Articles tagged as "Europe"

What works to link people living with HIV to care - a review

Facilitators and barriers in HIV linkage to care interventions: a qualitative evidence review.

Tso LS, Best J, Beanland R, Doherty M, Lackey M, Ma Q, Hall BJ, Yang B, Tucker JD. AIDS. 2016 Apr 6. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: To synthesize qualitative evidence on linkage to care interventions for people living with HIV.

Design: Systematic literature review.

Methods: We searched nineteen databases for studies reporting qualitative evidence on linkage interventions. Data extraction and thematic analysis were used to synthesize findings. Quality was assessed using the CASP tool and certainty of evidence was evaluated using the CERQual approach.

Results: Twenty-five studies from eleven countries focused on adults (24 studies), adolescents (8 studies), and pregnant women (4 Facilitators included community-level factors (i.e. task-shifting, mobile outreach, integrated HIV and primary services, supportive cessation programs for substance users, active referrals, and dedicated case management teams) and individual-level factors (encouragement of peers/family and positive interactions with healthcare providers in transitioning into care). One key barrier for people living with HIV was perceived inability of providers to ensure confidentiality as part of linkage to care interventions. Providers reported difficulties navigating procedures across disparate facilities and having limited resources for linkage to care interventions.

Conclusions: Our findings extend the literature by highlighting the importance of task-shifting, mobile outreach, and integrated HIV and primary services. Both community and individual level factors may increase the feasibility and acceptability of HIV linkage to care interventions. These findings may inform policies to increase the reach of HIV services available in communities.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: As the authors of this paper observe, most evaluations of linkage to care programmes have focused on quantitative assessment. This useful paper provides a thorough overview of the findings from 25 studies which used qualitative methods for assessment. Linkage-to- care programmes feasible in different country settings were identified in this review.  The authors also highlight gaps, most notably a lack of information on linkage-to-care programmes for men. They also note the need for longitudinal assessments that look at changes over time.

This paper is a useful synthesis of findings. But it is also an excellent example of how to carry out a systematic review of qualitative research. The description of the qualitative meta-synthesis the authors performed adds additional value to this paper. 

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What works to link people living with HIV to care - a review

Facilitators and barriers in HIV linkage to care interventions: a qualitative evidence review.

Tso LS, Best J, Beanland R, Doherty M, Lackey M, Ma Q, Hall BJ, Yang B, Tucker JD. AIDS. 2016 Apr 6. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: To synthesize qualitative evidence on linkage to care interventions for people living with HIV.

Design: Systematic literature review.

Methods: We searched nineteen databases for studies reporting qualitative evidence on linkage interventions. Data extraction and thematic analysis were used to synthesize findings. Quality was assessed using the CASP tool and certainty of evidence was evaluated using the CERQual approach.

Results: Twenty-five studies from eleven countries focused on adults (24 studies), adolescents (8 studies), and pregnant women (4 Facilitators included community-level factors (i.e. task-shifting, mobile outreach, integrated HIV and primary services, supportive cessation programs for substance users, active referrals, and dedicated case management teams) and individual-level factors (encouragement of peers/family and positive interactions with healthcare providers in transitioning into care). One key barrier for people living with HIV was perceived inability of providers to ensure confidentiality as part of linkage to care interventions. Providers reported difficulties navigating procedures across disparate facilities and having limited resources for linkage to care interventions.

Conclusions: Our findings extend the literature by highlighting the importance of task-shifting, mobile outreach, and integrated HIV and primary services. Both community and individual level factors may increase the feasibility and acceptability of HIV linkage to care interventions. These findings may inform policies to increase the reach of HIV services available in communities.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: As the authors of this paper observe, most evaluations of linkage to care programmes have focused on quantitative assessment. This useful paper provides a thorough overview of the findings from 25 studies which used qualitative methods for assessment. Linkage-to- care programmes feasible in different country settings were identified in this review.  The authors also highlight gaps, most notably a lack of information on linkage-to-care programmes for men. They also note the need for longitudinal assessments that look at changes over time.

