northern America, Oceania
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How do we know which activities make a difference to HIV prevention?

Editor’s notes: In order to be fairly certain that an intervention is responsible for changes in HIV or HIV-related behaviours, the gold standard is randomization. This allows for fair comparisons between groups, since factors that might alter the outcomes will be more or less equally balanced between the study groups.  This is true whether such confounding factors are expected, but also importantly, even those factors that are unknown, unexpected and unmeasured will also be balanced between the arms. 

A second key determinant of high quality research is to use an approach that maximizes full engagement and follow-up of participants in the study.  One such approach that is widely recognized is to use Good Participatory Practice.  

Rhodes and colleagues study condom promotion and HIV testing among the Hispanic/Latino community of gay men and other men who have sex with men in North Carolina, USA.  Although gay men and other men who have sex with men represent approximately 4% of the adult male population in the United States of America, they account for more than 80% of new HIV infections among men.  Around one quarter of gay men and other men who have sex with men are Hispanic or Latino.  The authors therefore wanted to use research to make a difference to the HIV burden of the Hispanic/Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men community in North Carolina, USA.  They found that despite the impact of HIV on Hispanic/ Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men, they were only able to identify one evidence-based behavioural HIV prevention programme focussed on this population.

The authors used an extensive community based participatory research partnership, whose members represented the Hispanic/ Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men community, AIDS service organizations, Hispanic/Latino-serving community organizations, and universities to develop, implement, and evaluate a Spanish-language, small group intervention designed to increase condom use and HIV testing among Hispanic/Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men (HOLA en Grupos).

304 participants were randomly allocated to the HOLA en Grupos intervention, or to a general health education comparison intervention having the same number of sessions (4) and duration (16 hours in total) that focussed on prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers; diabetes; high cholesterol; cardiovascular disease; and alcohol misuse. These topics for the control group were identified on the basis of identified needs and priorities of Hispanic/Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men.

HOLA en Grupos is grounded on social cognitive theory, empowerment education, and traditional Hispanic/Latino cultural values and includes four interactive modules of four hours each delivered in groups.  Participants in both intervention and control arms received reimbursement for their time, certificates of completion and meals and a celebration at the completion of the course.  In other words this was an intensive intervention that might be hard to replicate in most settings, but it follows very high standards both for developing and conducting the research and also for determining the impact of the intervention.

The intervention was associated with a large effect on both condom usage (four-fold higher in the intervention arm than the control) and HIV test uptake (an astonishing 14-fold higher, reflecting the relatively low testing rate in the control group).

A major limitation in many HIV prevention studies, including this one, is that the outcome is based on reported behaviour.  The challenge is that the real outcome of interest, which is new HIV infections, is relatively rare in almost all communities so that studies have to be huge and expensive, and the large majority of participants in both intervention and control arms do not in fact acquire HIV.  This is in contrast to most studies of treatment, where there are clearly defined biological, standardized measures which many or all participants are likely to reach.  Nonetheless, there are many examples of studies that find changes in reported behaviour that are not associated with biological markers of such change (such as incidence of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections, or pregnancy). 

There are also many observational or ecological studies that report changes in new HIV infections but that cannot truly say why the number of infections fell and whether the interventions used in the study were responsible for the changes.  For example Nwokolo and colleagues report in a short research letter on the dramatic decline in new HIV diagnoses in the large London clinic where they work.  New infections in that clinic, and in fact in other large clinics in London, have dropped by a remarkable 40% from 2015 to 2016, as originally reported in the popular science press before any scientific publication or presentation. The authors of the research letter are suitably cautious about how to account for the impressive decline.  Various systems have been improved over the past few years in this clinic to make it easier to have an HIV test and start treatment immediately.  However, most of the clinic team (and many other commentators) assume that it is also due to the rapid rise in the use of PrEP.  Although it is still not available through the UK National Health Service, the clinic has been at the forefront of encouraging gay men and other men who have sex with men who might benefit from PrEP to purchase it from on-line pharmacies.  The clinic then provides the appropriate monitoring and follow up to ensure that their clients get the best possible PrEP service given the current constraints.  Whatever the cause, we should be celebrating the rapid fall in new HIV infections across London, which is home to a substantial proportion of the new HIV infections in the UK.

The challenges of demonstrating evidence of effectiveness for HIV prevention is also felt among black women in the USA.  Although they have the highest burden of HIV among women in the USA, the incidence rates are such that a traditional randomized trial design would need to be huge, and consequently hugely expensive.  Adimora and colleagues consider whether an alternative trial design might be to use data from high HIV incidence settings and then to develop proxies of protection, such as the concentration of a PrEP medicine to infer whether black women are protected.  An alternative that has been proposed for men who have sex with men would be to look for other markers of high risk, such as sexually transmitted infections, reported partners, age, and substance use and estimate the likely risk of HIV acquisition in the absence of PrEP from these parameters.  Then the observed incidence could be compared to this modelled counterfactual, much as was done in the open label extension of the Partners PrEP study in Kenyan and Ugandan sero-different couples.  However, translating risk factors for infection across populations, and even continents when there is such heterogeneity in risk of infection is not at all straightforward.  So there is still plenty to think about and no clear answers yet!

A useful addition to the tool box for designing studies and assessing the effectiveness of interventions, would be better tools for measuring recent infection.  There are several assays all with differing characteristics but increasingly these differences and how they interact with different clades of HIV are becoming clear.  Key determinants for each assay are the mean duration of recent infection (MDRI) estimate (which does seem to vary by clade) and the false recency rate (FRR) which needs to be less than 2% to be considered useful.  Hargrove and colleagues used three different assays to test samples from 101 women who seroconverted during the ZVITAMBO trial.  The MDRI measured using standard cut-off points, were considerably shorter than those published for the general population.  The authors point out that changes in antibody properties among women who have recently given birth or other unspecified physiological states, mean that incidence assays may give different results from those published and expected.  Yet more caution when comparing incidence estimates between studies.  As an endpoint in a comparison between two groups in the same population, the assays are still attractive. Although, given typical MDRIs of around six to nine months, these assays will still need to be embedded in very large samples to give reliable estimates of incidence and statistically significant differences between groups.

This month saw the production of a useful supplement on many aspects of how data from different sources, including incidence assays are used to inform the sophisticated models on which so much HIV planning, programming and financing is based.  An example is Mahiane and colleagues’ paper on the development of a new tool to fit existing programme data into the spectrum suite of models in order to estimate incidence.

