Articles tagged as "HIV testing and treatment"

Home-based HIV testing more effective than community testing, but fewer linked to care

A comparison of home-based versus outreach event-based community HIV testing in Ugandan fisherfolk communities.

Bogart LM, Wagner GJ, Musoke W, Naigino R, Linnemayr S, Maistrellis E, Klein DJ, Jumamil RB, Mukasa B, Bassett IV, Giordano TP, Wanyenze RK. AIDS Behav. 2016 Nov 29. [Epub ahead of print]

We compared two community-based HIV testing models among fisherfolk in Lake Victoria, Uganda. From May to July 2015, 1364 fisherfolk residents of one island were offered (and 822 received) home-based testing, and 344 fisherfolk on another island were offered testing during eight community mobilization events (outreach event-based testing). Of 207 home-based testing clients identified as HIV-positive (15% of residents), 82 were newly diagnosed, of whom 31 (38%) linked to care within 3 months. Of 41 who screened positive during event-based testing (12% of those tested), 33 were newly diagnosed, of whom 24 (75%) linked to care within 3 months. Testing costs per capita were similar for home-based ($45.09) and event-based testing ($46.99). Compared to event-based testing, home-based testing uncovered a higher number of new HIV cases but was associated with lower linkage to care. Novel community-based test-and-treat programs are needed to ensure timely linkage to care for newly diagnosed fisherfolk.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Regular and reliable HIV testing is necessary to ensure that people who need antiretroviral treatment know their status. When someone tests positive for HIV, it is critical that they are linked to care. This study compares two different types of HIV testing among fisherfolk in Uganda – home-based and community event-based testing. The authors find that home-based testing uncovered more people living with HIV than community event-based testing, but a lower proportion of people were successfully linked to care. The costs of both types of testing were similar. Fewer new people living with HIV were identified through community event-based testing. People who know that they are HIV positive are perhaps more likely to attend such events than people who have not sought to be tested recently, or who are HIV negative. Home-based testing requires less effort from persons receiving a test, and therefore may reach people less likely to test independently. This study further emphasises that linkage to care is a critical step in the HIV treatment cascade.

HIV testing
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At the halfway mark? Community viral suppression in East Africa

Population levels and geographical distribution of HIV RNA in rural Ugandan and Kenyan communities, including serodiscordant couples: a cross-sectional analysis.

Jain V, Petersen ML, Liegler T, Byonanebye DM, Kwarisiima D, Chamie G, Sang N, Black D, Clark TD, Ladai A, Plenty A, Kabami J, Ssemmondo E, Bukusi EA, Cohen CR, Charlebois ED, Kamya MR, Havlir DV. Lancet HIV. 2016 Dec 15. pii: S2352-3018(16)30220-X. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30220-X. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: As sub-Saharan Africa transitions to a new era of universal antiretroviral therapy (ART), up-to-date assessments of population-level HIV RNA suppression are needed to inform interventions to optimise ART delivery. We sought to measure population viral load metrics to assess viral suppression and characterise demographic groups and geographical locations with high-level detectable viraemia in east Africa.

Methods: The Sustainable East Africa Research in Community Health (SEARCH) study is a cluster-randomised controlled trial of an HIV test-and-treat strategy in 32 rural communities in Uganda and Kenya, selected on the basis of rural setting, having an approximate population of 10 000 people, and being within the catchment area of a President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-supported HIV clinic. During the baseline population assessment in the SEARCH study, we did baseline HIV testing and HIV RNA measurement. We analysed stable adult (aged 15 years) community residents. We defined viral suppression as a viral load of less than 500 copies per mL. To assess geographical sources of transmission risk, we established the proportion of all adults (both HIV positive and HIV negative) with a detectable viral load (local prevalence of viraemia). We defined transmission risk hotspots as geopolitical subunits within communities with an at least 5% local prevalence of viraemia. We also assessed serodiscordant couples, measuring the proportion of HIV-positive partners with detectable viraemia. The SEARCH study is registered with, number NCT01864603.

Findings: Between April 2, 2013, and June 8, 2014, of 303 461 stable residents, we enumerated 274 040 (90.3%), of whom 132 030 (48.2%) were adults. Of these, 117 711 (89.2%) had their HIV status established, of whom 11 964 (10.2%) were HIV positive. Of these, we measured viral load in 8828 (73.8%) people. Viral suppression occurred in 3427 (81.6%) of 4202 HIV-positive adults on ART and 4490 (50.9%) of 8828 HIV-positive adults. Regional viral suppression among HIV-positive adults occurred in 881 (48.2%) of 1827 people in west Uganda, 516 (45.0%) of 1147 in east Uganda, and 3093 (52.8%) of 5854 in Kenya. Transmission risk hotspots occurred in three of 21 parishes in west Uganda and none in east Uganda and in 24 of 26 Kenya geopolitical subunits. In Uganda, 492 (2.9%) of 16 874 couples were serodiscordant: in 287 (58.3%) of these couples, the HIV-positive partner was viraemic (and in 69 [14.0%], viral load was >100 000 copies per mL). In Kenya, 859 (10.0%) of 8616 couples were serodiscordant: in 445 (53.0%) of these couples, the HIV-positive partner was viraemic (and in 129 [15%], viral load was >100 000 copies per mL).

Interpretation: Before the start of the SEARCH trial, 51% of east African HIV-positive adults had viral suppression, reflecting ART scale-up efforts to date. Geographical hotspots of potential HIV transmission risk and detectable viraemia among serodiscordant couples warrant intensified interventions.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Half of all people living with HIV with a valid viral load measurement in these East African communities had viral suppression (<500 copies/mL) at the start of this cluster randomised trial in 2013-14. These results already provided good evidence of the effectiveness and impact of antiretroviral programmes in East Africa. However, at the AIDS conference in July 2016 the study group presented updated results following two years of a universal test and treat (UTT) strategy with expansion of community-based HIV testing services (access abstract here). By this point, the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target had been exceeded in the study communities and, overall, 82% of people living with HIV had viral suppression. 

