Articles tagged as "Viet Nam"

Tuberculous meningitis: what more can we do?

Intensified antituberculosis therapy in adults with tuberculous meningitis.

Heemskerk AD, Bang ND, Mai NT, Chau TT, Phu NH, Loc PP, Chau NV, Hien TT, Dung NH, Lan NT, Lan NH, Lan NN, Phong le T, Vien NN, Hien NQ, Yen NT, Ha DT, Day JN, Caws M, Merson L, Thinh TT, Wolbers M, Thwaites GE, Farrar JJ. N Engl J Med. 2016 Jan 14;374(2):124-34. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1507062.

Background: Tuberculous meningitis is often lethal. Early antituberculosis treatment and adjunctive treatment with glucocorticoids improve survival, but nearly one third of patients with the condition still die. We hypothesized that intensified antituberculosis treatment would enhance the killing of intracerebral Mycobacterium tuberculosis organisms and decrease the rate of death among patients.

Methods: We performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected adults and HIV-uninfected adults with a clinical diagnosis of tuberculous meningitis who were admitted to one of two Vietnamese hospitals. We compared a standard, 9-month antituberculosis regimen (which included 10 mg of rifampin per kilogram of body weight per day) with an intensified regimen that included higher-dose rifampin (15 mg per kilogram per day) and levofloxacin (20 mg per kilogram per day) for the first 8 weeks of treatment. The primary outcome was death by 9 months after randomization.

Results: A total of 817 patients (349 of whom were HIV-infected) were enrolled; 409 were randomly assigned to receive the standard regimen, and 408 were assigned to receive intensified treatment. During the 9 months of follow-up, 113 patients in the intensified-treatment group and 114 patients in the standard-treatment group died (hazard ratio, 0.94; 95% confidence interval, 0.73 to 1.22; P=0.66). There was no evidence of a significant differential effect of intensified treatment in the overall population or in any of the subgroups, with the possible exception of patients infected with isoniazid-resistant M. tuberculosis. There were also no significant differences in secondary outcomes between the treatment groups. The overall number of adverse events leading to treatment interruption did not differ significantly between the treatment groups (64 events in the standard-treatment group and 95 events in the intensified-treatment group, P=0.08).

Conclusions: Intensified antituberculosis treatment was not associated with a higher rate of survival among patients with tuberculous meningitis than standard treatment.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This was a well-designed and rigorously conducted clinical trial in two tertiary referral hospitals in Viet Nam. The underlying hypothesis that intensified TB treatment might improve outcomes was based on reasonable pharmacokinetic and clinical evidence. The findings are therefore disappointing and raise more questions about how to improve outcomes from TB meningitis.

In this trial, 43% of participants were HIV-positive. Two-thirds of participants were ART-naïve and the median CD4+ count was 38 cells/µL. Almost 40% of HIV-positive participants had died by nine months. Most deaths occurred in the first month. For people that were ART-naïve, two-thirds of deaths occurred before the scheduled start of ART (eight weeks). Interestingly, mortality was not affected by being on ART at enrolment, although higher CD4+ count was associated with lower mortality. Overall, the strongest predictors of mortality were rifampicin resistance and the severity of disease at enrolment.

There is a need for continued research to optimise treatment strategies for TB meningitis. Additional analyses from this trial should help to inform this research agenda. These data also clearly highlight the need to develop strategies upstream in the health system and community to ensure earlier diagnosis and treatment of both TB and HIV. 

Comorbidity, HIV Treatment
Asia
Viet Nam
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HIV and gay men and other men who have sex with men: an expanding and underfunded epidemic

Financing the response to HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men: case studies from eight diverse countries.

Grosso A, Ryan O, Tram KH, Baral S. Glob Public Health. 2015 Dec;10(10):1172-84. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2015.1043314. Epub 2015 Jul 3.