This paper is a useful synthesis of findings. But it is also an excellent example of how to carry out a systematic review of qualitative research. The description of the qualitative meta-synthesis the authors performed adds additional value to this paper. 

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High TB mortality among people living with HIV in eastern Europe: a growing concern

Tuberculosis-related mortality in people living with HIV in Europe and Latin America: an international cohort study. 

Podlekareva DN, Efsen AM, Schultze A, Post FA, Skrahina AM, Panteleev A, Furrer H, Miller RF, Losso MH, Toibaro J, Miro JM, Vassilenko A, Girardi E, Bruyand M, Obel N, Lundgren JD, Mocroft A, Kirk O, TB:HIV study group in EuroCoord. Lancet HIV. 2016 Mar;3(3):e120-31. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(15)00252-0. Epub 2016 Feb 2.

Background: Management of tuberculosis in patients with HIV in eastern Europe is complicated by the high prevalence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, low rates of drug susceptibility testing, and poor access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). We report 1 year mortality estimates from a multiregional (eastern Europe, western Europe, and Latin America) prospective cohort study: the TB:HIV study.

Methods: Consecutive HIV-positive patients aged 16 years or older with a diagnosis of tuberculosis between Jan 1, 2011, and Dec 31, 2013, were enrolled from 62 HIV and tuberculosis clinics in 19 countries in eastern Europe, western Europe, and Latin America. The primary endpoint was death within 12 months after starting tuberculosis treatment; all deaths were classified according to whether or not they were tuberculosis related. Follow-up was either until death, the final visit, or 12 months after baseline, whichever occurred first. Risk factors for all-cause and tuberculosis-related deaths were assessed using Kaplan-Meier estimates and Cox models.

Findings: Of 1406 patients (834 in eastern Europe, 317 in western Europe, and 255 in Latin America), 264 (19%) died within 12 months. 188 (71%) of these deaths were tuberculosis related. The probability of all-cause death was 29% (95% CI 26-32) in eastern Europe, 4% (3-7) in western Europe, and 11% (8-16) in Latin America (p<0.0001) and the corresponding probabilities of tuberculosis-related death were 23% (20-26), 1% (0-3), and 4% (2-8), respectively (p<0.0001). Patients receiving care outside eastern Europe had a 77% decreased risk of death: adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 0.23 (95% CI 0.16-0.31). In eastern Europe, compared with patients who started a regimen with at least three active antituberculosis drugs, those who started fewer than three active antituberculosis drugs were at a higher risk of tuberculosis-related death (aHR 3.17; 95% CI 1.83-5.49) as were those who did not have baseline drug-susceptibility tests (2.24; 1.31-3.83). Other prognostic factors for increased tuberculosis-related mortality were disseminated tuberculosis and a low CD4 cell count. 18% of patients were receiving ART at tuberculosis diagnosis in eastern Europe compared with 44% in western Europe and 39% in Latin America (p<0.0001); 12 months later the proportions were 67% in eastern Europe, 92% in western Europe, and 85% in Latin America (p<0.0001).

Interpretation: Patients with HIV and tuberculosis in eastern Europe have a risk of death nearly four-times higher than that in patients from western Europe and Latin America. This increased mortality rate is associated with modifiable risk factors such as lack of drug susceptibility testing and suboptimal initial antituberculosis treatment in settings with a high prevalence of drug resistance. Urgent action is needed to improve tuberculosis care for patients living with HIV in eastern Europe.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Eastern Europe is experiencing one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics globally. Within this, the number of HIV-positive people with tuberculosis (TB) is also rising rapidly, posing a significant public health challenge. The authors have previously reported retrospective data illustrating 30% mortality at one year among HIV-positive people with TB in eastern Europe. This was noted to be at least three times higher than mortality among people from western Europe and Argentina. Within this study they go further to provide prospective data with comparison across multiple regions. They also highlight prognostic markers associated with death.

