Articles tagged as "Africa"

Improving access to HIV testing—still the most important step to improve the lives of people living with HIV?

Editor’s notes: The target for HIV testing is very clear and well understood as the first 90 in the UNAIDS treatment targets. However, estimating the proportion of people living with HIV who know their status is not completely straightforward.  UNAIDS uses various data sources and a well described algorithm to make its annual estimates.  For some countries, population based surveys allow a random sample of the population to be interviewed and tested for HIV.  Nonetheless, such surveys only occur periodically and so data may be out of date.  People who were HIV-negative a few years ago may now be HIV positive and people who know that they were tested a few years ago and think that they know their status may in fact have acquired HIV in the meantime.  Staveteig and colleagues have used the most recent demographic and health surveys from 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa to estimate the first 90 and to analyse the demographic characteristics associated with knowing one’s HIV status.  The authors discuss some of the challenges in the assumptions needed for this estimation process.  However, the surveys had excellent participation and a high rate of acceptance of HIV testing, so that out of more than 14 000 people living with HIV across the countries, the authors are able to state that 54% know their status.  The proportion in different countries ranges from 26% in Sierra Leone to 84% in Rwanda.  Their analysis does not present very surprising associations.  We have come to expect that men, young people and those with less than primary education are found to be less likely to know their status.  However, the study provides a direct estimate from survey data and as such helps to triangulate with other estimates from the region.

In general, the West and Central African region lags behind the East and Southern African region when it comes to access to HIV testing, linkage to treatment and viral suppression.  A catch-up plan has been developed and endorsed at high level political meetings in most countries in the region. The study by Inghels and colleagues from Côte d’Ivoire is therefore important.  They demonstrate that among 273 people recently diagnosed with HIV at the blood donors’ centre, almost half could have been diagnosed up to five years earlier if health care staff had followed guidelines to propose testing for indicator clinical conditions such as extreme weight loss, repeated fevers or shingles.  Approximately a quarter of people recently diagnosed with HIV had recognized risk factors for HIV (apart from their clinical presentation), but only approximately one-sixth, a small minority, of people had mentioned it to their heathcare professional.  If we are to catch up and ensure that 90% of people living with HIV have known their status by 2020, we need to maximize efforts to use a full range of differentiated HIV testing approaches.  Health care staff must offer HIV tests routinely to people with clinical indicator conditions. Staff at all levels of the health system must also promote an environment in which people with risk behaviours for HIV infection feel comfortable to be able to raise it and discuss it.

Reaching the 'first 90': gaps in coverage of HIV testing among people living with HIV in 16 African countries.

Staveteig S, Croft TN, Kampa KT, Head SK. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 12;12(10):e0186316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186316. eCollection 2017.

Background: UNAIDS has recently proposed a set of three ambitious targets that, if achieved, are predicted to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The targets, known as 90-90-90, call for 90% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) to know their status, 90% of PLHIV to receive antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of those on antiretroviral therapy to achieve viral suppression by the year 2020. We examine the first of these targets, focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, the region of the world most affected by HIV, to measure the proportion of PLHIV estimated to know their HIV status, and to identify background and behavioral characteristics significantly associated with gaps in ever testing among PLHIV.

Methods and findings: We analyze cross-sectional population-based data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and AIDS Indicator Surveys (AIS) fielded since 2010 in 16 sub-Saharan African countries where voluntary serological testing was recently conducted: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Survey response rates averaged 95.0% (range 89.3-99.5%), while consent to serotesting averaged 94.9% (range 88.7-99.6%). This study, which includes more than 14 000 respondents living with HIV, finds that 69% of PLHIV in the average study country have ever been tested for HIV (range 34-95%). Based on timing of the last test and on ART coverage, we estimate that 54% of PLHIV in the average country are aware of their status (range 26-84%). Adjusted logistic regression finds that men (median adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.38), adults with less than primary education (median AOR = 0.31), and adolescents (median AOR = 0.32) are consistently less likely to have ever been tested for HIV than women, adults with secondary and above education, and adults age 30-39, respectively. In most countries unadjusted logistic regression also finds significant gaps in testing among the poorest groups and those reporting never having had sex.

Conclusion: The fact that an average of 54% of PLHIV in these 16 countries are estimated to know their status reflects encouraging progress. However, not only is this average far short of the 90% target set by UNAIDS for 2020, but it also implies that in the average study country nearly one-half of PLHIV are unable to access lifesaving care and treatment because they are unaware that they are HIV-positive. Several gaps in HIV testing coverage exist, particularly among adolescents, the least educated, and men. While the need to target demographic groups at greatest risk of HIV continues, additional interventions focused on reaching men and on reaching socially vulnerable populations such as adolescents, the poorest, and the least educated are essential.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Missed opportunities for HIV testing among newly diagnosed HIV-infected adults in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

Inghels M, Niangoran S, Minga A, Yoboue JM, Dohoun L, Yao A, Eholié S, Anglaret X, Danel C. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 4;12(10):e0185117. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185117. eCollection 2017

Background: HIV testing is crucial for starting ART earlier in HIV-infected people. We describe Missed Opportunities (MO) for HIV testing among adults newly diagnosed with HIV in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

Methods: Between April 2nd 2013 and April 1st 2014, a cross-sectional study was conducted among all adults newly diagnosed (< 1year) for HIV at the Blood Donors Medical Center of Abidjan with face to face questionnaire. An MO for HIV testing was defined as a medical consultation for a clinical indicator (e.g. symptoms, hospitalization, and pregnancy) or a non-clinical indicator (e.g. high-risk sexual behavior, HIV-infected partner) potentially related to an HIV infection but did not lead to HIV test proposal by a health care professional.