Despite reductions in the number of new HIV infections globally, the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) is expanding. This study characterises financing of HIV programmes for MSM and the impact of criminalisation on levels of funding, using data from five countries that criminalise same-sex sexual practices (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Guyana, India and Nigeria) and three that do not (China, Ukraine and Vietnam). For each country, all publicly available documents from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for approved HIV/AIDS grants in Rounds 5-9 and Country Operational Plans detailing investments made through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from US fiscal year (FY) 2007-2009 were examined. Eleven of 20 HIV proposals to the Global Fund contained programmes for MSM totalling approximately $40 million or 6% of proposed budgets. In six countries providing activity-level data on MSM programming, PEPFAR funding that served this population and others ranged from $23.3 million in FY2007 to $35.4 million in FY2009, representing 0.5-25.9% of overall, non-treatment funding over this period. Countries that criminalise same-sex sexual practices spend fewer resources on HIV programmes serving MSM. However, they also show consistent underfunding of programmes serving MSM regardless of context or geography.

 Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Despite encouraging indicators on the reduction of new HIV infections worldwide, the epidemic among gay men and other men who have sex with men continues to grow. This is due to both biological and structural factors. With many governments failing to take responsibility for this at-risk population, funding for gay men and other men who have sex with men-specific programmes often comes from international donors. This study looks at Global Fund and PEPFAR financing of programmes for gay men and other men who have sex with men, comparing funding availability and services offered both in settings where homosexuality is criminalised and settings where it is not.

The study finds that most proposed funding focuses on behaviour change communication, and less frequently on improving sexual health services, community outreach and education. Nations that criminalise homosexuality allocated about 2% of funding towards gay men and other men who have sex with men services, while countries without punitive measures allocated close to 7%. Importantly, both were felt to be inadequately small sums of money in relation to the size of the epidemic. Key stakeholder interviews from criminalising countries suggest that legal restrictions make it more difficult to provide services focused on gay men and other men who have sex with men. Although, little is known about the degree to which gay men and other men who have sex with men access services focused on the general population. The authors also note that countries that criminalise homosexuality may request funds for gay men and other men who have sex with men believing that donors will look favourably on budgets that include these activities. After receiving funds, these countries may re-programme activities, reducing or removing these focussed programmes.

There is comparatively little research done on HIV and gay men and other men who have sex with men in low- and middle-income countries, in particular in African settings. This article contributes to an expanding literature on the subject and raises questions about the role that international donors should play in ensuring an equitable access to services, particularly in the context of reprogramming. This highlights how real impact on the incidence of HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men requires both demand generation and accountability in equal measure.

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America
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Violence experience of women living with HIV: a global study

Violence. Enough already: findings from a global participatory survey among women living with HIV.

Orza L, Bewley S, Chung C, Crone ET, Nagadya H, Vazquez M, Welbourn A. J Int AIDS Soc. 2015 Dec 1;18(6 Suppl 5):20285. doi: 10.7448/IAS.18.6.20285. eCollection 2015.

Introduction: Women living with HIV are vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV) before and after diagnosis, in multiple settings. This study's aim was to explore how GBV is experienced by women living with HIV, how this affects women's sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and human rights (HR), and the implications for policymakers.

Methods: A community-based, participatory, user-led, mixed-methods study was conducted, with women living with HIV from key affected populations. Simple descriptive frequencies were used for quantitative data. Thematic coding of open qualitative responses was performed and validated with key respondents.

Results: In total, 945 women living with HIV from 94 countries participated in the study. Eighty-nine percent of 480 respondents to an optional section on GBV reported having experienced or feared violence, either before, since and/or because of their HIV diagnosis. GBV reporting was higher after HIV diagnosis (intimate partner, family/neighbours, community and health settings). Women described a complex and iterative relationship between GBV and HIV occurring throughout their lives, including breaches of confidentiality and lack of SRH choice in healthcare settings, forced/coerced treatments, HR abuses, moralistic and judgemental attitudes (including towards women from key populations), and fear of losing child custody. Respondents recommended healthcare practitioners and policymakers address stigma and discrimination, training, awareness-raising, and HR abuses in healthcare settings.

