Articles tagged as "Latin America"

Barriers and facilitators of safer sexual behaviour for people living with HIV on ART

Intimacy versus isolation: a qualitative study of sexual practices among sexually active HIV-infected patients in HIV care in Brazil, Thailand, and Zambia.

Closson EF, Mimiaga MJ, Sherman SG, Tangmunkongvorakul A, Friedman RK, Limbada M, Moore AT, Srithanaviboonchai K, Alves CA, Roberts S, Oldenburg CE, Elharrar V, Mayer KH, Safren SA, HPTN063 study team. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 20;10(3):e0120957. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120957. eCollection 2015.

The success of global treatment as prevention (TasP) efforts for individuals living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) is dependent on successful implementation, and therefore the appropriate contribution of social and behavioral science to these efforts. Understanding the psychosocial context of condomless sex among PLWHA could shed light on effective points of intervention. HPTN 063 was an observational mixed-methods study of sexually active, in-care PLWHA in Thailand, Zambia, and Brazil as a foundation for integrating secondary HIV prevention into HIV treatment. From 2010-2012, 80 qualitative interviews were conducted with PLWHA receiving HIV care and reported recent sexual risk. Thirty men who have sex with women (MSW) and 30 women who have sex with men (WSM) participated in equal numbers across the sites. Thailand and Brazil also enrolled 20 biologically-born men who have sex with men (MSM). Part of the interview focused on the impact of HIV on sexual practices and relationships. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, translated into English and examined using qualitative descriptive analysis. The mean age was 25 (SD = 3.2). There were numerous similarities in experiences and attitudes between MSM, MSW and WSM across the three settings. Participants had a high degree of HIV transmission risk awareness and practiced some protective sexual behaviors such as reduced sexual activity, increased use of condoms, and external ejaculation. Themes related to risk behavior can be categorized according to struggles for intimacy and fears of isolation, including: fear of infecting a sex partner, guilt about sex, sexual communication difficulty, HIV-stigma, and worry about sexual partnerships. Emphasizing sexual health, intimacy and protective practices as components of nonjudgmental sex-positive secondary HIV prevention interventions is recommended. For in-care PLWHA, this approach has the potential to support TasP. The overlap of themes across groups and countries indicates that similar intervention content may be effective for a range of settings.

Abstract   Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Antiretroviral therapy has transformed the lives of many people living with HIV, holding the promise of sustaining health well into older age. Yet, as the authors of this paper remind us, HIV remains a stigmatised condition. Because of the fear and prejudice which continue to surround HIV, living with the infection while on antiretroviral therapy remains challenging not least because of its impact on intimate relationships. Using qualitative data from three very different cultural settings, the authors illustrate the continuing impact of HIV infection on the lives of people taking antiretroviral therapy. Many people in the study were keen to reduce the risk of infecting others through risky sexual behaviour. As a consequence, some struggled to establish and sustain intimate relationships trapped in feelings of shame about their infection and guilt about sexual enjoyment. The findings in this paper are not new. But what is interesting is how similar the experience of women and men living with HIV was across the different settings. As the health of more and more people living with HIV is sustained through antiretroviral therapy, there is a continuing and urgent need for programmes that address the fears and concerns that they may have about sexual behaviour. 

Africa, Asia, Latin America
Brazil, Thailand, Zambia
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Adolescent adherence to antiretroviral therapy: what matters?

Factors associated with adherence to antiretroviral therapy among adolescents living with HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review.

Hudelson C, Cluver L. AIDS Care. 2015 Feb 23:1-12. [Epub ahead of print]