Results: Of the 341 patients who attended the center during this period, 273 (157 women and 116 men) were included in this analysis. 130 (47.6%) reported at least one medical consultation for an indicator relevant for a test proposal between 1 month and five years prior to their diagnosis. Among them, 92 (77.3%) experienced at least one MO for testing. The 273 included patients reported a total of 216 indicators; 146 (67.6%) were reported without test proposal and thus were MO. Hospitalization, extreme loss of weight, chronic or repeat fever and herpes zoster were the indicators with the largest number of MO. While 66 (24.2%) patients experienced non-clinical indicators relevant to risk of HIV infection, only 11 (4.0%) mentioned it to a health professional.

Conclusion: MO for HIV testing are frequent, even in situations for which testing is clearly recommended. Better train healthcare professionals and creating new opportunities of testing inside and, outside of medical settings are crucial to improve HIV control.

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Africa
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Despite better access to HIV treatment we need stronger evidence based guidance on treating people with serious complications of advanced HIV infection

Editor’s notes: The emphasis for scaling up HIV treatment usually focuses on outpatient and primary care clinics with increasing decentralization to the community.  It is therefore sobering to see the results of a randomized trial conducted at a national referral hospital in Zambia.  Andrews and colleagues report on 209 adults admitted to hospital with sepsis and hypotension, a combination referred to as septic shock.  Several important points emerge.  Almost 90% of patients admitted with this serious condition were HIV-positive.  Most had only been diagnosed with HIV infection in the last three months, and approximately half were taking ART.  The median CD4 count was only 70 cells per microlitre. Almost half had a history of having tuberculosis and one quarter were currently on anti-tuberculosis treatment at the time of admission to hospital. Most were also anaemic, with an average haemoglobin of 7.8 g/dl. Mortality from septic shock has been falling in Europe and the United States of America largely due to more intensive management of intravenous fluids and blood pressure.  The focus has been on strict protocols to ensure that all patients get the best treatment. However, there has been debate about the best approach to take when less sophisticated monitoring and supportive technology such as artificial ventilation is not available. In this Zambian tertiary hospital setting, only one patient was able to be managed in the intensive care unit due to resource constraints.  Patients were randomized to receive a protocolized intensive fluid and blood pressure resuscitation or to receive the more standard care with the responsible physicians making the decisions.  The death rate from this severe condition was very high.  85 of the 209 patients randomized died.  However, despite receiving more intravenous fluids, more blood transfusions and more drugs to raise blood pressure, the outcomes were worse in the group treated according to the protocol with 48% mortality compared to 33% in the standard care arm.  As always, the lesson is that many of these deaths could have been avoided if we were able to diagnose, link and treat people living with HIV much earlier in the course of their infection.  However, there is also an important caution that treatments that make good sense and seem the best course of action may in fact make the situation worse, even if the same treatments have been shown in other contexts to be beneficial.  Such information will only come from randomized trials, and the authors should be congratulated for being bold enough to conduct a high-quality study that should make us reflect on our preconceptions about how best to treat seriously ill patients in resource poor settings.

Andrade and colleagues have reviewed the literature in order to determine the best approach to treating critically unwell people living with HIV who are admitted to intensive care units.  They examined whether starting ARVs while the person was already critically ill was associated with better outcomes.  Patients in intensive care may already have many different medicines, as well as altered metabolism.  In addition, ARVs can provoke immune reconstitution inflammatory syndromes that have been shown to make outcomes worse in some serious conditions such as cryptococcal meningitis.  On the other hand, the evidence from patients with tuberculosis is clear – starting ARVs as soon as possible is associated with better outcomes.  In this review and meta-analysis, there was a clear short-term advantage to starting ARVs while the patient was still in intensive care.  The data were not sufficient to tell whether the longer-term outcome as also improved by the earlier start of ART.  One limitation is that all the studies reviewed were observational, and the decision to start ARVs was not randomized, so that it is plausible that clinicians may have started ARVs more willingly in those patients who were most likely to survive.  Nonetheless, in the absence of randomized trials, this study makes a strong case for starting ARVs promptly even in the sickest patients.

Effect of an early resuscitation protocol on in-hospital mortality among adults with sepsis and hypotension: a randomized clinical trial.

Andrews B, Semler MW, Muchemwa L, Kelly P, Lakhi S, Heimburger DC, Mabula C, Bwalya M, Bernard GR. JAMA. 2017 Oct 3;318(13):1233-1240. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.10913.

Importance: The effect of an early resuscitation protocol on sepsis outcomes in developing countries remains unknown.

Objective: To determine whether an early resuscitation protocol with administration of intravenous fluids, vasopressors, and blood transfusion decreases mortality among Zambian adults with sepsis and hypotension compared with usual care.

Design, setting, and participants: Randomized clinical trial of 212 adults with sepsis (suspected infection plus ≥2 systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria) and hypotension (systolic blood pressure ≤90 mm Hg or mean arterial pressure ≤65 mm Hg) presenting to the emergency department at a 1500-bed referral hospital in Zambia between October 22, 2012, and November 11, 2013. Data collection concluded December 9, 2013.