Conclusions: Respondents reported increased GBV with partners and in families, communities and healthcare settings after their HIV diagnosis and across the life-cycle. Measures of GBV must be sought and monitored, particularly within healthcare settings that should be safe. Respondents offered policymakers a comprehensive range of recommendations to achieve their SRH and HR goals. Global guidance documents and policies are more likely to succeed for the end-users if lived experiences are used.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Violence against women who are living with HIV is common globally. This paper reports on a study of 832 women living with HIV from 94 countries who participated in an online survey, recruited through a non-random snowball sampling model. The survey comprised quantitative and qualitative (free text) components. Participants included women who had ever or were currently using injection drugs (14%), who had ever or were currently selling sex (14%), and who had ever or were currently homeless (14%). Lifetime experience of violence among respondents was high (86%). Perpetrators included: intimate partner (59%), family member / neighbour (45%), community member (53%), health care workers (53%) and police, military, prison or detention services (17%). Findings suggest that violence is not a one off occurrence and cannot easily be packaged as a cause or a consequence of HIV. Instead violence occurs throughout women’s lives, takes multiple forms, and has a complex and iterative relationship with HIV.

The study population did not represent all women living with HIV, and was biased towards women with internet access who have an activist interest. Nonetheless, the study provides further evidence of the breadth and frequency of gender based violence experienced by women living with HIV. Key recommendations for policy makers include training of health care workers working in sexual and reproductive services to offer non-discriminatory services to women living with HIV and to effectively respond to disclosures of gender based violence (such as intimate partner violence) as part of the package of care.

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Togo, Transdniestria, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Expanding ART access: increasing costs

The HIV treatment gap: estimates of the financial resources needed versus available for scale-up of antiretroviral therapy in 97 countries from 2015 to 2020.

Dutta A, Barker C, Kallarakal A. PLoS Med. 2015 Nov 24;12(11):e1001907. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001907. eCollection 2015.

Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) released revised guidelines in 2015 recommending that all people living with HIV, regardless of CD4 count, initiate antiretroviral therapy (ART) upon diagnosis. However, few studies have projected the global resources needed for rapid scale-up of ART. Under the Health Policy Project, we conducted modeling analyses for 97 countries to estimate eligibility for and numbers on ART from 2015 to 2020, along with the facility-level financial resources required. We compared the estimated financial requirements to estimated funding available.

Methods and findings: Current coverage levels and future need for treatment were based on country-specific epidemiological and demographic data. Simulated annual numbers of individuals on treatment were derived from three scenarios: (1) continuation of countries' current policies of eligibility for ART, (2) universal adoption of aspects of the WHO 2013 eligibility guidelines, and (3) expanded eligibility as per the WHO 2015 guidelines and meeting the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS "90-90-90" ART targets. We modeled uncertainty in the annual resource requirements for antiretroviral drugs, laboratory tests, and facility-level personnel and overhead.

We estimate that 25.7 (95% CI 25.5, 26.0) million adults and 1.57 (95% CI 1.55, 1.60) million children could receive ART by 2020 if countries maintain current eligibility plans and increase coverage based on historical rates, which may be ambitious. If countries uniformly adopt aspects of the WHO 2013 guidelines, 26.5 (95% CI 26.0 27.0) million adults and 1.53 (95% CI 1.52, 1.55) million children could be on ART by 2020. Under the 90-90-90 scenario, 30.4 (95% CI 30.1, 30.7) million adults and 1.68 (95% CI 1.63, 1.73) million children could receive treatment by 2020. The facility-level financial resources needed for scaling up ART in these countries from 2015 to 2020 are estimated to be US$45.8 (95% CI 45.4, 46.2) billion under the current scenario, US$48.7 (95% CI 47.8, 49.6) billion under the WHO 2013 scenario, and US$52.5 (95% CI 51.4, 53.6) billion under the 90-90-90 scenario. After projecting recent external and domestic funding trends, the estimated 6-y financing gap ranges from US$19.8 billion to US$25.0 billion, depending on the costing scenario and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief contribution level, with the gap for ART commodities alone ranging from US$14.0 to US$16.8 billion. The study is limited by excluding above-facility and other costs essential to ART service delivery and by the availability and quality of country- and region-specific data.