Adolescents living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are disproportionately burdened by the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Maintaining medication adherence is vital to ensuring that adolescents living with HIV/AIDS receive the benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART), although this group faces unique challenges to adherence. Knowledge of the factors influencing adherence among people during this unique developmental period is needed to develop more targeted and effective adherence-promoting strategies. This systematic review summarizes the literature on quantitative observational studies examining correlates, including risk and resilience-promoting factors, of ART adherence among adolescents living with HIV/AIDS in LMICs. A systematic search of major electronic databases, conference-specific databases, gray literature, and reference lists of relevant reviews and documents was conducted in May 2014. Included studies examined relationships between at least one factor and ART adherence as an outcome and were conducted in primarily an adolescent population (age 10-19) in LMICs. The search identified 7948 unique citations from which 15 studies fit the inclusion criteria. These 15 studies identified 35 factors significantly associated with ART adherence representing a total of 4363 participants across nine different LMICs. Relevant studies revealed few consistent relationships between measured factors and adherence while highlighting potentially important themes for ART adherence including the impact of (1) adolescent factors such as gender and knowledge of serostatus, (2) family structure, (3) the burdensome ART regimens, route of administration, and attitudes about medication, and (4) health care and environmental factors, such as rural versus urban location and missed clinic appointments. Rates of adherence across studies ranged from 16% to 99%. This review identifies unique factors significantly related to ART adherence among adolescents living in LMICs. More research using longitudinal designs and rigorous measures of adherence is required in order to identify the range of factors influencing ART adherence as adolescents living with HIV/AIDS in LMICs grow into adulthood.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Expanded access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and scale-up of programmes to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission has resulted in the burden of paediatric HIV infection shifting onto adolescents, in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescents and young adults account for 41% of incident infections globally and are the only age group for which AIDS-associated deaths have risen in the past decade.

As the number of adolescents on ART increases, sustaining optimal adherence has emerged as the key challenge. While there are limited adolescent-specific data available, estimates of ART adherence suggest that adolescents have much poorer adherence than adults. This leads to increased risk of disease progression, transmission to sexual partners and antiretroviral drug resistance.

There is a growing body of literature that has examined factors affecting adherence, but to date the focus has been on adults and young children. Therefore, this systematic review of factors associated with good and suboptimal adherence specifically among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years, is timely.

There were a diverse range of factors associated with adherence across the fifteen studies considered. These include knowledge of serostatus, the influence of family structure, burdensome regimens, route of administration (caregiver giving medication versus adolescent self-medicating), and attitudes about medication and missed appointments. These factors likely interact with the complexities faced during adolescence to increase the risk of suboptimal adherence.   

The studies considered in this review had significant weaknesses. Firstly, most studies were cross-sectional. Therefore the extent to which causality between the considered factors and adherence can be inferred is limited. Secondly, not all studies reported on the strengths of the relationship between the factors and adherence or accounted for confounding. Thirdly, the method of measuring adherence varied between studies. Only one study in the review used a gold standard, objective treatment outcome measure, HIV viral load.

Notwithstanding these limitations, this is the first study to examine correlates of adherence to ART in adolescence. Although there were few consistent relationships between these factors and adherence, the study does suggest potential activities to improve adherence.

Given the central role of adolescents in determining the trajectory of the HIV epidemic, there is a need for more rigorous research to define factors affecting adherence behaviours among adolescents. Programmes addressing important risk- and resilience-promoting factors such as caregiver support and less burdensome regimens have potential to improve adherence. 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America
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Is genotype resistance testing cost-effective for the ART naïve?

Cost-effectiveness of genotype testing for primary resistance in Brazil.

Luz PM, Morris BL, Grinsztejn B, Freedberg KA, Veloso VG, Walensky RP, Losina E, Nakamura YM, Girouard MP, Sax PE, Struchiner CJ, Paltiel AD. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Feb 1;68(2):152-61. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000426.

Objective: HIV genotype-resistance testing can help identify more effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) regimens for patients, substantially increasing the likelihood of viral suppression and immune recovery. We sought to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of genotype-resistance testing before first-line ART initiation in Brazil.

Design: We used a previously published microsimulation model of HIV disease (CEPAC-International) and data from Brazil to compare the clinical impact, costs, and cost-effectiveness of initial genotype testing (Genotype) with no initial genotype testing (No genotype).

Methods: Model parameters were derived from the HIV Clinical Cohort at the Evandro Chagas Clinical Research Institute and from published data, using Brazilian sources whenever possible. Baseline patient characteristics included 69% male, mean age of 36 years (SD, 10 years), mean CD4 count of 347 per microliter (SD, 300/µL) at ART initiation, annual ART costs from 2012 US $1400 to US $13 400, genotype test cost of US $230, and primary resistance prevalence of 4.4%. Life expectancy and costs were discounted 3% per year. Genotype was defined as "cost-effective" compared with No Genotype if its incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was less than 3 times the 2012 Brazilian per capita GDP of US $12 300.