Finally in this section, for those who are keen on laboratory studies, Richardson-Harman and colleagues describe the current state of ex-vivo challenge models for assessing potential candidates as microbicides.  In these models, biopsies of rectal, cervical or vaginal tissue, taken during other procedures, or from volunteers, are kept alive in the laboratory.  The tissues can then be challenged with HIV in the presence or absence of potential microbicide products.  The current model works best for rectal tissues, in which infection occurs promptly and consistently, so that the effect of a microbicide can clearly be seen by a reduction in the production of HIV p24 antigen.  However, for cervical and vaginal tissues, the infection (in the absence of any microbicide) was less consistent, slower and lasted longer making it less easy to determine statistical differences between those tissues with microbicide and those without.  Further work of this sort may help to streamline the choice of microbicide or PrEP products that can most sensibly be taken out of the laboratory and into the (almost) real world of clinical trials.

Small-group randomized controlled trial to increase condom use and HIV testing among Hispanic/Latino gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.

Rhodes SD, Alonzo J, Mann L, Song EY, Tanner AE, Arellano JE, Rodriguez-Celedon R, Garcia M, Freeman A, Reboussin BA, Painter TM. Am J Public Health. 2017 Jun;107(6):969-976. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303814. Epub 2017 Apr 20.

Objectives: To evaluate the HOLA en Grupos intervention, a Spanish-language small-group behavioral HIV prevention intervention designed to increase condom use and HIV testing among Hispanic/Latino gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.

Methods: In 2012 to 2015, we recruited and randomized 304 Hispanic/Latino men who have sex with men, aged 18 to 55 years in North Carolina, to the 4-session HOLA en Grupos intervention or an attention-equivalent general health education comparison intervention. Participants completed structured assessments at baseline and 6-month follow-up. Follow-up retention was 100%.

Results: At follow-up, relative to comparison participants, HOLA en Grupos participants reported increased consistent condom use during the past 3 months (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 4.1; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.2, 7.9; P < .001) and HIV testing during the past 6 months (AOR = 13.8; 95% CI = 7.6, 25.3; P < .001). HOLA en Grupos participants also reported increased knowledge of HIV (P < .001) and sexually transmitted infections (P < .001); condom use skills (P < .001), self-efficacy (P < .001), expectancies (P < .001), and intentions (P < .001); sexual communication skills (P < .01); and decreased fatalism (P < .001).

Conclusions: The HOLA en Grupos intervention is efficacious for reducing HIV risk behaviors among Hispanic/Latino men who have sex with men.

Abstract access 

Not just PrEP: other reasons for London's HIV decline.

Nwokolo N, Whitlock G, McOwan A. Lancet HIV. 2017 Apr;4(4):e153. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(17)30044-9.

The reduction in HIV diagnoses in London in 2016 is attributed to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We believe that the causes of the 42% decline seen at our clinic are likely to be multifactorial. 56 Dean Street diagnoses one in four of London's HIV cases, 50% of whom have incident infection (ie, within 4 months of infection). Because of this, and following the results of the START study, we actively recommend treatment at, or close to, diagnosis, reducing the risk of transmission in people who would otherwise be highly infectious.

Abstract access 

US black women and HIV prevention: time for new approaches to clinical trials.

Adimora AA, Cole SR, Eron JJ Clin Infect Dis. 2017 Apr 5. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix313. [Epub ahead of print]. 

Black women bear the highest burden of HIV infection among US women. Tenofovir/ emtricitabine HIV prevention trials among women in Africa have yielded varying results. Ideally, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) among US women would provide data for guidelines for US women's HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis use. However, even among US black women at high risk for HIV infection, sample size requirements for an RCT with HIV incidence as its outcome are prohibitively high. We propose to circumvent this large sample size requirement by evaluating relationships between HIV incidence and drug concentrations measured among participants in traditional phase 3 trials in high incidence settings - and then applying these observations to drug concentrations measured among at risk individuals in lower incidence settings, such as US black women. This strategy could strengthen the evidence base to enable black women to fully benefit from prevention research advances and decrease racial disparities in HIV rates.

Abstract access 

Heightened HIV antibody responses in postpartum women as exemplified by recent infection assays: implications for incidence estimates.

Hargrove JW, van Schalkwyk C, Humphrey JH, Mutasa K, Ntozini R, Owen SM, Masciotra S, Parekh BS, Duong YT, Dobbs T, Kilmarx PH, Gonese E. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2017 May 24. doi: 10.1089/AID.2016.0319. [Epub ahead of print].

Laboratory assays that identify recent HIV infections are important for assessing impacts of interventions aimed at reducing HIV incidence. Kinetics of HIV humoral responses can vary with inherent assay properties, and between HIV subtypes, populations, and physiological states. They are important in determining mean duration of recent infection (MDRI) for antibody-based assays for detecting recent HIV infections. We determined MDRIs for multi-subtype peptide representing subtypes B, E and D (BED)-capture enzyme immunoassay, limiting antigen (LAg), and Bio-Rad Avidity Incidence (BRAI) assays for 101 seroconverting postpartum women, recruited in Harare from 1997 to 2000 during the Zimbabwe Vitamin A for Mothers and Babies trial, comparing them against published MDRIs estimated from seroconverting cases in the general population. We also compared MDRIs for women who seroconverted either during the first 9 months, or at later stages, postpartum. At cutoffs (C) of 0.8 for BED, 1.5 for LAg, and 40% for BRAI, estimated MDRIs for postpartum mothers were 192, 104, and 144 days, 33%, 32%, and 52% lower than published estimates of 287, 152 and 298 days, respectively, for clade C samples from general populations. Point estimates of MDRI values were 7%-19% shorter for women who seroconverted in the first 9 months postpartum than for those seroconverting later. MDRI values for three HIV incidence biomarkers are longer in the general population than among postpartum women, particularly those who recently gave birth, consistent with heightened immunological activation soon after birth. Our results provide a caution that MDRI may vary significantly between subjects in different physiological states.

Abstract access 

Improvements in Spectrum's fit to program data tool.

Mahiane SG, Marsh K, Grantham K, Crichlow S, Caceres K, Stover J.  AIDS. 2017 Apr;31 Suppl 1:S23-S30. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001359.

Objective: The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS-supported Spectrum software package (Glastonbury, Connecticut, USA) is used by most countries worldwide to monitor the HIV epidemic. In Spectrum, HIV incidence trends among adults (aged 15-49 years) are derived by either fitting to seroprevalence surveillance and survey data or generating curves consistent with program and vital registration data, such as historical trends in the number of newly diagnosed infections or people living with HIV and AIDS related deaths. This article describes development and application of the fit to program data (FPD) tool in Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS' 2016 estimates round.

Methods: In the FPD tool, HIV incidence trends are described as a simple or double logistic function. Function parameters are estimated from historical program data on newly reported HIV cases, people living with HIV or AIDS-related deaths. Inputs can be adjusted for proportions undiagnosed or misclassified deaths. Maximum likelihood estimation or minimum chi-squared distance methods are used to identify the best fitting curve. Asymptotic properties of the estimators from these fits are used to estimate uncertainty.