Conclusions: The projected number of people receiving ART across three scenarios suggests that countries are unlikely to meet the 90-90-90 treatment target (81% of people living with HIV on ART by 2020) unless they adopt a test-and-offer approach and increase ART coverage. Our results suggest that future resource needs for ART scale-up are smaller than stated elsewhere but still significantly threaten the sustainability of the global HIV response without additional resource mobilization from domestic or innovative financing sources or efficiency gains. As the world moves towards adopting the WHO 2015 guidelines, advances in technology, including the introduction of lower-cost, highly effective antiretroviral regimens, whose value are assessed here, may prove to be "game changers" that allow more people to be on ART with the resources available.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This is a complex and important paper that seeks to understand the financial requirements necessary to: a) continue countries’ current policies of eligibility for ART, b) roll out universal adoption of certain aspects of WHO 2013 eligibility guidelines, and c) expand eligibility as per WHO 2015 guidelines and meeting the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS ‘90-90-90’ targets.

The authors estimated the number of adults and children eligible for and receiving HIV treatment, as well as the cost of providing ART in 97 countries across six regions, covering different income levels. They estimated that 25.7 million adults and 1.57 million children could receive ART by 2020 if countries maintain the current eligibility strategies. If countries adopted WHO 2013 eligibility guidelines, 26.5 million adults and 1.53 million children would be on ART by 2020, and if they adopted the 90-90-90 scenario, 30.4 million adults and 1.68 million children could receive treatment by then. The financial resources necessary for this scale up are estimated to be US$ 45.8 billion under current eligibility, US$ 48.7 billion under WHO 2013 scenario and US$ 52.5 billion under the 90-90-90 scenario. The estimated funding gap for the six year period ranges between US$ 20 and US$ 25 billion. In this study, the costs of commodities were taken directly from data collated by other organisations.  No empirical cost estimates of service delivery were made.  Nor was there an attempt to understand the cost implications of the development synergies and social and programme enablers that may be needed to increase the number of people living with HIV knowing their status.  The new WHO recommendations need to be actively pursued if we are to meet targets, rather than passively continuing with “business as usual”. 

Nonetheless, the findings of this study highlight the gap between guidelines written by WHO and very real programmatic obstacles on the ground. There is evidence to suggest that universal test-and-treat strategies could lead to substantially improved health outcomes at the population level, as well as potentially being cost-saving in the long-term. However, as the authors have illustrated, it would require increased levels of funding. What needs to be explored further now is how to overcome the logistical hurdles of rolling out such an initiative. Changing systems and practices is costly and takes time. Health workers will have to be retrained, data collection strategies will have to be revised. Expanding treatment may also mean increasing the number of health staff working on this initiative, which has an opportunity cost that may reverberate in other parts of the health system. Substantially altering health service provision, particularly in weak health systems, may have knock-on effects with unexpected and unintended consequences.

WHO guidelines serve a vital purpose of giving us a goal to aim for. But studies like this one help us know if and how we can get there. 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania
Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Donor pull-out: how much will it cost to fill the gap for HIV testing in Viet Nam?

Expenditure analysis of HIV testing and counseling services using the cascade framework in Vietnam.

Nguyen VT, Nguyen HT, Nguyen QC, Duong PT, West G. PLoS One. 2015 May 15;10(5):e0126659. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126659. eCollection 2015.