Interventions: Patients were randomized 1:1 to either (1) an early resuscitation protocol for sepsis (n = 107) that included intravenous fluid bolus administration with monitoring of jugular venous pressure, respiratory rate, and arterial oxygen saturation and treatment with vasopressors targeting mean arterial pressure (≥65 mm Hg) and blood transfusion (for patients with a hemoglobin level <7 g/dL) or (2) usual care (n = 105) in which treating clinicians determined hemodynamic management.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was in-hospital mortality and the secondary outcomes included the volume of intravenous fluid received and receipt of vasopressors.

Results: Among 212 patients randomized to receive either the sepsis protocol or usual care, 3 were ineligible and the remaining 209 completed the study and were included in the analysis (mean [SD] age, 36.7 [12.4] years; 117 men [56.0%]; 187 [89.5%] positive for the human immunodeficiency virus). The primary outcome of in-hospital mortality occurred in 51 of 106 patients (48.1%) in the sepsis protocol group compared with 34 of 103 patients (33.0%) in the usual care group (between-group difference, 15.1% [95% CI, 2.0%-28.3%]; relative risk, 1.46 [95% CI, 1.04-2.05]; P = .03). In the 6 hours after presentation to the emergency department, patients in the sepsis protocol group received a median of 3.5 L (interquartile range, 2.7-4.0 L) of intravenous fluid compared with 2.0 L (interquartile range, 1.0-2.5 L) in the usual care group (mean difference, 1.2 L [95% CI, 1.0-1.5 L]; P < .001). Fifteen patients (14.2%) in the sepsis protocol group and 2 patients (1.9%) in the usual care group received vasopressors (between-group difference, 12.3% [95% CI, 5.1%-19.4%]; P < .001).

Conclusions and relevance: Among adults with sepsis and hypotension, most of whom were positive for HIV, in a resource-limited setting, a protocol for early resuscitation with administration of intravenous fluids and vasopressors increased in-hospital mortality compared with usual care. Further studies are needed to understand the effects of administration of intravenous fluid boluses and vasopressors in patients with sepsis across different low- and middle-income clinical settings and patient populations.

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Highly active antiretroviral therapy for critically ill HIV patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Andrade HB, Shinotsuka CR, da Silva IRF, Donini CS, Yeh Li H, de Carvalho FB, Americano do Brasil PEA, Bozza FA, Miguel Japiassu A. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 24;12(10):e0186968. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186968. eCollection 2017

Introduction: It is unclear whether the treatment of an HIV infection with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) affects intensive care unit (ICU) outcomes. In this paper, we report the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis performed to summarize the effects of HAART on the prognosis of critically ill HIV positive patients.

Materials and methods: A bibliographic search was performed in 3 databases (PubMed, Web of Science and Scopus) to identify articles that investigated the use of HAART during ICU admissions for short- and long-term mortality or survival. Eligible articles were selected in a staged process and were independently assessed by two investigators. The methodological quality of the selected articles was evaluated using the Methodological Index for Non-Randomized Studies (MINORS) tool.

Results: Twelve articles met the systematic review inclusion criteria and examined short-term mortality. Six of them also examined long-term mortality (≥90 days) after ICU discharge. The short-term mortality meta-analysis showed a significant beneficial effect of initiating or maintaining HAART during the ICU stay (random effects odds ratio 0.53, p = 0.02). The data analysis of long-term outcomes also suggested a reduced mortality when HAART was used, but the effect of HAART on long-term mortality of HIV positive critically ill patients remains uncertain.

Conclusions: This meta-analysis suggests improved survival rates for HIV positive patients who were treated with HAART during their ICU admission.

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The third 90—ensuring adherence to ART needs approaches tailored to the clinical and social context of individuals

Editor’s notes: The third 90, ensuring that people who are on antiretroviral therapy are supported to adhere well enough to suppress their viral load, is key to preventing drug resistance and to ensuring efficiency of resources as treatment is scaled up to all people living with HIV.  Previous studies have demonstrated how useful SMS reminders can be for many people taking ARV medicines, and this evidence is now incorporated into WHO guidance on ART.  However, a randomized trial by Linnemayr and colleagues among adolescents and young adults in Kampala, Uganda found no benefit after one year of either a weekly reminder or a weekly reminder with the option to respond.  There are no magic bullets to ensure adherence.  SMS reminders may well suit some individuals, whereas others will need different approaches.  The differentiated care approach to ART emphasizes the need to develop the best treatment and support service for each individual, according to their specific social context and clinical situation.

Text messaging for improving antiretroviral therapy adherence: no effects after 1 year in a randomized controlled trial among adolescents and young adults.

Linnemayr S, Huang H, Luoto J, Kambugu A, Thirumurthy H, Haberer JE, Wagner G, Mukasa B. Am J Public Health. 2017 Dec;107(12):1944-1950. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.304089. Epub 2017 Oct 19.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of Short Message Service (SMS) reminder messages on antiretroviral and cotrimoxazole prophylaxis adherence among HIV-positive youths as well as the relative effectiveness of SMS with and without a response option.

Methods: Eligible HIV-positive patients aged 15 to 22 years at 2 HIV clinics in Kampala, Uganda, participated in a year-long parallel individual-randomized controlled trial and were assigned in a 1-to-1-to-1 ratio to a weekly SMS message group, weekly SMS message with response option group, or a usual-care control group.

Results: We enrolled 332 participants. Electronically measured mean adherence was 67% in the control group, 64% in the 1-way SMS group (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.77, 1.14), and 61% in the 2-way SMS group (95% CI = 0.75, 1.12) in an intent-to-treat analysis. Results for secondary outcomes and complete-case analysis were similarly statistically insignificant across groups.