Results: The FPD tool was used to fit incidence for 62 countries in 2016. Maximum likelihood and minimum chi-squared distance methods gave similar results. A double logistic curve adequately described observed trends in all but four countries where a simple logistic curve performed better.

Conclusion: Robust HIV-related program and vital registration data are routinely available in many middle-income and high-income countries, whereas HIV seroprevalence surveillance and survey data may be scarce. In these countries, the FPD tool offers a simpler, improved approach to estimating HIV incidence trends.

Abstract access 

Analytical advances in the ex vivo challenge efficacy assay.

Richardson-Harman N, Parody R, Anton P, McGowan I, Doncel G, Thurman AR, Herrera C, Kordy K, Fox J, Tanner K, Swartz G, Dezzutti CS. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2017 Apr;33(4):395-403. doi: 10.1089/AID.2016.0073. Epub 2016 Dec 16.

The ex vivo challenge assay is being increasingly used as an efficacy endpoint during early human clinical trials of HIV prevention treatments. There is no standard methodology for the ex vivo challenge assay, although the use of different data collection methods and analytical parameters may impact results and reduce the comparability of findings between trials. In this analysis, we describe the impact of data imputation methods, kit type, testing schedule and tissue type on variability, statistical power, and ex vivo HIV growth kinetics. Data were p24 antigen (pg/ml) measurements collected from clinical trials of candidate microbicides where rectal (n = 502), cervical (n = 88), and vaginal (n = 110) tissues were challenged with HIV-1BaL ex vivo. Imputation of missing data using a nonlinear mixed effect model was found to provide an improved fit compared to imputation using half the limit of detection. The rectal virus growth period was found to be earlier and of a relatively shorter duration than the growth period for cervical and vaginal tissue types. On average, only four rectal tissue challenge assays in each treatment and control group would be needed to find a one log difference in p24 to be significant (alpha = 0.05), but a larger sample size was predicted to be needed for either cervical (n = 21) or vaginal (n = 10) tissue comparisons. Overall, the results indicated that improvements could be made in the design and analysis of the ex vivo challenge assay to provide a more standardized and powerful assay to compare efficacy of microbicide products.

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Non-communicable diseases and co-morbidities – the flip side of successful ART programmes?

Editor’s notes: As the population of people living with HIV grows older and lives longer, the importance of non-communicable diseases is increasing.  Several studies this month explored various aspects of this intersection.

An encouraging study from Spain by Sorigué M et al., analysed the outcomes of patients with advanced stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a relatively common cancer both among people living with HIV and the HIV-negative population. The authors showed that, in the era of combined antiretroviral therapy, the complete response rate and ten year survival were not significantly different among people living with HIV (89% and 73%) and HIV negative people (91% and 68%).

Another broadly encouraging study from Ireland by Tinago W et al., followed up 384 people (176 living with HIV) to determine changes over three years in their bone mineral density (BMD).  BMD was somewhat lower in the people living with HIV, despite the group being younger on average.  As expected, BMD gradually fell with increasing age but the rate of bone loss was no different between people living with HIV and HIV negative people.  88% of the people living with HIV were on ART at the start of the study period.  Not having started ART among people living with HIV was associated with lower BMD and people who had started more recently showed the largest declines in BMD.  This suggests (as has previously been shown in cohorts of people living with HIV) that after an initial loss in BMD, the rate of loss stabilizes and is similar to HIV-negative people.  Interestingly, the authors did not show that overall exposure to tenofovir disproxil fumarate (TDF) was particularly associated with greater BMD loss over the course of follow up, despite several previous randomized trials confirming that TDF does cause BMD loss when it is started.

While on the subject of TDF, this month saw two important regulatory trials of tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), sponsored by the manufacturers Gilead Sciences.  630 people living with HIV on treatment with rilpivirine, emtricitabine and TDF whose viral load was supressed, were randomly allocated to remain on the same regimen or to swap the TDF for TAF.  TAF is a pro-drug, that reduces the plasma concentrations of tenofovir and is therefore expected to reduce the renal and bone toxicities associated with TDF while still delivering active drug to the cells where it is needed.  One year later, viral suppression was very similar in the two groups (94%).  There was also no significant difference seen in the side effects over this one year period, with no serious adverse events and 6% vs. 12% having some side effects in the TAF and TDF arms respectively [Orkin C and colleagues].

A related study by DeJesus E et al. with the same design was conducted among people taking efavirenz, emtricitabine and tenofovir, one of the most common first line regimens throughout the world. In this trial the efavirenz was switched to rilpivirine and the TDF to TAF.  875 people living with HIV whose viral load was supressed were randomized and after one year viral suppression was very similar in the two groups (90-92%).  There was also no significant difference seen in the side effects over this one year period, with no serious adverse events and 13% vs. 10% having some side effects in the rilpivirine -TAF and efavirenz-TDF arms respectively.

Returning to co-morbidities and non-communicable diseases, a study by Rodríguez-Arbolí E and colleagues in rural Tanzania has shown that 11.6% of people living with HIV who had not yet started ART had raised blood pressure.  A further 9.6% develop raised blood pressure during follow up, an incidence of 12 per 100 person years. The risk factors for developing hypertension were those well recognized in HIV-negative populations (age, renal disease and being overweight) and not specifically related to HIV infection, ART or immunological status.  The authors recommend integration of non-communicable disease screening and management into HIV care clinics but a larger conclusion might be to improve management of hypertension more generally, as it affects both people living with HIV and people without.

In contrast, a study by Pollack TM et al. from Viet Nam shows that smoking tobacco is associated with a higher viral load among people living with HIV presenting for ART.  As would be expected, other predictors of more advanced HIV disease such as lower CD4 counts and lower BMI and prior TB were all associated with a higher viral load at presentation.  Male sex was also significantly associated with a higher viral load.  The authors point out various other studies from Cameroon and the US that have shown similar and related interactions between smoking tobacco, viral load at presentation or viral load suppression or rebound on ART treatment.  Other studies in the US have not found this association.  One of the challenges is to separate behavioural factors that might be confounders – perhaps people who smoke are more likely to present late.  In this study there was not a clear dose response.  People who smoked more than ten cigarettes per day were actually somewhat less likely in this sample to have a higher viral load than people who smoked 1-10 cigarettes per day, but the numbers were too small to make statistically significant claims.  The authors suggest that oxidative stress and induction of the cytochrome P450 (CYP) pathway could explain the mechanism of smoking-related increased VL among HIV positive individuals.  While the study cannot prove cause and effect, there are already many reasons to promote tobacco cessation among people living with HIV and this may be an additional one.