The study spans across eastern Europe, western Europe and Latin America with a cohort of 1406 people. It robustly demonstrates a significant excess of TB-associated mortality in HIV-positive people with TB receiving care in eastern Europe. The cumulative probability of TB-associated death at 12 months in eastern Europe was 23% (95% confidence interval [CI] 20 – 26), versus 1% (95% CI 0 - 3) in western Europe and 4% (95% CI 2-8) in Latin America. Prognostic markers associated with an increased risk of death included multidrug-resistant TB, disseminated TB and modifiable factors such as choice of initial anti-TB regimen and a lack of baseline drug susceptibility tests.

These findings highlight the hugely detrimental impact of the fragmented system of HIV and TB services within eastern Europe. Such inequality in outcomes emphasises the need for urgent strategic change. Co-ordinated care across HIV and TB services, alongside timely and appropriate diagnostics and treatment, is of paramount importance.

Europe, Latin America
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Shorter treatment for latent TB infection?

Three months of weekly rifapentine plus isoniazid for treatment of M. tuberculosis infection in HIV co-infected persons. 

Sterling TR, Scott NA, Miro JM, Calvet G, La Rosa A, Infante R, Chen MP, Benator DA, Gordin F, Benson CA, Chaisson RE, Villarino ME, Tuberculosis Trials Consortium, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group for the PREVENT TB Trial (TBTC Study 26 ACTG 5259). AIDS. 2016 Mar 17. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective: Compare the effectiveness, tolerability, and safety of three months of weekly rifapentine plus isoniazid under direct observation (3HP) vs. 9 months of daily isoniazid (9H) in HIV-infected persons.

Design: prospective, randomized, open-label non-inferiority trial.

Setting: U.S., Brazil, Spain, Peru, Canada, and Hong Kong.

Participants: HIV-infected persons who were tuberculin skin test positive or close contacts of tuberculosis cases.

Intervention: 3HP vs. 9H.

Main outcome measures: The effectiveness endpoint was tuberculosis; the non-inferiority margin was 0.75%. The tolerability endpoint was treatment completion; the safety endpoint was drug discontinuation due to adverse drug reaction.

Results: Median baseline CD4+ counts were 495 (IQR: 389-675) and 538 (IQR: 418-729) cells/mm3 in the 3HP and 9H arms, respectively (P = 0.09). In the modified intention to treat analysis, there were two tuberculosis cases among 206 persons (517 person-years (p-y) of follow-up) in the 3HP arm (0.39 per 100 p-y) and six tuberculosis cases among 193 persons (481 p-y of follow-up) in the 9H arm (1.25 per 100 p-y). Cumulative tuberculosis rates were 1.01% vs. 3.50% in the 3HP and 9H arms, respectively (rate difference: -2.49%; upper bound of the 95% confidence interval (CI) of the difference: 0.60%). Treatment completion was higher with 3HP (89%) than 9H (64%) (P < 0.001), and drug discontinuation due to an adverse drug reaction was similar (3% vs. 4%; P = 0.79) in 3HP and 9H, respectively.

Conclusions: Among HIV-infected persons with median CD4+ count of approximately 500 cells/mm3, 3HP was as effective and safe for treatment of latent M. tuberculosis infection as 9H, and better tolerated.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: People with HIV are at higher risk of reactivation of latent tuberculosis (TB). The standard treatment for latent TB, with six to nine months of daily isoniazid, is effective, but treatment completion rates are typically low, and implementation has been poor. Shorter, effective regimens to treat latent TB are therefore necessary, and rifapentine and isoniazid, given weekly for 12 weeks, is one such candidate regimen. The analysis reported in this paper is a sub-study of a larger trial which was reported in 2011 (Sterling et al, NEJM 2011;365:2155). The main trial was open to people regardless of HIV status, but few HIV-positive people were enrolled. Trial enrolment was therefore continued for HIV-positive people, and this paper reports outcomes among this group.

Although the number of tuberculosis events was very small in this sub-study (two versus six people developed tuberculosis in the rifapentine-isoniazid versus isoniazid only arms), the rifapentine-isoniazid regimen, given directly-observed, was non-inferior to self-administered isoniazid, similar to the results of the main trial. Treatment completion was substantially better with the rifapentine-isoniazid regimen, as expected for a shorter regimen given under direct observation. The rifapentine-isoniazid regimen was equally well-tolerated to the isoniazid-only regimen.