Results: Compared with No genotype, Genotype increased life expectancy from 18.45 to 18.47 years and reduced lifetime cost from US $45 000 to $44 770; thus, in the base case, Genotype was cost saving. Genotype was cost-effective at primary resistance prevalence as low as 1.4% and remained cost-effective when subsequent-line ART costs decreased to 30% of baseline value. Cost-inefficient results were observed only when simultaneously holding multiple parameters to extremes of their plausible ranges.

Conclusions: Genotype-resistance testing in ART-naive individuals in Brazil will improve survival and decrease costs and should be incorporated into HIV treatment guidelines in Brazil.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This study aims to provide guidance on when HIV genotype-resistance testing should be used during the course of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Previous studies in high income countries suggest that use prior to ART initiation may be cost-effective. In more resource constrained settings, two previous studies suggest that genotype-resistance testing may be cost-effective following first-line treatment failure. But none have examined use of these tests on the ART-naïve.

This study compares genotype-resistance testing prior to ART initiation to the current policy of testing post treatment failure, for the population of Brazil. The study finds that genotype-resistance testing is likely to be cost saving in Brazil. The authors predict modest increases in life expectancy for individuals on ART. Cost savings are achieved from predicted reductions in complications and the duration of expensive ART regimens. Costs savings are primarily incurred for non-nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI) resistant people. These savings outweigh the cost of the genotype-resistance test. The study usefully highlights that the extent of cost savings (and cost-effectiveness) depends primarily on test cost, future ART costs and prevalence of NNRTI resistance in the study population. For most plausible ranges of NNRTI prevalence and costs observed in Brazil, genotype-resistance testing prior to ART initiation is likely to be cost-effective. However, both costs and NNRTI prevalence vary by setting; as does the threshold by which technologies are judged to be cost-effective. These factors therefore need to be considered before applying these results to policy change around the use of genotype-resistance testing more broadly.

Latin America
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The impact of homophobia and criminalisation on MSM HIV vulnerability worldwide

Sexual stigma, criminalization, investment, and access to HIV services among men who have sex with men worldwide.

Arreola S, Santos GM, Beck J, Sundararaj M, Wilson PA, Hebert P, Makofane K, Do TD, Ayala G. AIDS Behav. 2015 Feb;19(2):227-34. doi: 10.1007/s10461-014-0869-x.

Globally, HIV disproportionately affects men who have sex with men (MSM). This study explored associations between access to HIV services and (1) individual-level perceived sexual stigma; (2) country-level criminalization of homosexuality; and (3) country-level investment in HIV services for MSM. 3340 MSM completed an online survey assessing access to HIV services. MSM from over 115 countries were categorized according to criminalization of homosexuality policy and investment in HIV services targeting MSM. Lower access to condoms, lubricants, and HIV testing were each associated with greater perceived sexual stigma, existence of homosexuality criminalization policies, and less investment in HIV services. Lower access to HIV treatment was associated with greater perceived sexual stigma and criminalization. Criminalization of homosexuality and low investment in HIV services were both associated with greater perceived sexual stigma. Efforts to prevent and treat HIV among MSM should be coupled with structural interventions to reduce stigma, overturn homosexuality criminalization policies, and increase investment in MSM-specific HIV services.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: Homosexuality is still illegal in 39% of the 193 UN recognised countries. This criminalisation likely increases HIV vulnerability among gay men and other men who have sex with men. In this study, 3340 gay men and other men who have sex with men from more than 115 countries completed an online survey about their perceptions of homophobia and their ease of accessing basic HIV prevention services. The authors conducted an ecological analysis to examine the relationship between the uptake of HIV services among gay men and other men who have sex with men. The authors looked at structural factors at the individual level which included their perceptions of homophobia within the society in which they live and at the country level including criminalising policies. More than 50% of respondents reported difficulty in accessing HIV services including condoms, lubricants, HIV testing services and antiretroviral therapy (ART). Perceived homophobia, criminalization of homosexual behaviour, and low country investment in HIV services were each associated with reduced access to condoms, lubricants, HIV testing services and ART. Improving access to HIV services for gay men and other men who have sex with men is urgently required as they carry a disproportionate burden of HIV in low and middle income countries. This study adds to a body of evidence which suggests that addressing structural barriers such as the criminalisation of homosexuality and sexual stigma (homophobia) will be necessary to reduce HIV vulnerability among gay men and other men who have sex with men, globally.