The D:A:D study is a major prospective cohort that follows more than 49 000 people living with HIV in Europe, Australia and the USA.  Among the cohort, more than 4000 have developed chronic renal impairment.  A study by Ryom L et al. this month examined whether there was improvement, stabilisation or progression of renal impairment in the 2006 individuals who had additional measurements 2-3 years after renal impairment was first noted and explored risk factors for each.  On the one hand, they show that some ARVs (notably TDF and ritonavir-boosted atazanovir) are associated with worse renal outcomes, but on the other hand, they demonstrate that after stopping these nephrotoxic medicines, the kidneys recover or at least do not deteriorate further.  Once again, traditional risk factors (older age, high blood pressure and diabetes) are also important risk factors for the kidneys of people living with HIV.  As the population of people living with HIV gets older and lives longer, HIV care and traditional non-communicable disease management must overlap and coordinate.

HIV-infection has no prognostic impact on advanced-stage Hodgkin lymphoma treated with doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine.

Sorigué M, García O, Tapia G, Baptista MJ, Moreno M, Mate JL, Sancho JM, FeliuE, Ribera JM, Navarro JT. AIDS. 2017 Mar 29. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001487. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: Classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) is a non-AIDS-defining cancer with good response to chemotherapy in the combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) era. The aim of the study was to compare the characteristics, the response with treatment and survival of advanced-stage cHL treated with adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine (ABVD) between cART-treated HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients.

Design and methods: We retrospectively analyzed advanced-stage cHL patients from a single institution, uniformly treated with ABVD. All HIV-positive patients received cART concomitantly with ABVD.

Results: A total of 69 patients were included in the study: 21 were HIV-positive and 48 were HIV-negative. HIV-positive patients had more aggressive features at cHL diagnosis, such as worse performance status, more frequent bone marrow involvement and mixed cellularity histologic subtype. There were no differences in complete response rate (89% in HIV-positive vs. 91% in HIV-negative), P = 1; disease-free survival 10-year disease-free survival 70% (41-99%) vs. 74% (57-91%), P = 0.907 and overall survival (OS) 10-year OS 73% (95% confidence interval52-94%) vs. 68% (51-85%), P = 0.904. On multivariate analysis, HIV infection did not correlate with worse OS.

Conclusion: Although HIV-positive patients with cHL had more aggressive baseline features in this series, there were no differences in response rate or survival between HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients.

Abstract access 

Predictors of longitudinal change in bone mineral density in a cohort of HIV-positive and negative patients.

Tinago W, Cotter AG, Sabin CA, Macken A, Kavanagh E, Brady JJ, McCarthy G,Compston J, Mallon PW; HIV UPBEAT Study Group.225. AIDS. 2017 Mar 13;31(5):643-652. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001372.

Objective: Although low bone mineral density (BMD) is prevalent in HIV, changes in BMD over time remain unclear. We aimed to compare rates of, and factors associated with, BMD change between HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients.

Methods: In a prospective, 3-year cohort, HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients provided annual demographic and clinical data, fasting bloods, and dual x-ray absorptiometry. Using longitudinal mixed models we compared and determined predictors of rate of change in BMD.

Results: Of 384 study participants (45.8% HIV positive), 120 contributed two and 264 contributed three BMD measurements. Those with HIV were younger [median interquartile range 39 (34-46) vs. 43 (35-50) years; P = 0.04], more often men (61 vs. 46%; P = 0.003), and less likely Caucasian (61 vs. 82%; P < 0.001).Although BMD was lower in those with HIV, BMD declined in both groups, with nonsignificant between-group difference in rate of BMD change over time. Within the HIV group, starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) within 3 months of enrolment was associated with greater BMD decline at all anatomical sites (all P < 0.001). Age more than 30 years, Caucasian ethnicity, and not being on ART during follow-up were associated with greater decline and higher parathyroid hormone associated with a smaller decline in BMD at the femoral neck. We found no association between BMD change and exposure to tenofovir disoproxil fumarate or protease inhibitors.

Conclusion: We observed no difference in rate of BMD decline regardless of HIV status and in HIV-positive patient, having started ART within the previous 3 months was the only factor associated with greater BMD decline at all three sites.

Abstract access 

Switching from tenofovir disoproxil fumarate to tenofovir alafenamide coformulated with rilpivirine and emtricitabine in virally suppressed adults with HIV-1 infection: a randomised, double-blind, multicentre, phase 3b, non-inferiority study.

Orkin C,  DeJesus E, Ramgopal M, Crofoot G, Ruane P, LaMarca A, Mills A, Vandercam B, de Wet J, Rockstroh J, Lazzarin A, Rijnders B, Podzamczer D, Thalme A, Stoeckle M, Porter D, Liu HC, Cheng A, Quirk E, SenGupta D, Cao H. Lancet HIV. 2017 Mar 1. pii: S2352-3018(17)30031-0. doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(17)30031-0. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Tenofovir alafenamide, a tenofovir prodrug, results in 90% lower tenofovir plasma concentrations than does tenofovir disproxil fumarate, thereby minimising bone and renal risks. We investigated the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of switching to a single-tablet regimen containing rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide compared with remaining on rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

Methods: In this randomised, double-blind, multicentre, placebo-controlled, non-inferiority trial, HIV-1-infected adults were screened and enrolled at 119 hospitals in 11 countries in North America and Europe. Participants were virally suppressed (HIV-1 RNA <50 copies per ml) on rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate for at least 6 months before enrolment and had creatinine clearance of at least 50 ml/min. Participants were randomly assigned(1:1) to receive a single-tablet regimen of either rilpivirine (25 mg), emtricitabine (200 mg), and tenofovir alafenamide (25 mg) or to remain on a single-tablet regimen of rilpivirine (25 mg), emtricitabine (200 mg), and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (300 mg), with matching placebo, once daily for 96 weeks. Investigators, participants, study staff, and those assessing outcomes were masked to treatment group. All participants who received one dose of study drug and were on the tenofovir disoproxil fumarate regimen before screening were included in primary efficacy analyses. The primary endpoint was the proportion of participants with less than 50 copies per ml of plasma HIV-1 RNA at week 48 (by the US Food and Drug Administration snapshot algorithm), with a prespecified non-inferiority margin of 8%. This study was registered with clinicaltrials.gov, number NCT01815736.

Findings: Between Jan 26, 2015, and Aug 25, 2015, 630 participants were randomised (316 to the tenofovir alafenamide group and 314 to the tenofovir disoproxil fumarate group). At week 48, 296 (94%) of 316 participants on tenofovir alafenamide and 294 (94%) of 313 on tenofovir disoproxil fumarate had maintained less than 50 copies per ml HIV-1 RNA (difference -0·3%, 95·001% CI-4·2 to 3·7), showing non-inferiority of tenofovir alafenamide to tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. Numbers of adverse events were similar between groups. 20(6%) of 316 participants had study-drug related adverse events in the tenofovir alafenamide group compared with 37 (12%) of 314 in the tenofovir disoproxil fumarate group; none of these were serious.