Conclusions: Despite previous evidence that interventions using SMS reminders can promote antiretroviral therapy adherence, this study shows that they are not always effective in achieving behavior change. More research is needed to find out for whom, and under what conditions, they can be beneficial.

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HIV Treatment
Africa
Uganda
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Women at substantial risk of HIV infection can and should take PrEP

Editor’s notes: PrEP is now generally accepted to be one of the major reasons that the number of new infections among gay men and other men who have sex with men is falling in urban centres in Europe and the USA.  The PROUD and Ipergay randomized trials demonstrated efficacy of over 85%.  This proved conclusively that among men who were motivated to take tablets either every day or around the time of sex, PrEP could be highly effective.  The data for vaginal rather than anal sex is less straightforward.  The Partners PrEP trial and Demonstration project also showed high efficacy among both men and women in serodiscordant couples.  However, several studies among women at high risk of acquiring HIV showed no effect overall, because women were not taking the tablets for a variety of reasons.  Pharmacokinetic studies show that tenofovir-emtricitabine (the most widely used and recommended medicines for PrEP) reaches considerably higher levels in the rectal tissues than in the vagina.  As a result, we know that PrEP adherence is vital to achieve protective levels for vaginal sex, and daily dosage rather than an ‘on demand’ regimen is still recommended.  The ADAPT trial in Cape Town has now published its final results.  In this trial, young South African women were given daily PrEP in a controlled setting for four weeks before being randomized to three different regimens.  One group took PrEP every day, one group took PrEP before and after sex and the third group took two tablets each week with an additional dose after sex.  Adherence was measured using an electronic device that recorded when the pills were accessed, as well as self-report.  Drug levels were also measured.  Although this is a somewhat artificial situation involving only 59 or 60 women in each group, the results are important and confirm that for women, only daily PrEP should be recommended.  The trial also shows that women were able to adhere well, with 75% adherence and 75% of sex acts covered by PrEP among women taking the medicines every day during the follow-up period.  Neither of the other two regimens provided adequate coverage and all four incident infections occurred in these two groups (although the numbers are too small to draw reliable conclusions about the efficacy).

Daily and non-daily pre-exposure prophylaxis in African women (HPTN 067/ADAPT Cape Town Trial): a randomised, open-label, phase 2 trial.

Bekker LG, Roux S, Sebastien E, Yola N, Amico KR, Hughes JP, Marzinke MA, Hendrix CW, Anderson PL, Elharrar V, Stirratt M, Rooney JF, Piwowar-Manning E, Eshleman SH, McKinstry L, Li M, Dye BJ, Grant RM; HPTN 067 (ADAPT) study team. Lancet HIV. 2017 Oct 3. pii: S2352-3018(17)30156-X. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(17)30156-X.

Background: The relative feasibility and acceptability of daily versus non-daily dosing of oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among women are unknown. We aimed to investigate the feasibility of non-daily PrEP regimens in adult women.

Methods: We did a randomised, open-label, phase 2 clinical trial (HPTN 067/ADAPT) of oral PrEP with emtricitabine plus tenofovir disoproxil fumarate at a research centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Participants were adult women (age ≥18 years) who received directly observed dosing once a week for 5 weeks followed by random assignment (1:1:1) at week 6 to one of three unblinded PrEP regimens for self-administered dosing over 24 weeks: daily; time-driven (twice a week plus a post-sex dose); or event-driven (one tablet both before and after sex). Primary outcomes were PrEP coverage (at least one dose within the 4 days before sex and one dose within 24 h after sex), pills needed or used to achieve regimen-specific adherence and coverage, and symptoms and side-effects. All analyses were by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01327651; the trial is completed, and this report presents the final analysis.

Findings: Between Sept 12, 2011, and Oct 3, 2012, 191 women were enrolled to the trial. 178 (93%) completed directly observed dosing and were randomly assigned one of the three PrEP regimens for the self-administered phase: 59 were allocated the daily regimen, 59 the time-driven regimen, and 60 the event-driven regimen. Median age of women was 26 years (IQR 21-37; range 18-52). In women allocated the daily regimen, 1459 (75%) of 1952 sex events were covered by PrEP, compared with 599 (56%) of 1074 sex events among those assigned the time-driven regimen (odds ratio [OR] 2·35, 95% CI 1·43-3·83; p=0·0007) and 798 (52%) of 1542 sex events among those allotted the event-driven regimen (2·76, 1·68-4·53; p<0·0001). Fewer pills were needed for complete adherence in women allocated non-daily regimens (vs daily regimen, relative mean 2·53 [95% CI 2·39-2·69] for the time-driven regimen and 4·16 [3·59-4·82] for the event-driven regimen; p<0·0001). Side-effects were uncommon. Eight HIV seroconversions occurred overall, with four documented during the self-administered phase (two with the time-driven regimen and two with the event-driven regimen). Adherence to the assigned regimen was 75% (7283 of 9652 doses taken) for women allocated the daily regimen compared with 65% for those assigned the time-driven regimen (2367 of 3616 doses taken; p=0·0028) and 53% for those allotted the event-driven regimen (1161 of 2203 doses taken; p<0·0001). When sex was reported in the previous week, PrEP drugs were detected (above the lower limits of quantification) more frequently in women assigned the daily regimen (73 [68%] of 107 samples) than in those allocated the time-driven regimen (42 [58%] of 72 samples) and the event-driven regimen (41 [41%] of 99 samples).