Objectives: Currently, HIV testing and counseling (HTC) services in Vietnam are primarily funded by international sources. However, international funders are now planning to withdraw their support and the Government of Vietnam (GVN) is seeking to identify domestic funding and generate client fees to continue services. A clear understanding of the cost to sustain current HTC services is becoming increasingly important to facilitate planning that can lead to making HTC and other HIV services more affordable and sustainable in Vietnam. The objectives of this analysis were to provide a snapshot of current program costs to achieve key program outcomes including 1) testing and identifying PLHIV unaware of their HIV status and 2) successfully enrolling HIV (+) clients in care.

Methods: We reviewed expenditure data reported by 34 HTC sites in nine Vietnamese provinces over a one-year period from October 2012 to September 2013. Data on program outcomes were extracted from the HTC database of 42 390 client records. Analysis was carried out from the service providers' perspective.

Results: The mean expenditure for a single client provided HTC services (testing, receiving results and referral for care/treatment) was US $7.6. The unit expenditure per PLHIV identified through these services varied widely from US $22.8 to $741.5 (median: $131.8). Excluding repeat tests, the range for expenditure to newly diagnose a PLHIV was even wider (from US $30.8 to $1483.0). The mean expenditure for one successfully referred HIV client to care services was US $466.6. Personnel costs contributed most to the total cost.

Conclusions: Our analysis found a wide range of expenditures by site for achieving the same outcomes. Re-designing systems to provide services at the lowest feasible cost is essential to making HIV services more affordable and treatment for prevention programs feasible in Vietnam. The analysis also found that understanding the determinants and reasons for variance in service costs by site is an important enhancement to the cascade of HIV services framework now adapted for and extensively used in Vietnam for planning and evaluation.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Some 91% of expenditure for HIV testing and counselling (HTC) in Viet Nam is funded by international donors. As donors start to reduce their contributions in the coming years, more of the costs will have to be fronted by the government of Viet Nam. Consequently, this paper looks at the cost around diagnosing HIV within the context of the care and treatment cascade, including not only the cost per person diagnosed, but also the cost of successfully enrolling people who have tested positive for HIV into care and treatment. This is particularly important in the context of Viet Nam, where only 29% of people estimated to be living with HIV have ever been enrolled in care and treatment services. 

An important finding of the paper is in the break-down of costs by input by facilities. The authors found that the cost of personnel account for 40% of total costs. More importantly, they also found that the personnel costs vary widely between facilities, which may suggest that some facilities are over-staffed and are not allocating tasks efficiently. This is a key finding. As financial resources become scarcer, savings may need to be found by determining the optimal level of staffing and task-shifting.

The paper illustrates, as is to be expected, that the cost per person successfully enrolled in care and treatment is substantially higher than the costs per person tested and per person testing positive.  However, it is not entirely clear whether the extra cost is explained simply by the fact that the overhead and start-up costs are allocated to a smaller number of people, or whether there are additional costs involved in a successful referral. This area needs further exploration. Additionally, an interesting follow-up to this paper could take on the costing from a societal perspective with the aim to understand the relation between patient-level costs and the successful link between testing and referral to care and treatment services.

Asia
Viet Nam
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Screening for and treating cryptococcal infection – better evidence of impact necessary

Cryptococcal antigen screening and early antifungal treatment to prevent cryptococcal meningitis: a review of the literature.

Kaplan JE, Vallabhaneni S, Smith RM, Chideya-Chihota S, Chehab J, Park B. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Apr 15;68 Suppl 3:S331-9. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000484.

Background: Screening individuals with AIDS for serum cryptococcal antigen (CrAg), followed by treatment of CrAg positives with antifungals, may prevent cryptococcal meningitis. This review examined data on CrAg screening and treatment in resource-limited settings.

Methods: We searched articles published during 2007-2014 on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of CrAg screening and treatment on the outcomes of mortality, morbidity, retention in care, quality of life, and/or prevention of ongoing HIV transmission. We rated overall quality of individual articles, summarized the body of evidence, the expected impact, and cost-effectiveness for each outcome.