Interpretation: Switching to rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide was non-inferior to continuing rilpivirine, emtricitabine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in maintaining viral suppression and was well tolerated at 48 weeks. These findings support guidelines recommending tenofovir alafenamide-based regimens, including coformulation with rilpivirine and emtricitabine, as initial and ongoing treatment for HIV-1 infection.

Abstract access 

Switching from efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate to tenofovir alafenamide coformulated with rilpivirine and emtricitabine in virally suppressed adults with HIV-1 infection: a randomised, double-blind, multicentre, phase 3b, non-inferiority study.

DeJesus E, Ramgopal M, Crofoot G, Ruane P, LaMarca A, Mills A, Martorell CT, de Wet J, Stellbrink HJ, Molina JM, Post FA, Valero IP, Porter D, Liu Y, Cheng A, Quirk E, SenGupta D, Cao H. Lancet HIV. 2017 Mar 1. pii: S2352-3018(17)30032-2. doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(17)30032-2. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Tenofovir alafenamide is a prodrug that reduces tenofovir plasma concentrations by 90% compared with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, thereby decreasing bone and renal risks. The coformulation of rilpivirine, emtricitabine,and tenofovir alafenamide has recently been approved, and we aimed to investigate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of switching to this regimen compared with remaining on coformulated efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

Methods: In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, non-inferiority trial, HIV-1-infected adults were enrolled at 120 hospitals and outpatient clinics in eight countries in North America and Europe. Participants were virally suppressed (HIV-1 RNA <50 copies per mL) on efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate for at least 6 months before enrolment and had creatinine clearance of at least 50 mL/min. Participants were randomly assigned(1:1) to receive a single-tablet regimen of rilpivirine (25 mg), emtricitabine(200 mg), and tenofovir alafenamide (25 mg) or to continue a single-tablet regimen of efavirenz (600 mg), emtricitabine (200 mg), and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (300 mg), with matching placebo. Investigators, participants, study staff, and those assessing outcomes were masked to treatment group. The primary endpoint was the proportion of participants with plasma HIV-1 RNA of less than 50copies per mL at week 48 (assessed by the US Food and Drug Administration snapshot algorithm), with a prespecified non-inferiority margin of 8%. This study was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02345226.

Findings: Between Jan 26, 2015, and Aug 27, 2015, 875 participants were randomly assigned and treated (438 with rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide and 437 with efavirenz, emtricitabine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate). Viral suppression at week 48 was maintained in 394 (90%) of 438 participants assigned to the tenofovir alafenamide regimen and 402 (92%) of 437 assigned to the tenofovir disoproxil fumarate regimen (difference -2·0%, 95·001% CI -5·9 to 1·8), demonstrating non-inferiority. 56 (13%) of 438 in participants in the rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide group experienced treatment-related adverse events compared with 45 (10%) of 437 in the efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate group.

Interpretation: Switching to rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide from efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate was non-inferior in maintaining viral suppression and was well tolerated at 48 weeks. These findings support guidelines recommending tenofovir alafenamide-based regimens, including coformulation with rilpivirine and emtricitabine, as initial and ongoing treatment for HIV-1 infection.

Abstract access 

Incidence and risk factors for hypertension among HIV patients in rural Tanzania - A prospective cohort study.

Rodríguez-Arbolí E, Mwamelo K, Kalinjuma AV, Furrer H, Hatz C, Tanner M, Battegay M, Letang E; KIULARCO Study Group. PLoS One. 2017 Mar 8;12(3):e0172089. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172089.eCollection 2017.

Introduction: Scarce data are available on the epidemiology of hypertension among HIV patients in rural sub-Saharan Africa. We explored the prevalence, incidence and risk factors for incident hypertension among patients who were enrolled in a rural HIV cohort in Tanzania.

Methods: Prospective longitudinal study including HIV patients enrolled in the Kilombero and Ulanga Antiretroviral Cohort between 2013 and 2015. Non-ART naïve subjects at baseline and pregnant women during follow-up were excluded from the analysis. Incident hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure ≥ 140 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure ≥ 90 mmHg on two consecutive visits. Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the association of baseline characteristics and incident hypertension.

Results: Among 955 ART-naïve, eligible subjects, 111 (11.6%) were hypertensive at recruitment. Ten women were excluded due to pregnancy. The remaining 834 individuals contributed 7967 person-months to follow-up (median 231 days, IQR 119-421) and 80 (9.6%) of them developed hypertension during a median follow-up of 144 days from time of enrolment into the cohort [incidence rate 120.0 cases/1000 person-years, 95% confidence interval (CI) 97.2-150.0]. ART was started in 630 (75.5%) patients, with a median follow-up on ART of 7 months (IQR 4-14). Cox regression models identified age [adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 1.34 per 10 years increase, 95% CI 1.07-1.68, p = 0.010], body mass index (aHR per 5 kg/m2 1.45, 95% CI 1.07-1.99, p = 0.018) and estimated glomerular filtration rate (aHR < 60 versus ≥ 60 ml/min/1.73 m2 3.79, 95% CI 1.60-8.99, p = 0.003) as independent risk factors for hypertension development.

Conclusions: The prevalence and incidence of hypertension were high in our cohort. Traditional cardiovascular risk factors predicted incident hypertension, but no association was observed with immunological or ART status. These data support the implementation of routine hypertension screening and integrated management into HIV programmes in rural sub-Saharan Africa.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Cigarette smoking is associated with high HIV viral load among adults presenting for antiretroviral therapy in Vietnam.

Pollack TM, Duong HT, Pham TT, Do CD, Colby D. PLoS One. 2017 Mar 7;12(3):e0173534. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173534.eCollection 2017.

High HIV viral load (VL >100 000 cp/ml) is associated with increased HIV transmission risk, faster progression to AIDS, and reduced response to some antiretroviral regimens. To better understand factors associated with high VL, we examined characteristics of patients presenting for treatment in Hanoi, Vietnam. We examined baseline data from the Viral Load Monitoring in Vietnam Study, a randomized controlled trial of routine VL monitoring in a population starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) at a clinic in Hanoi. Patients with prior treatment failure or ART resistance were excluded. Characteristics examined included demographics, clinical and laboratory data, and substance use. Logistic regression was used to calculate crude and adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI). Out of 636 patients, 62.7% were male, 72.9% were ≥30 years old, and 28.3% had a history of drug injection. Median CD4 was 132cells/mm3, and 34.9% were clinical stage IV. Active cigarette smoking was reported by 36.3% with 14.0% smoking >10 cigarettes per day. Alcohol consumption was reported by 20.1% with 6.1% having ≥5 drinks per event. Overall 53.0% had a VL >100 000 cp/ml. Male gender, low body weight, low CD4 count, prior TB, and cigarette smoking were associated with high VL. Those who smoked 1-10 cigarettes per day were more likely to have high VL (aOR = 1.99, 95% CI = 1.15-3.45), while the smaller number of patients who smoked >10 cigarettes per day had a non-significant trend toward higher VL (aOR = 1.41, 95% CI = 0.75-2.66). Alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with high VL. Tobacco use is increasingly recognized as a contributor to premature morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected patients. In our study, cigarette smoking in the last 30 days was associated with a 1.5 to 2-fold higher odds of having an HIV VL >100 000 cp/ml among patients presenting for ART. These findings provide further evidence of the negative effects of tobacco use among HIV-infected patients.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Predictors of eGFR progression, stabilisation or improvement after chronic renal impairment in HIV-positive individuals.