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Using Facebook to increase uptake of HIV testing among MSM in Peru

The HOPE social media intervention for global HIV prevention in Peru: a cluster randomised controlled trial.

Young SD, Cumberland WG, Nianogo R, Menacho LA, Galea JT, Coates T. The Lancet HIV 2.1 (2015): e27-e32.

Background: Social media technologies offer new approaches to HIV prevention and promotion of testing. We examined the efficacy of the Harnessing Online Peer Education (HOPE) social media intervention to increase HIV testing among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Peru.

Methods: In this cluster randomised controlled trial, Peruvian MSM from Greater Lima (including Callao) who had sex with a man in the past 12 months, were 18 years of age or older, were HIV negative or serostatus unknown, and had a Facebook account or were willing to create one (N=556) were randomly assigned (1:1) by concealed allocation to join intervention or control groups on Facebook for 12 weeks. For the intervention, Peruvian MSM were trained and assigned to be HIV prevention mentors (peer-leaders) to participants in Facebook groups. The interventions period lasted 12 weeks. Participants in control groups received an enhanced standard of care, including standard offline HIV prevention available in Peru and participation in Facebook groups (without peer leaders) that provided study updates and HIV testing information. After accepting a request to join the groups, continued participation was voluntary. Participants also completed questionnaires on HIV risk behaviours and social media use at baseline and 12 week follow-up. The primary outcome was the number of participants who received a free HIV test at a local community clinic. The facebook groups were analysed as clusters to account for intracluster correlations. This trial is registered with, number NCT01701206.

Findings: Of 49 peer-leaders recruited, 34 completed training and were assigned at random to the intervention Facebook groups. Between March 19, 2012, and June 11, 2012, and Sept 26, 2012, and Dec 19, 2012, 556 participants were randomly assigned to intervention groups (N=278) or control groups (N=278); we analyse data for 252 and 246. 43 participants (17%) in the intervention group and 16 (7%) in the control groups got tested for HIV (adjusted odds ratio 2·61, 95% CI 1·55–4·38). No adverse events were reported.

Interpretation: Development of peer-mentored social media communities seemed to be an efficacious method to increase HIV testing among high-risk populations in Peru. Results suggest that the HOPE social media intervention could improve HIV testing rates among MSM in Peru.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Community peer-led HIV programmes aim to increase behaviours by changing social norms and attitudes. They have led to increased condom use and decreased unprotected anal intercourse. In this study, a peer-led social media activity was shown to increase HIV testing among men who have sex with men in Peru. The programme involved belonging to a closed Facebook group, with a peer-leader providing posts and chats about the importance of HIV testing and prevention. Further, the communities remained highly engaged in group discussions, suggesting that the activity may also work on improving linkage to care, although this was not an outcome in this trial. This study is the first social media-based randomised controlled trial assessing HIV testing and suggests the efficacy of using social media and other innovative low-cost technologies for HIV prevention and treatment in other settings.

Latin America
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Optimising outcomes on second-line antiretroviral therapy: partner-based modified directly observed therapy is not the answer

Partner-based adherence intervention for second-line antiretroviral therapy (ACTG 5234): a multinational randomised trial.

Gross R, Zheng L, La Rosa A, Sun X, Rosenkrantz SL, Wagner Cardoso S, Ssali F, Camp R, Godfrey C, Cohn SE, Robbins GK, Chisada A, Wallis CL, Reynolds NR, Lu D, Safren SA, Hosey L, Severe P, Collier AC for the ACTG 5234 team. Lancet HIV 2015; 2: e12–19

Background: Adherence is key to the success of antiretroviral therapy. Enhanced partner support might benefit patients with previous treatment failure. We aimed to assess whether an enhanced partner-based support intervention with modified directly observed therapy would improve outcomes with second-line therapy in HIV-infected patients for whom first-line therapy had failed.