This study provides evidence that rifapentine-isoniazid has potential as an alternative to isoniazid for the treatment of latent tuberculosis among HIV-positive people. Several questions remain. Weekly directly-observed therapy could be difficult to implement in resource-limited settings, especially if people are required to travel to health centres to receive their weekly dose, and the effectiveness of this regimen is uncertain when self-administered. The weekly dose represents a substantial pill burden unless combination tablets are available, and there are potential drug interactions between rifapentine and some antiretroviral agents. Further research is necessary to establish whether, in settings where the risk of tuberculosis reinfection is high, a single 12-week course of rifapentine-isoniazid has a long-lasting effect.

Comorbidity, HIV Treatment
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Tenofovir resistance – need for caution but not panic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

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

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

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

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Abacavir: a safe first line drug for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract access

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

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

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

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

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

HIV Treatment
Africa, Europe, Latin America
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The effects of trauma follow people on the move

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

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

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

Abstract access

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

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America
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HIV and injecting ‘krokodile’

Krokodile Injectors in Ukraine: fueling the HIV Epidemic?

Booth RE, Davis JM, Brewster JT, Lisovska O, Dvoryak S. AIDS Behav. 2016 Feb;20(2):369-76. doi: 10.1007/s10461-015-1008-z.

This study was designed to assess the characteristics of krokodile injectors, a recent phenomenon in Ukraine, and HIV-related risk factors among people who inject drugs (PWID). In three Ukraine cities, Odessa, Donetsk and Nikolayev, 550 PWID were recruited between December 2012 and October 2013 using modified targeted sampling methods. The sample averaged 31 years of age and they had been injecting for over 12 years. Overall, 39% tested positive for HIV, including 45% of krokodile injectors. In the past 30 days, 25% reported injecting krokodile. Those who injected krokodile injected more frequently (p < 0.001) and they injected more often with others (p = 0.005). Despite knowing their HIV status to be positive, krokodile users did not reduce their injection frequency, indeed, they injected as much as 85% (p = 0.016) more frequently than those who did not know their HIV status or thought they were negative. This behavior was not seen in non-krokodile using PWID. Although only a small sample of knowledgeable HIV positive krokodile users was available (N = 12), this suggests that krokodile users may disregard their HIV status more so than non-krokodile users. In spite of widespread knowledge of its harmful physical consequences, a growing number of PWID are turning to injecting krokodile in Ukraine. Given the recency of krokodile use in the country, the associated higher frequency of injecting, a propensity to inject more often with others, and what could be a unique level of disregard of HIV among krokodile users, HIV incidence could increase in future years.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: This is an important study among a highly vulnerable population of people who inject drugs where HIV prevalence has been consistently high over the last decade. This is one of the first empirical studies to examine the role of krokodile use on HIV risk acquisition. Krokodile is a home produced drug that has become more popular among people who inject drugs in Ukraine and the Russian Federation over the last five years. There is a long history of injection with home-produced opioids and amphetamines in these countries. The key component of krokodile is codeine, an opioid, but severe side effects have been associated with its injection including tissue damage, gangrene and organ failure. This study highlights some of the characteristics and HIV risk behaviours associated with krokodile injection to inform appropriate HIV prevention programming. Findings note that people who inject krokodile are more likely to inject with others. This reflects the home-produced nature of the drug that facilitates more group injecting as people congregate at places where it is produced to buy and inject. Programmes need to focus on strategies to avoid injecting with other people’s used injecting equipment, such as marking equipment, as can happen in group injecting scenarios. This programme would ensure there are sufficient numbers of clean needles/syringes in circulation. Worryingly, a higher prevalence of HIV was observed among people who inject krokodile, most likely associated with their older age and more frequent injecting. Targeted harm reduction information is urgently needed for krokodile users to prevent further HIV transmission and prevent soft tissue damage. There is already a large network of needle-syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy available for people who inject drugs in Ukraine. However, access is often reduced since people who inject drugs are concerned about being arrested. Registration as a person who injects drugs causes problems with employment, families and police. Collaboration with the police is necessary to increase access to opioid substitution and needle and syringe programmes. Programmes are also required to reduce the stigma associated with injection in order to address the health needs of this population. 