Ryom L, Mocroft A, Kirk O, Reiss P, Ross M, Smith C, Moranne O, Morlat P, Fux CA, Sabin C, Phillips A, Law M, Lundgren JD; D:A:D study group. AIDS. 2017 Mar 28. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001464. [Epub ahead of print]

Objectives: The objectives of this analysis were to investigate predictors of progression, stabilisation or improvement in eGFR after development of chronic renal impairment (CRI) in HIV-positive individuals.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Methods: D:A:D study participants progressing to CRI defined as confirmed, ≥ 3 months apart, eGFR ≤70  mL/min/1.73m were included in the analysis. The median of all eGFRs measured 24-36 months post-CRI was compared to the median eGFR defining CRI, and changes were grouped into: improvement (>+10 mL/min/1.73m), stabilisation (-10 to +10 mL/min/1.73m) and progression (<-10 mL/min/1.73m). Adjusted polynomial regression models assessed odds of better eGFR outcomes after CRI, assuming eGFR improvement is better than stabilisation which in turn is better than progression.

Results: Of 2006 individuals developing CRI, 21% subsequently improved eGFR, 67% stabilised and 12% progressed. Individuals remaining on TDF or boosted atazanavir (ATV/r) 24 months post-CRI had worse eGFR outcomes compared to those unexposed (TDF: 0.47 [0.35-0.63], ATV/r: 0.63 [0.48-0.82]). Individuals off TDF for 12-24 months (0.75 [0.50-1.13]) or off ATV/r for >12 months (1.17 [0.87-1.57]) had similar eGFR outcomes as those unexposed to these ARVs. Older age, hypertension, later date of CRI and diabetes were associated with worse eGFR outcomes.

Conclusion: Current TDF and ATV/r use after a diagnosis of CRI was associated with worse eGFR outcomes. In contrast, TDF and ATV/r discontinuation lead to similar longer-term eGFR outcomes as in those unexposed suggesting these drug-associated eGFR declines may be halted or reversed after their cessation.

Abstract access  

Comorbidity, HIV Treatment
Africa, Asia, Europe, Northern America, Oceania
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Post-exposure prophylaxis – does it matter which medicines we use?

Editor’s notes: Two studies this month looked at alternative post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) regimens.  PEP is often not well tolerated and this leads to non-completion of the one month course.  In London a randomized trial by Milinkovic A and colleagues compared the tolerability and completion rates between 213 individuals given twice daily maraviroc or ritonavir-boosted lopinavir in addition to daily tenofovir disproxil fumarate with emitricitabine (TDF-FTC) daily.  Completion rates were very similar (71% vs. 65%) but maraviroc was associated with fewer mild-moderate side effects (70% vs. 91%) and less use of anti-diarrhoeal medication (25% vs. 67%).  There were no serious side effects in either arm and similar numbers of individuals stopped taking their medication (18%). In Australia, in an open label, non-randomized study, 100 individuals were offered once daily dolutegravir as the third drug (also with TDF-FTC). 90 people completed the one month course, 9 were lost to follow up and one stopped because of headaches.  Side effects were also common in this study (similar to the London study); around a quarter of people complained of fatigue, nausea or diarrhoea [Mcallister J et al.]. Although no seroconversions were seen in either study, despite well documented risks at entry to treatment, the studies are not large enough to shed much light on the effectiveness of the regimens.  They demonstrate the ongoing challenges in finding PEP regimens that have fewer side effects.  Whether completion rates would be as high in less controlled settings than a clinical trial is not clear.  Nonetheless it seems that dolutegravir daily or maraviroc twice daily may be a suitable replacement for ritonavir-boosted lopinavir as the third drug for use as PEP.

 

Randomized controlled trial of the tolerability and completion of maraviroc compared with Kaletra® in combination with Truvada® for HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (MiPEP Trial).

Milinkovic A, Benn P, Arenas-Pinto A, Brima N, Copas A, ClarkeA, Fisher M, Schembri G, Hawkins D, Williams A, Gilson R; MiPEP Trial Team.J Antimicrob Chemother. 2017 Mar 20. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkx062. [Epub ahead ofprint]

Objectives: Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV is often poorly tolerated and not completed. Alternative PEP regimens may improve adherence and completion, aiding HIV prevention. We conducted a randomized controlled trial of a maraviroc-based PEP regimen compared with a standard-of-care regimen using ritonavir-boosted lopinavir.

Methods: Patients meeting criteria for PEP were randomized to tenofovir disoproxil/emtricitabine (200/245 mg) once daily plus ritonavir-boosted lopinavir (Kaletra ® 400/100 mg) or maraviroc 300 mg twice daily. The composite primary endpoint was completion of 28 days of the allocated PEP regimen without grade 3or 4 clinical or laboratory adverse events (AEs) related to the PEP medication.

Results: Two hundred and thirteen individuals were randomized (107 to maraviroc; 106 to Kaletra ® arm). Follow-up rates were high in both groups. There was no difference in the primary endpoint; 70 (71%) in the maraviroc and 64 (65%) in the Kaletra ® arm ( P  =   0.36) completed PEP without grade 3 or 4 AEs. Discontinuation of PEP was the same (18%) in both groups. There were no grade 3or 4 clinical AEs in either arm, but more grade 1 or 2 clinical AEs in the Kaletra ® arm (91% versus 70%; P < 0.001). Antidiarrhoeal medication use was higher in the Kaletra ® arm (67% versus 25%; P < 0.001). There were no HIV seroconversions in the study period.

Conclusions: The completion rate in the absence of grade 3 or 4 AEs was similar with both regimens. Maraviroc-based PEP was better tolerated, supporting its use as an option for non-occupational PEP.

Abstract access 

Dolutegravir with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate - emtricitabine as HIV post-exposure prophylaxis in gay and bisexual men.

Mcallister J, Towns JM, Mcnulty A, Pierce AB, Foster R, Richardson R, Carr A. AIDS. 2017 Mar 15. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001447. [Epub ahead of print]

Objectives: Completion rates for HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are often low. We investigated the adherence and safety of dolutegravir (DTG 50 mg daily) with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg/emtricitabine 200 mg (TDF-FTC) as3-drug PEP in gay and bisexual men (GBM).