Methods: We did a multicentre, international, randomised clinical trial at nine sites in Botswana, Brazil, Haiti, Peru, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Participants aged 18 years or older for whom first-line therapy had failed, with HIV RNA concentrations greater than 1000 copies per mL and with a willing partner, were randomly assigned (1:1), via computer-generated randomisation, to receive partner-based modified directly observed therapy or standard of care. Randomisation was stratified by screening HIV RNA concentration (≤10 000 copies per mL vs >10 000 copies per mL). Participants and site investigators were not masked to group assignment. Primary outcome was confirmed virological failure (viral load >400 copies per mL) by week 48. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with, number NCT00608569.

Findings: Between April 23, 2009, and Sept 29, 2011, we randomly assigned 259 participants to the modified directly observed therapy group (n=129) or the standard-of-care group (n=130). 34 (26%) participants in the modified directly observed therapy group achieved the primary endpoint of virological failure by week 48 compared with 23 (18%) participants in the standard-of-care group. The Kaplan-Meier estimated cumulative probability of virological failure by week 48 was 25·1% (95% CI 17·7–32·4) in the modified directly observed therapy group and 17·3% (10·8–23·7) in the standard-of-care group, for a weighted difference in standard of care versus modified directly observed therapy of −6·6% (95% CI −16·5% to 3·2%; p=0·19). 36 (14%) participants reported at least one grade 3 or higher adverse event or laboratory abnormality (n=21 in the modified directly observed therapy group and n=15 in the standard-of-care group).

Interpretation: Partner-based training with modified directly observed therapy had no effect on virological suppression. The intervention does not therefore seem to be a promising strategy to increase adherence. Intensive follow-up with clinic staff might be a viable approach in this setting.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: High rates of virologic failure on second-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) are reported in resource-limited settings. The main driver of this is thought to be sub-optimal adherence rather than resistance. As many of these settings have limited access to third-line regimens there is an urgent need for evidence-informed programmes to optimise peoples’ adherence, both to first-line and second-line regimens.

The results from this randomised controlled trial provide further evidence that partner-based modified directly observed therapy is not the answer. Interestingly, people enrolled in this trial had far lower rates of virologic failure than have been observed in programmatic settings, regardless of whether they were in the programme or standard-of-care arm. Many factors could account for this, including the fact that all people enrolled in the study had to have disclosed their status to a friend or family member, all received enhanced education and support and all attended regular clinic appointments. Further pragmatic studies which focus on clinic-and patient-level programmes are needed to determine the optimal strategies for maximising peoples’ adherence. 

Africa, Latin America
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Lower, long-term risk of TB disease with early versus deferred antiretroviral therapy

CD4 deficit and tuberculosis risk persist with delayed antiretroviral therapy: 5-year data from CIPRA HT-001.

Collins SE, Jean Juste MA, Koenig SP, Secours R, Ocheretina O, Bernard D, Riviere C, Calnan M, Dunning A, Hurtado Rua SM, Johnson WD, Pape JW, Fitzgerald DW, Severe P. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2015 Jan;19(1):50-7. doi: 10.5588/ijtld.14.0217.

Setting: Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Objective: To determine long-term effects of early vs. delayed initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on immune recovery and tuberculosis (TB) risk in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected individuals.

Design: Open-label randomized controlled trial of immediate ART in HIV-infected adults with CD4 counts between 200 and 350 cells/mm3 vs. deferring ART until the CD4 count was <200 cells/mm3. The primary comparisons were CD4 counts over time and risk for incident TB, with 5 years of follow-up.

Results: A total of 816 participants were enrolled, with 408 in each treatment arm. The early treatment group started ART within 2 weeks, while the deferred treatment group started ART a median of 1.3 years after enrollment. After 5 years, the mean CD4 count in the early treatment group was significantly higher than in the deferred treatment group (496 cells/mm3, 95% confidence interval [CI] 477-515 vs. 373 cells/mm3, 95%CI 357-389; P < 0.0001). TB risk was higher in the deferred treatment group (unadjusted HR 2.41, 95%CI 1.56-3.74; P < 0.0001) and strongly correlated with lower CD4 counts in time-dependent multivariate analysis.

Conclusion: Delays in ART initiation for HIV-infected adults with CD4 counts of 200-350 cells/mm3 can result in long-term immune dysfunction and persistent increased risk for TB.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: There is a solid evidence base to support the initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for adults living with HIV with CD4+ cell count ≤350 cells/µL. One randomised controlled trial in Haiti (CIPRA HT-001) demonstrated a 75% reduction in mortality with initiation of ART at CD4+ cell count 200-350 cells/µL compared to deferring until CD4+ cell count was <200 cells/µL. That same trial demonstrated a 50% reduction in incident TB disease with early ART, over three years of follow-up.