Interpretation: Daily PrEP dosing resulted in higher coverage of sex events, increased adherence to the regimen, and augmented drug concentrations than did either time-driven or event-driven dosing. These findings support recommendations for daily use of PrEP with oral emtricitabine plus tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in women.

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Africa
South Africa
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Most HIV transmission occurs within households or within communities, even among highly mobile fishing communities around Lake Victoria

Editor’s notes: It is well recognized that the fishing communities around Lake Victoria have high HIV prevalence.  Fishermen move around to find the best yield and women who buy and sell fish often meet the boats at different fishing villages and may also trade sex for the best fish to maximize their business. It is therefore, perhaps, surprising that Kiwuwa-Muyingo and colleagues’ study of the phylogenetics of HIV in five distinct fishing communities in Uganda shows that 83% of the transmission events occur in the context of either household or the local community.  Transmission between the communities was less common than expected.  On the other hand, many isolates of HIV could not be linked to another isolate in the study, suggesting that they had been imported into the region, or that their transmission cluster had not been sampled.  A major challenge for molecular epidemiology studies is that limited coverage of the sampling means that unique isolates might have become linked isolates if the sampling had included more of the population.  The authors of this study estimate that they included approximately 44% of all HIV positive individuals in this study cohort, which is similar or better than many phylogenetic studies, but still leaves a lot of room for misclassification biases. A strength of the study was that the authors also included HIV isolates from individuals who had been HIV-negative and followed up over an 18-month period.  Among the 34 transmission clusters, 11 included at least one incident case.  Although the numbers become too small to be confident, they found that in 36% (4) of these 11 clusters, transmission was likely from one incident case to another incident case.  This is an important observation as it highlights the ongoing spread of HIV from recent infection. Transmission of this sort is harder to prevent through the scale up of treatment as it would require people to be tested very regularly, to start treatment before their partner was infected too.  Another interesting observation, again based on limited numbers, is that HIV subtype C was more likely to be involved in transmission clusters than subtype A, which in turn was more commonly in clusters than subtype D.  Subtype C is not so common and presumably imported into these communities, whereas subtypes A and D are the most common subtypes.  We are still in the early days of phylogenetics among African isolates of HIV and many studies have significant limitations, so interpretation needs to be cautious.  Nonetheless, these techniques will increasingly shed light on the complex and sometimes unexpected interactions between individuals, communities, occupations, migration and HIV subtypes.  These insights should help us to focus our HIV prevention and treatment efforts to maximize their impact in the future. 

HIV-1 transmission networks in high risk fishing communities on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda: A phylogenetic and epidemiological approach.

Kiwuwa-Muyingo S, Nazziwa J, Ssemwanga D, Ilmonen P, Njai H, Ndembi N, Parry C, Kitandwe PK, Gershim A, Mpendo J, Neilsen L, Seeley J, Seppälä H, Lyagoba F, Kamali A, Kaleebu P. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 12;12(10):e0185818. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0185818. eCollection 2017.

Background: Fishing communities around Lake Victoria in sub-Saharan Africa have been characterised as a population at high risk of HIV-infection.

Methods: Using data from a cohort of HIV-positive individuals aged 13-49 years, enrolled from 5 fishing communities on Lake Victoria between 2009-2011, we sought to identify factors contributing to the epidemic and to understand the underlying structure of HIV transmission networks. Clinical and socio-demographic data were combined with HIV-1 phylogenetic analyses. HIV-1 gag-p24 and env-gp-41 sub-genomic fragments were amplified and sequenced from 283 HIV-1-infected participants. Phylogenetic clusters with ≥2 highly related sequences were defined as transmission clusters. Logistic regression models were used to determine factors associated with clustering.

Results: Altogether, 24% (n = 67/283) of HIV positive individuals with sequences fell within 34 phylogenetically distinct clusters in at least one gene region (either gag or env). Of these, 83% occurred either within households or within community; 8/34 (24%) occurred within household partnerships, and 20/34 (59%) within community. 7/12 couples (58%) within households clustered together. Individuals in clusters with potential recent transmission (11/34) were more likely to be younger 71% (15/21) versus 46% (21/46) in un-clustered individuals and had recently become resident in the community 67% (14/21) vs 48% (22/46). Four of 11 (36%) potential transmission clusters included incident-incident transmissions. Independently, clustering was less likely in HIV subtype D (adjusted Odds Ratio, aOR = 0.51 [95% CI 0.26-1.00]) than A and more likely in those living with an HIV-infected individual in the household (aOR = 6.30 [95% CI 3.40-11.68]).

Conclusions: A large proportion of HIV sexual transmissions occur within house-holds and within communities even in this key mobile population. The findings suggest localized HIV transmissions and hence a potential benefit for the test and treat approach even at a community level, coupled with intensified HIV counselling to identify early infections.