Design: Open-label, single-arm study at 3 sexual health clinics and 2 emergency departments in Australia.

Methods: One hundred HIV-uninfected GBM requiring PEP received DTG plus TDF-FTC for 28 days. The primary endpoint was PEP failure (premature PEP cessation or primary HIV infection through Week 12). Additional endpoints were: adherence by self-report (n = 98) and pill count (n = 55); safety; and plasma drug levels at Day 28.

Results: PEP completion was 90% (95%CI 84% to 96%). Failures (occurring at a median 9 days, IQR 3-16) comprised loss to follow-up (9%) and adverse event resulting in study drug discontinuation (headache, 1%). No participant was found to acquire HIV through Week 12. Adherence to PEP was 98% by self-report and in the 55 participants with corresponding pill count data. The most common clinical adverse events (AEs) were fatigue (26%), nausea (25%), diarrhoea (21%), and headache (10%). There were only four Grade 3-4 subjective AEs. The most common laboratory AE was raised alanine aminotransferase (22%), but there was no case of clinical hepatitis. At Day 28, the mean estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) decrease was 14 ml/min/1.73m (SD 17, p = 0.001); an eGFR of<60 ml/min/1.73m occurred in 3%.

Conclusions: DTG with TDF-FTC is a safe and well-tolerated option for once-daily PEP.

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Europe, Oceania
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Stigma and sex work

Editor’s notes: Two interesting studies this month looked at aspects of stigma.  There are big methodological challenges to the study of stigma.  Stigma comprises several different domains and few studies use standardized approaches to measurement that can be translated easily into other contexts.  A systematic review and meta-analysis concludes that people who feel more stigmatized are twice as likely to delay presenting for HIV care.  Gesesew HA and colleagues found only ten studies that met their pre-specified inclusion criteria, and five of these came from Ethiopia.  They acknowledge many of the challenges in combining the results of these ten studies into a single conclusion.  They recommend engagement of health care workers to try to reduce perceived stigma among people living with HIV.

The Nyblade L et al. study from Kenya emphasizes the perception of stigma among sex workers.  In a large sample of 497 females and 232 males, most reported experiencing stigma both verbal and measured from health care workers. For female sex workers, the anticipation of such stigma led to avoidance of health services for both HIV and non-HIV related conditions. In order to provide effective services for key populations, health care workers must be trained to be non-judgemental.  HIV services need to be provided in the context of an overall package of health care.

A study from Europe used ecological data to explore structural risks for HIV among sex workers.  Reeves A and colleagues used regression modelling with data on sex work policies from 27 countries.  They showed a strong correlation between criminalisation of sex work and higher prevalence of HIV among sex workers.  Although they included other factors such as the level of economic development and using drugs, the relatively small number of data points does mean that there may be other confounding factors that could not be measured or adjusted for.

Significant association between perceived HIV related stigma and late presentation for HIV/AIDS care in low and middle-income countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Gesesew HA, Tesfay Gebremedhin A, Demissie TD, Kerie MW, Sudhakar M, Mwanri L. PLoS One. 2017 Mar 30;12(3):e0173928. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173928.eCollection 2017.

Background: Late presentation for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care is a major impediment for the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART) outcomes. The role that stigma plays as a potential barrier to timely diagnosis and treatment of HIV among people living with HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is ambivalent. This review aimed to assess the best available evidence regarding the association between perceived HIV related stigma and time to present for HIV/AIDS care.

Methods: Quantitative studies conducted in English language between 2002 and 2016 that evaluated the association between HIV related stigma and late presentation for HIV care were sought across four major databases. This review considered studies that included the following outcome: 'late HIV testing', 'late HIV diagnosis' and 'late presentation for HIV care after testing'. Data were extracted using a standardized Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) data extraction tool. Meta- analysis was undertaken using Revman-5 software. I2 and chi-square test were used to assess heterogeneity. Summary statistics were expressed as pooled odds ratio with 95% confidence intervals and corresponding p-value.

Results: Ten studies from low- and middle- income countries met the search criteria, including six (6) and four (4) case control studies and cross-sectional studies respectively. The total sample size in the included studies was 3788 participants. Half (5) of the studies reported a significant association between stigma and late presentation for HIV care. The meta-analytical association showed that people who perceived high HIV related stigma had two times more probability of late presentation for HIV care than who perceived low stigma (pooled odds ratio = 2.4; 95%CI: 1.6-3.6, I2 = 79%).

Conclusions: High perceptions of HIV related stigma influenced timely presentation for HIV care. In order to avoid late HIV care presentation due the fear of stigma among patients, health professionals should play a key role in informing and counselling patients on the benefits of early HIV testing or early entry to HIV care. Additionally, linking the systems and positive case tracing after HIV testing should be strengthened.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

The relationship between health worker stigma and uptake of HIV counseling and testing and utilization of non-HIV health services: the experience of male and female sex workers in Kenya.

Nyblade L, Reddy A, Mbote D, Kraemer J, Stockton M, Kemunto C, Krotki K, Morla J, Njuguna S, Dutta A, Barker C. AIDS Care. 2017 Mar 22:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2017.1307922. [Epub ahead of print]

The barrier HIV-stigma presents to the HIV treatment cascade is increasingly documented; however less is known about female and male sex worker engagement in and the influence of sex-work stigma on the HIV care continuum. While stigma occurs in all spheres of life, stigma within health services may be particularly detrimental to health seeking behaviors. Therefore, we present levels of sex-work stigma from healthcare workers (HCW) among male and female sex workers in Kenya, and explore the relationship between sex-work stigma and HIV counseling and testing. We also examine the relationship between sex-work stigma and utilization of non-HIV health services. A snowball sample of 497 female sex workers (FSW) and 232 male sex workers (MSW) across four sites was recruited through a modified respondent-driven sampling process. About 50% of both male and female sex workers reported anticipating verbal stigma from HCW while 72% of FSW and 54% of MSW reported experiencing at least one of seven measured forms of stigma from HCW. In general, stigma led to higher odds of reporting delay or avoidance of counseling and testing, as well as non-HIV specific services. Statistical significance of relationships varied across type of health service, type of stigma and gender. For example, anticipated stigma was not a significant predictor of delay or avoidance of health services for MSW; however, FSW who anticipated HCW stigma had significantly higher odds of avoiding (OR = 2.11) non-HIV services, compared to FSW who did not. This paper adds to the growing evidence of stigma as a roadblock in the HIV treatment cascade, as well as its undermining of the human right to health. While more attention is being paid to addressing HIV-stigma, it is equally important to address the key population stigma that often intersects with HIV-stigma.

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National sex work policy and HIV prevalence among sex workers: an ecological regression analysis of 27 European countries.

Reeves A, Steele S, Stuckler D, McKee M, Amato-Gauci A, Semenza JC. Lancet HIV. 2017 Mar;4(3):e134-e140. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30217-X. Epub2017 Jan 25.