This paper presents a subsequent analysis from this trial with extended follow-up to five years. This analysis reports on whether or not the effect of early ART was maintained, and the long-term effect on CD4+ recovery. The beneficial impact of early ART on incident TB disease was indeed maintained over the five years of follow-up. Half of the TB cases in the deferred ART group occurred before the initiation of ART but the differential risk persisted beyond the initiation of ART. 

There was also a clear benefit of early ART on immune recovery. More than 75% of participants in the early ART group achieved a CD4+ cell count >500 cells/µL by five years, compared to fewer than 25% of people in the deferred ART group. The effect of early ART on incident TB was only partially modified after adjustment for time-updated CD4+ cell count, suggesting that early ART has benefit over and above its effect on CD4+ cell count recovery.

Although this is clear evidence to start ART promptly in people with severe immunosupression, these data do not address the question of whether ART at CD4+ cell counts above 350 cells/µL influences the risk of TB disease, and this information is eagerly awaited from ongoing clinical trials. 

Avoid TB deaths
Latin America
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Promising results from a combination HIV prevention strategy for MSM in Central America

Effectiveness of a combination prevention strategy for HIV risk reduction with men who have sex with men in Central America: a mid-term evaluation.

Firestone R, Rivas J, Lungo S, Cabrera A, Ruether S, Wheeler J, Vu L. BMC Public Health. 2014 Dec 4;14:1244. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-1244.

Background: Despite over a decade of research and programming, little evidence is available on effective strategies to reduce HIV risks among Central American men who have sex with men (MSM). The Pan-American Social Marketing Organization (PASMO) and partners are implementing a HIV Combination Prevention Program to provide key populations with an essential package of prevention interventions and services: 1) behavioral, including interpersonal communications, and online outreach; 2) biomedical services including HIV testing and counseling and screening for STIs; and 3) complementary support, including legal support and treatment for substance abuse. Two years into implementation, we evaluated this program's effectiveness for MSM by testing whether exposure to any or a combination of program components could reduce HIV risks.

Methods: PASMO surveyed MSM in 10 cities across Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama in 2012 using respondent-driven sampling. We used coarsened exact matching to create statistically equivalent groups of men exposed and non-exposed to the program, matching on education, measures of social interaction, and exposure to other HIV prevention programs. We estimated average treatment effects of each component and all combined to assess HIV testing and condom use outcomes, using multivariable logistic regression. We also linked survey data to routine service data to assess program coverage.

Results: Exposure to any program component was 32% in the study area (n = 3531). Only 2.8% of men received all components. Men exposed to both behavioral and biomedical components were more likely to use condoms and lubricant at last sex (AOR 3.05, 95% CI 1.08, 8.64), and those exposed to behavioral interventions were more likely to have tested for HIV in the past year (AOR 1.76, 95% CI 1.01, 3.10).

Conclusions: PASMO's strategies to reach MSM with HIV prevention programming are still achieving low levels of population coverage, and few men are receiving the complete essential package. However, those reached are able to practice HIV prevention. Combination prevention is a promising approach in Central America, requiring expansion in coverage and intensity.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: In countries where same-sex behaviour is criminalised and/or highly stigmatised, men who have sex with men (MSM) often find it very difficult to obtain appropriate sexual health services.  Such difficulties contribute to the continued high prevalence of HIV among MSM in some settings.  Strategies to prevent HIV transmission, increasingly favour a combination of activities which aim to reflect specific social conditions. It is important that these complex prevention programmes are systematically evaluated. This paper discusses one of the first evaluations of a combined HIV prevention strategy including behavioural, biomedical and psychosocial components. The strategy is aimed specifically at MSM in Central America, among whom the authors note that HIV prevalence ranges from 7.5% to 11.1%. About one-third of MSM participants in respondent-driven samples, reported exposure to at least one component of the programme during the two years of implementation. But few, three percent, received all three components, reflecting the hard-to-reach nature of the population as well as programmatic issues. Despite the modest coverage, there was some evidence that the programme was associated with reported risk reduction and HIV testing uptake. The study provides promising results, but highlights the need to tackle stigmatisation and social exclusion of MSM in this region, to enable prevention strategies to be effective at scale.