Europe
Ukraine
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High adherence to on-demand PrEP and no increase in sexual risk behaviours

Uptake of PrEP and condom and sexual risk behavior among MSM during the ANRS IPERGAY trial.

Sagaon-Teyssier L, Suzan-Monti M, Demoulin B, Capitant C, Lorente N, Preau M, Mora M, Rojas Castro D, Chidiac C, Chas J, Meyer L, Molina JM, Spire B, Group AIS. AIDS Care. 2016 Feb 17:1-8. [Epub ahead of print]

The double-blind phase of the randomized ANRS IPERGAY trial, evaluating sexual activity-based oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), was conducted among high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM). Results showed an 86% (95% CI: 40-98) relative reduction in HIV incidence among participants with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-emtricitabine vs. placebo. The present pooled analysis aimed to analyze (i) participants' adherence to the prescribed treatment and/or condom use during sexual intercourse and (ii) sexual behavior during the double-blind phase of the study. Four hundred MSM were enrolled in the trial. Every 2 months they completed online questionnaires collecting sexual behavior and PrEP adherence data regarding their most recent sexual intercourse. A total of 2232 questionnaires (M0-M24) were analyzed. Changes over time were evaluated using a mixed model accounting for multiple measures. Irrespective of sexual partner and practice type, on average, 42.6% (min: 32.1-max: 45.8%) reported PrEP use only during their most recent episode of sexual intercourse; 29% (22.9-35.6%) reported both PrEP and condom use; 11.7% (7.2-18.9%) reported condom-use only, and 16.7% (10.8-29.6%) reported no PrEP or condom use with no significant change during the study. Scheduled (i.e., correct) PrEP use was reported on average by 59.0% (47.2-68.5%) of those reporting PrEP use during their most recent sexual intercourse. Overall, 70.3% (65.3-79.4%) and 69.3% (58.3-75.4%) of participants reported, respectively, condomless anal and condomless receptive anal intercourse during their most recent sexual encounter without significant change during follow-up. Overall, on average 83.3% (min: 70.4-max: 89.2%) of participants protected themselves by PrEP intake or condom use or both during the trial, and no increase in at-risk sexual practices was observed. None of these indicators showed significant trend during the follow-up, although we found a tendency toward decrease (p = .19) of the median number of sexual partners strengthening the absence of behavioral disinhibition. On-demand PrEP within a comprehensive HIV prevention package could improve prevention in MSM.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective method of HIV prevention, and it is now recognised as a key element of combination prevention strategies in key populations. The IPERGAY trial evaluated the intermittent use of oral PrEP, timed around sexual activity, in gay men and other men who have sex with men. The investigators hypothesised that taking PrEP ‘on demand’, i.e. at the time of sexual activity rather than daily, would improve adherence and therefore its effectiveness. The reduction in HIV incidence in the trial is one of the highest reported at 86%.

This analysis of trial participants in the double-blind phase of the trial demonstrated that PrEP and/or condom use at the most recent sexual intercourse was reported at 80% of visits, and there was no evidence of a change over time. Adherence remained quite high over the 24 months of follow-up, with 60% reporting correct use of PrEP at each visit, although numbers were small owing to early stopping of the placebo arm. As with other studies of PrEP, there was no evidence of an increase in reported sexual risk behaviours over time. In addition, there was some suggestion of a trend towards a decreased number of partners. However, as trial participants were offered a comprehensive care package (including regular adherence and risk reduction counselling), it is difficult to separate the effects of the intensive support from the effects of the PrEP regimen itself.

The successful integration of PrEP into HIV combination prevention programmes will require an understanding of factors that facilitate its uptake and who is most likely to benefit from its use, as well as ensuring regular HIV testing and adequate support services are available.

Europe, Northern America
Canada, France
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Routine use of steroids harmful in cryptococcal meningitis

Adjunctive Dexamethasone in HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis.

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

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

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

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

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

Comorbidity, HIV Treatment
Indonesia, Laos, Malawi, Thailand, Uganda, Viet Nam
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