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Africa
Uganda
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Health economics of HIV in South Africa

Editor’s notes: There is enormous financial pressure on the HIV response. Advances in science had demonstrated the importance of offering treatment to all people living with HIV with ARV medicines and starting treatment as early as possible.  In addition to stronger condom programming, biomedical prevention tools, such as medical male circumcision, PrEP have also been shown to be highly efficacious for HIV prevention.  Yet international donor support for HIV is no longer increasing and national governments are increasingly having to find budgets with a tight fiscal envelope. It is clear that we need innovation, efficiency and strong advocacy for continuing investment to take us to the end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. Health economists often use a threshold related to the GDP of a country in order to determine whether investments are cost-effective or not.  However, as Meyer-Rath and colleagues point out, this threshold can seem arbitrary and unlinked from the actual budget available to the HIV programme.  The authors use their model of the costs and impact of a range of interventions in the South African national programme.  They explore both the most cost-effective sequence of interventions, and the cost-effectiveness thresholds that these imply, within the overall budget envelope that has been committed to the HIV response by the government.  They propose that within the existing budget of around US$1.6 billion per year, maximizing scale-up of the most cost-effective interventions would use the entire budget before some of the more expensive options (such as PrEP) were introduced.  The authors find that the cost-effectiveness threshold at which the budget is exhausted is between US$ 547 and US$ 872 per life-year saved.  This compares poorly with the GDP of South Africa of around US$ 6000 which is often used as a benchmark for cost-effectiveness.  This paper confronts us with hard conclusions from a South African perspective.  It emphasizes the need to find ways to reduce costs and to maximize funding for HIV.  If we do not manage to reduce the epidemic now, the costs in the future will be even higher.

Revealed willingness-to-pay versus standard cost-effectiveness thresholds: evidence from the South African HIV investment case.

Meyer-Rath G, van Rensburg C, Larson B, Jamieson L, Rosen S. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 26;12(10):e0186496. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186496. eCollection 2017.

Background: The use of cost-effectiveness thresholds based on a country's income per capita has been criticized for not being relevant to decision making, in particular in middle-income countries such as South Africa. The recent South African HIV Investment Case produced an alternative cost-effectiveness threshold for HIV prevention and treatment interventions based on estimates of life years saved and the country's committed HIV budget.

Methods: We analysed the optimal mix of HIV interventions over a baseline of the current HIV programme under the committed HIV budget for 2016-2018. We calculated the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) as cost per life-year saved (LYS) of 16 HIV prevention and treatment interventions over 20 years (2016-2035). We iteratively evaluated the most cost effective option (defined by an intervention and its coverage) over a rolling baseline to which the more cost effective options had already been added, thereby allowing for diminishing marginal returns to interventions. We constrained the list of interventions to those whose combined cost was affordable under the current HIV budget. Costs are presented from the government perspective, unadjusted for inflation and undiscounted, in 2016 USD.

Results: The current HIV budget of about US$1.6 billion per year was sufficient to pay for the expansion of condom availability, medical male circumcision, universal treatment, and infant testing at 6 weeks to maximum coverage levels, while also implementing a social and behavior change mass media campaign with a message geared at increasing testing uptake and reducing the number of sexual partners. The combined ICER of this package of services was US$547/ LYS. The ICER of the next intervention that was above the affordability threshold was US$872/LYS.

Conclusions: The results of the South African HIV Investment Case point to an HIV cost-effectiveness threshold based on affordability under the current budget of US$547-872 per life year saved, a small fraction of the country's GDP per capita of about US$6000.

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HIV
Africa
South Africa
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Although people living with HIV should have near normal life expectancy, far too many still die prematurely

Editor’s notes: The scale up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the most important development in the past decade of the HIV response.  Not only do antiretroviral medicines prevent death and prevent the immune destruction that HIV causes, but they also prevent transmission to sexual partners.  Nonetheless, the challenges of reaching everyone living with HIV are enormous and Young and colleagues’ study from the city of Nairobi highlights that we still have some distance to go.  The authors estimated that 74% of adults living with HIV were receiving ART and among women, the figure was even higher and was estimated to have reached more than the UNAIDs target of 81%.  The authors collected data from the two largest mortuaries in Nairobi, where most deaths that occur in the city are registered.  With approximately 80% of all deaths in the city being registered, the authors believe that their study is reasonably representative of the adult population of the city. They found that among 807 people who died in Nairobi during the recruitment period, HIV was greatly over-represented.  They calculated that around 16% of adult deaths in the city were attributable to HIV, and that, when adjusted for age and sex, death rates among people living with HIV were more than four times higher than the rate among HIV-negative people.  The authors point out that these proportions and rates are much lower than they were at the peak of the epidemic, but they do show that in Nairobi we still have some distance to go to ensure that people living with HIV have the same life expectancy as those who are HIV-negative.

 

HIV-associated mortality in the era of antiretroviral therapy scale-up – Nairobi, Kenya, 2015

Young PW, Kim AA, Wamicwe J, Nyagah L, Kiama C, Stover J, Oduor J, Rogena EA, Walong E, Zielinski-Gutierrez E, Imbwaga A, Sirengo M, Kellogg TA, De Cock KM. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 2;12(8):e0181837. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181837. eCollection 2017.

Background: Declines in HIV prevalence and increases in antiretroviral treatment coverage have been documented in Kenya, but population-level mortality associated with HIV has not been directly measured. In urban areas where a majority of deaths pass through mortuaries, mortuary-based studies have the potential to contribute to our understanding of excess mortality among HIV-infected persons. We used results from a cross-sectional mortuary-based HIV surveillance study to estimate the association between HIV and mortality for Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.

Methods and Findings: HIV seropositivity in cadavers measured at the two largest mortuaries in Nairobi was used to estimate HIV prevalence in adult deaths. Model-based estimates of the HIV-infected and uninfected population for Nairobi were used to calculate a standardized mortality ratio and population-attributable fraction for mortality among the infected versus uninfected population. Monte Carlo simulation was used to assess sensitivity to epidemiological assumptions. When standardized to the age and sex distribution of expected deaths, the estimated HIV positivity among adult deaths aged 15 years and above in Nairobi was 20.9% (95% CI 17.7-24.6%). The standardized mortality ratio of deaths among HIV-infected versus uninfected adults was 4.35 (95% CI 3.67-5.15), while the risk difference was 0.016 (95% CI 0.013-0.019). The HIV population attributable mortality fraction was 0.161 (95% CI 0.131-0.190). Sensitivity analyses demonstrated robustness of results.