Results: We identified 2613 articles. Eight met all inclusion criteria. Five studies addressed mortality and/or morbidity outcomes; all were observational and had small sample sizes; 3 lacked a comparison group. Ratings of study quality ranged from "medium" to "weak," and the quality of the overall body of evidence for mortality and morbidity outcomes was rated as "fair." The intervention's expected impact on mortality and morbidity was rated as "moderate." The 4 cost-effectiveness studies included in the analysis showed that CrAg screening and treatment interventions are highly cost-effective. No studies addressed retention in care, quality of life, or HIV transmission.

Conclusions: Although limited, the body of evidence regarding CrAg screening and treatment suggests that the intervention may have an impact on preventing cryptococcal meningitis and death in persons with AIDS. Additional research is needed to quantify the intervention's effectiveness and identify optimal treatment dosing and implementation best practices.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: This systematic review was one of a series aimed at evaluating the impact of services supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The review set out to assess the evidence around the impact of targeted cryptococcal antigen (CrAg) testing and antifungal treatment for people with advanced HIV disease. In 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) gave a conditional recommendation, based on low quality evidence, that adults with CD4 count <100 cells per μL, in populations where the CrAg prevalence is above 3%, should undergo CrAg screening and be provided with antifungal treatment if CrAg positive.

The quality of the evidence was rated using a system adapted from the US Preventive Services Task Force. Five observational studies that evaluated the impact of the CrAg screening and antifungal treatment approach on mortality were included. Most of these did not have a comparator. One study used a historical control group from the same facility and another study compared mortality in people who received fluconazole following a positive CrAg, to people who did not. All studies had a very small number of deaths. In the five studies, mortality in people testing CrAg positive and receiving fluconazole varied between 0 and 29%. Based on these studies it would be difficult to evaluate the true impact of the strategy on mortality.

Four cost-effectiveness studies from different settings were also reviewed. All four studies suggested that a strategy with CrAg screening and antifungal treatment would be cost-effective. However, the cost-effectiveness modelling was based on data from the observational studies mentioned above and required other assumptions based on low quality evidence, leading to substantial uncertainty around the cost-effectiveness estimates.

Although a few countries have already implemented CrAg screening and antifungal treatment strategies, better quality evidence is necessary to inform management more broadly in countries with a high burden of cryptococcal disease. Some evidence has already appeared, with a randomised controlled trial in Tanzania and Zambia demonstrating a reduction in mortality with a CrAg screening strategy combined with a community support package during the early phase of antiretroviral therapy (see HIV This Month Issue 4). In addition there are three other randomised controlled trials exploring the impact of CrAg screening, ongoing or planned in Uganda, Zimbabwe and Viet Nam (NCT01535469, NCT02434172, and NCT02334670). It is hoped that the evidence generated by these studies will improve our understanding of the impact of a CrAg screening strategy and also give further insight into how best to implement this in different health care settings.   

Avoid TB deaths
Africa, Asia
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Late antiretroviral therapy start persists for children under two years of age in low- and middle-income countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract access 

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

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

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

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

HIV Treatment
Africa, Asia, Northern America
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Increasing transmitted resistance to antiretroviral therapy in low/middle-income countries - highest prevalence in MSM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract access 

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

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

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

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

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

HIV Treatment
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Counting and classifying global deaths

Global, regional, and national incidence and mortality for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.

Murray CJ, Ortblad KF, Guinovart C, et al. Lancet. 2014 Sep 13;384(9947):1005-70. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60844-8. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Background: The Millennium Declaration in 2000 brought special global attention to HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria through the formulation of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6. The Global Burden of Disease 2013 study provides a consistent and comprehensive approach to disease estimation for between 1990 and 2013, and an opportunity to assess whether accelerated progress has occurred since the Millennium Declaration.