Latin America
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Increasing transmitted resistance to antiretroviral therapy in low/middle-income countries - highest prevalence in MSM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract access 

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

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

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

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

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

HIV Treatment
Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Malawi, Malaysia, Moldova, Mozambique, Netherlands, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Disease-specific Global Fund grants may be preventing the realisation of system-wide synergies for increased human resources for health

Global Fund investments in human resources for health: innovation and missed opportunities for health systems strengthening.

Bowser D, Sparkes SP, Mitchell A, Bossert TJ, Bärnighausen T, Gedik G, Atun R. Health Policy Plan. 2014 Dec;29(8):986-97. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czt080. Epub 2013 Nov 6.

Background: Since the early 2000s, there have been large increases in donor financing of human resources for health (HRH), yet few studies have examined their effects on health systems.

Objective: To determine the scope and impact of investments in HRH by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), the largest investor in HRH outside national governments.

Methods: We used mixed research methodology to analyse budget allocations and expenditures for HRH, including training, for 138 countries receiving money from the Global Fund during funding rounds 1-7. From these aggregate figures, we then identified 27 countries with the largest funding for human resources and training and examined all HRH-related performance indicators tracked in Global Fund grant reports. We used the results of these quantitative analyses to select six countries with substantial funding and varied characteristics-representing different regions and income levels for further in-depth study: Bangladesh (South and West Asia, low income), Ethiopia (Eastern Africa, low income), Honduras (Latin America, lower-middle income), Indonesia (South and West Asia, lower-middle income), Malawi (Southern Africa, low income) and Ukraine (Eastern Europe and Central Asia, upper-middle income). We used qualitative methods to gather information in each of the six countries through 159 interviews with key informants from 83 organizations. Using comparative case-study analysis, we examined Global Fund's interactions with other donors, as well as its HRH support and co-ordination within national health systems.

Results: Around US$1.4 billion (23% of total US$5.1 billion) of grant funding was allocated to HRH by the 138 Global Fund recipient countries. In funding rounds 1-7, the six countries we studied in detail were awarded a total of 47 grants amounting to US$1.2 billion and HRH budgets of US$276 million, of which approximately half were invested in disease-focused in-service and short-term training activities. Countries employed a variety of mechanisms including salary top-ups, performance incentives, extra compensation and contracting of workers for part-time work, to pay health workers using Global Fund financing. Global Fund support for training and salary support was not co-ordinated with national strategic plans and there were major deficiencies in the data collected by the Global Fund to track HRH financing and to provide meaningful assessments of health system performance.

Conclusion: The narrow disease focus and lack of co-ordination with national governments call into question the efficiency of funding and sustainability of Global Fund investments in HRH and their effectiveness in strengthening recipient countries' health systems. The lessons that emerge from this analysis can be used by both the Global Fund and other donors to improve co-ordination of investments and the effectiveness of programmes in recipient countries.

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Editor’s notes: This study describes Global Fund’s budget allocations, expenditures and specific activities on human resources for health (HRH) from 2002 to 2010. The authors were particularly interested in exploring whether and how these investments contributed to health system strengthening through a more detailed qualitative analysis of six geographically and programmatically different countries.  

They find that the 27 countries with the largest budgeted HRH expenditures allocated some 29.6% to HRH, and had a ratio of 1.35 health workers trained in comparison to the total national health workforce, suggesting duplication of training activities and programme inefficiency. This reflects the confirmed lack of coordination with national HRH training programmes that the authors documented, particularly in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Malawi. In terms of coordinating HRH salary support and financing plans, only Honduras and Malawi had developed plans for absorbing some of the health workers that were being covered by Global Fund grants. In other countries, the top-ups and monetary compensation/ incentives funded through Global Fund grants to increase retention and motivation, were considered short-term and would not be sustained. Of the six country case studies, it is only in Malawi that the Global Fund coordinated its efforts with the national HRH strategy and other donor programmes.

The study highlights the need for a paradigm shift away from disease-focused grants to co-investments in HIV, tuberculosis and malaria that would allow the realisation of remarkable synergies and efficiency gains.

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America
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