Conclusions: Although 73.6% of adult PLHIV receive antiretrovirals in Nairobi, their risk of death is four-fold greater than in the uninfected, while 16.1% of all adult deaths in the city can be attributed to HIV infection. In order to further reduce HIV-associated mortality, high-burden countries may need to reach very high levels of diagnosis, treatment coverage, retention in care, and viral suppression.

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Africa
Kenya
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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.

Abstract access

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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HIV incidence – labour intensive to measure but key to inform effective HIV prevention programmes

Editor’s notes: It is increasingly clear that in order to control the HIV epidemic, we need to invest not only in the scale up of treatment but also in effective and evidence based prevention programming.  UNAIDS has set ambitious targets to reduce the number of new HIV infections to 500 000 by the end of 2020. A major, ongoing, challenge is that we must use mathematical models to estimate the number of new infections.  We do not have enough data on the actual number of new infections and the characteristics of the people newly infected.  So the household surveys conducted in Rwanda by Nsanzimana and colleagues are an important study.  The authors conducted two nationally representative surveys in 2013 and 2014, and were able to repeat HIV tests in 12 593 people out of 13 728 whose initial test had been negative.  They found 35 people who had seroconverted, which reminds us how large this sort of study needs to be in a setting where HIV prevalence is around 3%.  The incidence rate of 0.27 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 0.18 – 0.35), is higher than the authors had anticipated from previous modelled estimates.  Part of the reason for this was that they found several villages and households with multiple seroconversions, which suggests multiple outbreaks.  This heterogeneity in the pattern of new HIV infections could have important implications for prevention activities and approaches, as well as for methodologies used in designing surveys.  In Rwanda, the risks of HIV infection were higher among older adults (aged 36-45 years) compared to the younger participants (aged 16-25 years); higher in the West of the country and higher in urban areas.  However, the small number of seroconversion events means that the confidence intervals for these comparisons are wide, particularly given the observed heterogeneity between villages in the sample.

 

Household survey of HIV incidence in Rwanda: a national observational cohort study

Nsanzimana S, Remera E, Kanters S, Mulindabigwi A, Suthar AB, Uwizihiwe JP, Mwumvaneza M, Mills EJ, Bucher HC. Lancet HIV. 2017 Oct;4(10):e457-e464. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(17)30124-8. Epub 2017 Aug 8.

Background: In Rwanda, HIV prevalence among adults aged 15-49 years has been stable at 3% since 2005. The aim of this study was to characterise HIV incidence across Rwanda.

Methods: We did a nationally representative, prospective HIV incidence survey for the period of 2013-14, which used two-stage sampling. We randomly selected 492 villages in the first sampling stage and 14 households per village in the second stage. Participants completed a questionnaire and 14 140 people were tested for HIV. 13 728 participants were HIV negative, and were enrolled in the incidence cohort. Participants were retested and surveyed again after 12 months. Weights were calculated as the inverse of the probability to select the villages and the households.

Findings: The study period was from Nov 5, 2013, to Nov 15, 2014. Among 14 222 respondents from 6792 households, 14 140 were tested for HIV and 13 728 were HIV negative. Of 12 593 people who participated in the endpoint data collection activities, 5965 (47·4%) were men and the mean age was 30 years (SD 10·8). 11 237 (89·2%) participants lived in rural areas, 4826 (38·3%) were single, and 7140 (56·7%) were married or cohabitating. During the year, 35 participants had seroconversion, including 13 men and 22 women, resulting in an overall incidence of 0·27 per 100 person-years (95% CI 0·18-0·35). Incidence was 0·21 per 100 person-years (0·10-0·32) in men and 0·32 per 100 person-years (0·19-0·45) in women. Our findings suggested multiple breakouts, with multiple seroconversions occurring in three villages and two households. Incidence was higher in adults aged 36-45 years (0·37 per 100 person-years, 0·12-0·62; adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 4·49, 95% CI 1·30-14·70) relative to those aged 16-25, higher in western province (0·57 per 100 person-years, 0·31-0·87; aHR 5·90, 1·33-25·28) relative to the northern province, and higher in urban areas (0·65 per 100 person-years, 0·23-1·07; aHR 3·10, 1·28-6·99) than in rural areas.

Interpretation: The incidence of HIV in Rwanda was higher than that previously estimated from models, with outbreaks seeming to contribute to the ongoing epidemic. Characterisation of incident infections can help the national HIV programmes to plan for preventive interventions tailored to the most at-risk populations.