Methods: To estimate incidence and mortality for HIV, we used the UNAIDS Spectrum model appropriately modified based on a systematic review of available studies of mortality with and without antiretroviral therapy (ART). For concentrated epidemics, we calibrated Spectrum models to fit vital registration data corrected for misclassification of HIV deaths. In generalised epidemics, we minimised a loss function to select epidemic curves most consistent with prevalence data and demographic data for all-cause mortality. We analysed counterfactual scenarios for HIV to assess years of life saved through prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and ART. For tuberculosis, we analysed vital registration and verbal autopsy data to estimate mortality using cause of death ensemble modelling. We analysed data for corrected case-notifications, expert opinions on the case-detection rate, prevalence surveys, and estimated cause-specific mortality using Bayesian meta-regression to generate consistent trends in all parameters. We analysed malaria mortality and incidence using an updated cause of death database, a systematic analysis of verbal autopsy validation studies for malaria, and recent studies (2010-13) of incidence, drug resistance, and coverage of insecticide-treated bednets.

Findings: Globally in 2013, there were 1.8 million new HIV infections (95% uncertainty interval 1.7 million to 2.1 million), 29.2 million prevalent HIV cases (28.1 to 31.7), and 1.3 million HIV deaths (1.3 to 1.5). At the peak of the epidemic in 2005, HIV caused 1.7 million deaths (1.6 million to 1.9 million). Concentrated epidemics in Latin America and eastern Europe are substantially smaller than previously estimated. Through interventions including PMTCT and ART, 19.1 million life-years (16.6 million to 21.5 million) have been saved, 70.3% (65.4 to 76.1) in developing countries. From 2000 to 2011, the ratio of development assistance for health for HIV to years of life saved through intervention was US$ 4498 in developing countries. Including in HIV-positive individuals, all-form tuberculosis incidence was 7.5 million (7.4 million to 7.7 million), prevalence was 11.9 million (11.6 million to 12.2 million), and number of deaths was 1.4 million (1.3 million to 1.5 million) in 2013. In the same year and in only individuals who were HIV-negative, all-form tuberculosis incidence was 7.1 million (6.9 million to 7.3 million), prevalence was 11.2 million (10.8 million to 11.6 million), and number of deaths was 1.3 million (1.2 million to 1.4 million). Annualised rates of change (ARC) for incidence, prevalence, and death became negative after 2000. Tuberculosis in HIV-negative individuals disproportionately occurs in men and boys (versus women and girls); 64.0% of cases (63.6 to 64.3) and 64.7% of deaths (60.8 to 70.3). Globally, malaria cases and deaths grew rapidly from 1990 reaching a peak of 232 million cases (143 million to 387 million) in 2003 and 1.2 million deaths (1.1 million to 1.4 million) in 2004. Since 2004, child deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa have decreased by 31.5% (15.7 to 44.1). Outside of Africa, malaria mortality has been steadily decreasing since 1990.

Interpretation: Our estimates of the number of people living with HIV are 18.7% smaller than UNAIDS's estimates in 2012. The number of people living with malaria is larger than estimated by WHO. The number of people living with HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria have all decreased since 2000. At the global level, upward trends for malaria and HIV deaths have been reversed and declines in tuberculosis deaths have accelerated. 101 countries (74 of which are developing) still have increasing HIV incidence. Substantial progress since the Millennium Declaration is an encouraging sign of the effect of global action.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study uses standard methods to compare and track over time national distributions of deaths by cause, and the prevalence of disease and disability.  This detailed report focuses on HIV, TB and Malaria. It presents regional summaries of incidence, prevalence and mortality rates, and national estimates of the number of male and female deaths and new infections. Point estimates are shown for 2013, and annualised rates of change for 1990-2000 and 2000-2013. These highlight the contrasting trends in disease impact before and after the formulation of the Millennium Development Goal to combat these diseases.  The global peak of HIV mortality occurred in 2005, but regional annualised rates of change for 2000-2013 indicate that HIV deaths are still increasing significantly in east Asia, southern Africa, and most rapidly in eastern Europe.