Background: Sex workers are disproportionately affected by HIV compared with the general population. Most studies of HIV risk among sex workers have focused on individual-level risk factors, with few studies assessing potential structural determinants of HIV risk. In this Article, we examine whether criminal laws around sex work are associated with HIV prevalence among female sex workers.

Method: We estimate cross-sectional, ecological regression models with data from 27 European countries on HIV prevalence among sex workers from the European Centre for Disease Control; sex-work legislation from the US State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and country-specific legal documents; the rule of law and gross-domestic product per capita, adjusted for purchasing power, from the World Bank; and the prevalence of injecting drug use among sex workers. Although data from two countries include male sex workers, the numbers are so small that the findings here essentially pertain to prevalence in female sex workers.

Findings: Countries that have legalised some aspects of sex work (n=17) have significantly lower HIV prevalence among sex workers than countries that criminalise all aspects of sex work (n=10; β=-2·09, 95% CI -0·80 to -3·37;p=0·003), even after controlling for the level of economic development (β=-1·86; p=0·038) and the proportion of sex workers who are injecting drug users (-1·93;p=0·026). We found that the relation between sex work policy and HIV among sex workers might be partly moderated by the effectiveness and fairness of enforcement, suggesting legalisation of some aspects of sex work could reduce HIV among sex workers to the greatest extent in countries where enforcement is fair and effective.

Interpretation: Our findings suggest that the legalisation of some aspects of sex work might help reduce HIV prevalence in this high-risk group, particularly in countries where the judiciary is effective and fair.

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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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TAF: a new, safer version of tenofovir?

Tenofovir alafenamide versus tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, coformulated with elvitegravir, cobicistat, and emtricitabine, for initial treatment of HIV-1 infection: two randomised, double-blind, phase 3, non-inferiority trials.

Sax PE, Wohl D, Yin MT, Post F, DeJesus E, Saag M, Pozniak A, Thompson M, Podzamczer D, Molina JM, Oka S, Koenig E, Trottier B, Andrade-Villanueva J, Crofoot G, Custodio JM, Plummer A, Zhong L, Cao H, Martin H, Callebaut C, Cheng AK, Fordyce MW, McCallister S, GS-US-292-0104/0111 Study Team. Lancet. 2015 Jun 27;385(9987):2606-15. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60616-X. Epub 2015 Apr 15.

Background: Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate can cause renal and bone toxic effects related to high plasma tenofovir concentrations. Tenofovir alafenamide is a novel tenofovir prodrug with a 90% reduction in plasma tenofovir concentrations. Tenofovir alafenamide-containing regimens can have improved renal and bone safety compared with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-containing regimens.

Methods: In these two controlled, double-blind phase 3 studies, we recruited treatment-naive HIV-infected patients with an estimated creatinine clearance of 50 mL per min or higher from 178 outpatient centres in 16 countries. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive once-daily oral tablets containing 150 mg elvitegravir, 150 mg cobicistat, 200 mg emtricitabine, and 10 mg tenofovir alafenamide (E/C/F/tenofovir alafenamide) or 300 mg tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (E/C/F/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) with matching placebo. Randomisation was done by a computer-generated allocation sequence (block size 4) and was stratified by HIV-1 RNA, CD4 count, and region (USA or ex-USA). Investigators, patients, study staff, and those assessing outcomes were masked to treatment group. All participants who received one dose of study drug were included in the primary intention-to-treat efficacy and safety analyses. The main outcomes were the proportion of patients with plasma HIV-1 RNA less than 50 copies per mL at week 48 as defined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) snapshot algorithm (pre-specified non-inferiority margin of 12%) and pre-specified renal and bone endpoints at 48 weeks. These studies are registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, numbers NCT01780506 and NCT01797445.

Findings: We recruited patients from Jan 22, 2013, to Nov 4, 2013 (2175 screened and 1744 randomly assigned), and gave treatment to 1733 patients (866 given E/C/F/tenofovir alafenamide and 867 given E/C/F/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate). E/C/F/tenofovir alafenamide was non-inferior to E/C/F/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, with 800 (92%) of 866 patients in the tenofovir alafenamide group and 784 (90%) of 867 patients in the tenofovir disoproxil fumarate group having plasma HIV-1 RNA less than 50 copies per mL (adjusted difference 2.0%, 95% CI -0.7 to 4.7). Patients given E/C/F/tenofovir alafenamide had significantly smaller mean serum creatinine increases than those given E/C/F/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (0.08 vs 0.12 mg/dL; p<0.0001), significantly less proteinuria (median % change -3 vs 20; p<0.0001), and a significantly smaller decrease in bone mineral density at spine (mean % change -1.30 vs -2.86; p<0.0001) and hip (-0.66 vs -2.95; p<0.0001) at 48 weeks.

Interpretation: Through 48 weeks, more than 90% of patients given E/C/F/tenofovir alafenamide or E/C/F/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate had virological success. Renal and bone effects were significantly reduced in patients given E/C/F/tenofovir alafenamide. Although these studies do not have the power to assess clinical safety events such as renal failure and fractures, our data suggest that E/C/F/tenofovir alafenamide will have a favourable long-term renal and bone safety profile.

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Editor’s notes: Tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF) is a new antiretroviral agent developed by Gilead Sciences and is closely related to tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF).  TDF is widely used, highly potent, and safe in the majority of people but long-term use has been associated with small risks of decreased kidney function, chronic kidney disease, and decreased bone mineral density.  Both TAF and TDF are prodrugs of tenofovir but TAF achieves highly potent concentrations of tenofovir inside HIV-relevant immune cells with much lower plasma concentrations than TDF.  The lower plasma concentration of tenofovir associated with TAF is hypothesised to reduce the toxic effects with regards to kidney and bone health. TAF is also effective at the lower dose of 10-25 mg, compared with the standard TDF dose of 300mg per day.  This may translate into lower drug costs if the lower dose required means lower manufacturing costs.

The authors report the combined results of two phase III, non-inferiority studies comparing the safety and effectiveness of TAF with TDF, funded by Gilead Sciences. In both studies, TAF was co-formulated into one, once-a-day tablet with elvitegravir, cobicistat and emtricitabine. There was a high rate of virologic suppression with the TAF-containing regimen, which was non-inferior to the TDF regimen. Compared to TDF, TAF had significantly more favourable effects on renal and bone parameters, with smaller decreases in creatinine clearance and bone mineral density and smaller increases in proteinuria. The real-world clinical significance of these findings remains to be seen but TAF-containing regimens may offer meaningful safety and cost benefits over TDF regimens in the long-term. The favourable characteristics of TAF have also led to the development of a sustained-release subcutaneous TAF implant, which has recently been evaluated in dogs. A long-acting TAF implant could have translational potential as a candidate for HIV prophylaxis in vulnerable populations.

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