Abstract access

Epidemiology, HIV
Africa
Rwanda
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Efforts to understand commercial and transactional sex – involve the community and use both quantitative and qualitative methods

Editor’s notes: As the overall number of new HIV infections falls, it is likely that an increasingly large proportion of infections will occur in key populations and among those left behind by HIV services.  In order to plan, deliver, monitor and evaluate services for specific populations, we need to develop the best estimates possible of the number of people in each population.  Sharifi and colleagues provide an excellent introduction to some of the methods that have been tried to estimate population size of key populations.  Each of the three methods that the authors used to estimate the number of female sex-workers living in urban areas of Iran has strengths and weaknesses.  Used together the methods may allow some triangulation of estimates.  The authors found that the ‘wisdom of the crowds’, in which sex-workers are asked to provide their own best estimates tended to give the highest figures.  The possibility is that where sex work is highly stigmatized and criminalized (as it is in Iran) women may tend to subconsciously exaggerate the numbers in order to normalize their position in society.  Multiplier methods which use “capture-recapture” approaches gave the lowest estimates, which may be due to the same sample of women being seen in both the two approaches used to estimate numbers.  For instance, if some women are more reluctant to be identified, they may be missed both in the distribution of “tags” or gifts and then again in the “re-capture” survey.  The total estimate is then calculated by multiplying the inverse of the proportion of how many women in the survey had received the “tags”.  So, this may produce an underestimate if the same women are missed in both rounds of the research.  Finally, the network methods are used during national surveys and ask respondents to identify how many of their network are sex workers.  Supposedly this avoids the stigma of identifying oneself as a sex worker to the interviewer.  The authors best estimate is that there are more than 200 000 female sex workers in urban settings in Iran, which is considerably higher than the previous estimates.  However, the paper’s key strength is the discussion of the different approaches and how we can improve our understanding of this valuable metric.

The Iranian researchers used a standard definition of sex work, based on having exchanged sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) for money, goods, or favours with at least one male partner in the past 12 months.  However, it is clear that this definition overlaps with many sexual relationships that neither partner would classify as sex work.  Raganathan and colleagues present a fascinating qualitative study of transactional sex and sexual agency among young women in rural South Africa.  Of course, it is not surprising that sex is embedded within a complex framework of romantic relationships that are modified by the degree to which young women values herself and her own agency.  Financial independence is a key to safer relationships, but gifts and money also enhance the status of young women and indicate commitment from their male partner.  It is one thing to count and label sexual transactions, but it is another to understand them and work with young people to enhance their ability to avoid HIV infection.

 

Population size estimation of female sex workers in Iran: synthesis of methods and results

Sharifi H, Karamouzian M, Baneshi MR, Shokoohi M, Haghdoost A, McFarland W, Mirzazadeh A. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 10;12(8):e0182755. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182755. eCollection 2017.

Introduction: Estimating the number of key populations at risk of HIV is essential for planning, monitoring, and evaluating prevention, care, and treatment programmes. We conducted this study to estimate the number of female sex workers (FSW) in major cities of Iran.

Methods: We used three population size estimation methods (i.e., wisdom of the crowds, multiplier method, and network scale-up) to calculate the number of FSW in 13 cities in Iran. The wisdom of the crowds and multiplier methods were integrated into a nationwide bio-behavioural surveillance survey in 2015, and the network scale-up method was included in a national survey of the general population in 2014. The median of the three methods was used to calculate the proportion of the adult female population who practice sex work in the 13 cities. These figures were then extrapolated to provide a national population size estimation of FSW across urban areas.

Results: The population size of FSW was 91 500 (95% Uncertainty Intervals [UIs] 61 400-117 700), corresponding to 1.43% (95% UIs 0.96-1.84) of the adult (i.e., 15-49 years-old) female population living in these 13 cities. The projected numbers of FSW for all 31 provincial capital cities were 130 800 (95% UIs 87 800-168 200) and 228 700 (95% UIs 153 500-294 300) for all urban settings in Iran.

Conclusions: Using methods of comparable rigor, our study provided a data-driven national estimate of the population size of FSW in urban areas of Iran. Our findings provide vital information for enhancing HIV programme planning and lay a foundation for assessing the impact of harm reduction efforts within this marginalized population.

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Young women's perceptions of transactional sex and sexual agency: a qualitative study in the context of rural South Africa

Ranganathan M, MacPhail C, Pettifor A, Kahn K, Khoza N, Twine R, Watts C, Heise L.BMC Public Health. 2017 Aug 22;17(1):666. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4636-6

Background: Evidence shows that HIV prevalence among young women in sub-Saharan Africa increases almost five-fold between ages 15 and 24, with almost a quarter of young women infected by their early-to mid-20s. Transactional sex or material exchange for sex is a relationship dynamic that has been shown to have an association with HIV infection.

Methods: Using five focus group discussions and 19 in-depth interviews with young women enrolled in the HPTN 068 conditional cash transfer trial (2011-2015), this qualitative study explores young women's perceptions of transactional sex within the structural and cultural context of rural South Africa. The analysis also considers the degree to which young women perceive themselves as active agents in such relationships and whether they recognise a link between transactional sex and HIV risk.

Results: Young women believe that securing their own financial resources will ultimately improve their bargaining position in their sexual relationships, and open doors to a more financially independent future. Findings suggest there is a nuanced relationship between sex, love and gifts: money has symbolic meaning, and money transfers, when framed as gifts, indicates a young woman's value and commitment from the man. This illustrates the complexity of transactional sex; the way it is positioned in the HIV literature ignores that "exchanges" serve as fulcrums around which romantic relationships are organised. Finally, young women express agency in their choice of partner, but their agency weakens once they are in a relationship characterised by exchange, which may undermine their ability to translate perceived agency into STI and HIV risk reduction efforts.

Conclusions: This research underscores the need to recognise that transactional sex is embedded in adolescent romantic relationships, but that certain aspects make young women particularly vulnerable to HIV. This is especially true in situations of restricted choice and circumscribed employment opportunities. HIV prevention educational programmes could be coupled with income generation trainings, in order to leverage youth resilience and protective skills within the confines of difficult economic and social circumstances. This would provide young women with the knowledge and means to more successfully navigate safer sexual relationships.

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Africa, Asia
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