The GBD 2013 global estimates of new infections and deaths agree closely with the corresponding estimates made by UNAIDS. But there are significant differences in the respective estimates of the number of people currently living with HIV (UNAIDS estimates are some 18% higher), and historical trends in AIDS deaths, with UNAIDS judging that the recent fall has been steeper. These differences are attributed primarily to methods used in the GBD study to ensure that the sum of deaths from specific causes fits the estimated all cause total, and to varying assumptions about historical survival patterns following HIV infection. 

It may be worthwhile to look at a comment by Michel Sidibé, Mark Dybul, and Deborah Birx in the Lancet on MDG 6 and beyond: from halting and reversing AIDS to ending the epidemic which refers to this study.

Epidemiology
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More data needed from routine programme data on antiretroviral therapy cascade outcomes among female sex workers

Antiretroviral therapy uptake, attrition, adherence and outcomes among HIV-infected female sex workers: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Mountain E, Mishra S, Vickerman P, Pickles M, Gilks C, Boily MC. PLoS One. 2014 Sep 29;9(9):e105645. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105645. eCollection 2014.

Purpose: We aimed to characterize the antiretroviral therapy (ART) cascade among female sex workers (FSWs) globally.

Methods: We systematically searched PubMed, Embase and MEDLINE in March 2014 to identify studies reporting on ART uptake, attrition, adherence, and outcomes (viral suppression or CD4 count improvements) among HIV-infected FSWs globally. When possible, available estimates were pooled using random effects meta-analyses (with heterogeneity assessed using Cochran's Q test and I2 statistic).

Results: 39 studies, reporting on 21 different FSW study populations in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Central America and the Caribbean, were included. Current ART use among HIV-infected FSWs was 38% (95% CI: 29%-48%, I2 = 96%, 15 studies), and estimates were similar between high-, and low- and middle-income countries. Ever ART use among HIV-infected FSWs was greater in high-income countries (80%; 95% CI: 48%-94%, I2 = 70%, 2 studies) compared to low- and middle-income countries (36%; 95% CI: 7%-81%, I2 = 99%, 3 studies). Loss to follow-up after ART initiation was 6% (95% CI: 3%-11%, I2 = 0%, 3 studies) and death after ART initiation was 6% (95% CI: 3%-11%, I2 = 0%, 3 studies). The fraction adherent to ≥95% of prescribed pills was 76% (95% CI: 68%-83%, I2 = 36%, 4 studies), and 57% (95% CI: 46%-68%, I2 = 82%, 4 studies) of FSWs on ART were virally suppressed. Median gains in CD4 count after 6 to 36 months on ART, ranged between 103 and 241 cells/mm3 (4 studies).

Conclusions: Despite global increases in ART coverage, there is a concerning lack of published data on HIV treatment for FSWs. Available data suggest that FSWs can achieve levels of ART uptake, retention, adherence, and treatment response comparable to that seen among women in the general population, but these data are from only a few research settings. More routine programme data on HIV treatment among FSWs across settings should be collected and disseminated.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Female sex workers remain a key population for HIV prevention, treatment and care. This is the first paper to systematically review and quantify the HIV treatment cascade among sex workers globally. The review highlights the scarcity of published data on HIV treatment among sex workers. For example, data were identified from only five countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe) and a lack of data from routine (non research) settings. Further, most studies presented data on current antiretroviral therapy (ART) or CD4 count at initiation rather than follow-up data on attrition, adherence or viral suppression. The results suggest that research cohorts have been largely successful at enrolling and retaining female sex workers on ART, but there may be an issue with adherence. Adherence, in the few studies where it was measured (usually by self-report or pill counts) was high, and similar to estimates from the general population. But just over half of the participants initiating ART achieved viral suppression in the four studies which looked at this. This indicates scope for improvements in adherence (and adherence measurement) in these populations. This is possibly due to individual-level and structural-level barriers that sex workers face when receiving HIV treatment and care

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