These results highlight the role of community viral load metrics as indicators of programme impact. What gives rise to more debate is the role of these metrics in estimating the risk of ongoing HIV transmission in the community. Consensus seems to be emerging that the population prevalence of viraemia may be the metric best suited for this purpose. In this study, the estimated population prevalence of viraemia varied quite widely from 0.5 to 14.1% at the level of local communities (of between around 500 and 5000 people). This measure was also used to define several transmission hotspots, based on an arbitrary cut-off of five percent prevalence of viraemia.

Additional research is necessary in different epidemiological contexts to understand the association between these metrics and risk of HIV transmission. There is also some way to go to understand if such metrics can have practical public health implications for HIV prevention. Whether revealing such heterogeneity in transmission risk within generalized epidemics can inform the application of geographically focussed programmes is a question that now should be addressed.

Kenya, Uganda
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Creating welcoming spaces for men’s active involvement

What do you need to get male partners of pregnant women tested for HIV in resource limited settings? The baby shower cluster randomized trial.

Ezeanolue EE, Obiefune MC, Yang W, Ezeanolue CO, Pharr J, Osuji A, Ogidi AG, Hunt AT, Patel D, Ogedegbe G, Ehiri JE. AIDS Behav. 2016 Dec 8. [Epub ahead of print]

Male partner involvement has the potential to increase uptake of interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). Finding cultural appropriate strategies to promote male partner involvement in PMTCT programs remains an abiding public health challenge. We assessed whether a congregation-based intervention, the Healthy Beginning Initiative (HBI), would lead to increased uptake of HIV testing among male partners of pregnant women during pregnancy. A cluster-randomized controlled trial of forty churches in Southeastern Nigeria randomly assigned to either the HBI (intervention group; IG) or standard of care referral to a health facility (control group; CG) was conducted. Participants in the IG received education and were offered onsite HIV testing. Overall, 2498 male partners enrolled and participated, a participation rate of 88.9%. Results showed that male partners in the IG were 12 times more likely to have had an HIV test compared to male partners of pregnant women in the CG (CG = 37.71% vs. IG = 84.00%; adjusted odds ratio = 11.9; p < .01). Culturally appropriate and community-based interventions can be effective in increasing HIV testing and counseling among male partners of pregnant women.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Barriers to male partner participation in antenatal care in sub-Saharan Africa include the timing of antenatal services during work hours and negative health care provider attitudes. Importantly, they also include gender norms against male participation that are anchored in deep-seated perceptions that pregnancy is a woman’s affair. This highly successful trial resulted in verified HIV testing by 84% of male partners in the programme group and 38% in the control group, well above the overall HIV testing uptake by males in Nigeria at the time of 23%. What were the elements of the programme that contributed to its success? Critically, it was conducted in communities where religious institutions and their leaders have strong community influence and where nearly 90% of the population attends places of worship. Next, it proposed integrated testing (haemoglobin, malaria, sickle cell genotype, HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis) to reduce stigma associated with HIV testing. It included the haemoglobin test because men indicated in the formative stages that they wanted this test to find out how strong they were. Then, it engaged the couples publically, with the religious leader inviting all pregnant women and their partners each Sunday to approach the altar for a prayer, accompanied by information about the baby shower programme and the importance of antenatal care. The programme ran baby showers monthly for all participants with the programme group playing an educational game and being offered free integrated HIV testing. The control group was referred to a local health facility for antenatal care and free HIV testing. At baby receptions held every two to three months, the control groups were offered free integrated HIV testing. All in all, HIV testing for male partners was convenient, free, and integrated with other tests that men wanted. It was provided in a family-centred, congregation-based enabling environment that supported men to step forward with their pregnant partners to learn their HIV status. Such a strategy could work in other settings where influential community leaders are prepared to lead the design and implementation of innovative HIV prevention programmes that resonate with community cultural and spiritual values.

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ART has dramatically improved life expectancy for people living with HIV in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Trends in the burden of HIV mortality after roll-out of antiretroviral therapy in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: an observational community cohort study.

Reniers G, Blom S, Calvert C, Martin-Onraet A, Herbst AJ, Eaton JW, Bor J, Slaymaker E, Li ZR, Clark SJ, Barnighausen T, Zaba B, Hosegood V Lancet HIV. 2016 Dec 9. pii: S2352-3018(16)30225-9. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30225-9

Background: Antiretroviral therapy (ART) substantially decreases morbidity and mortality in people living with HIV. In this study, we describe population-level trends in the adult life expectancy and trends in the residual burden of HIV mortality after the roll-out of a public sector ART programme in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, one of the populations with the most severe HIV epidemics in the world.

Methods: Data come from the Africa Centre Demographic Information System (ACDIS), an observational community cohort study in the uMkhanyakude district in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We used non-parametric survival analysis methods to estimate gains in the population-wide life expectancy at age 15 years since the introduction of ART, and the shortfall of the population-wide adult life expectancy compared with that of the HIV-negative population (ie, the life expectancy deficit). Life expectancy gains and deficits were further disaggregated by age and cause of death with demographic decomposition methods.

Findings: Covering the calendar years 2001 through to 2014, we obtained information on 93 903 adults who jointly contribute 535 428 person-years of observation to the analyses and 9992 deaths. Since the roll-out of ART in 2004, adult life expectancy increased by 15.2 years for men (95% CI 12.4-17.8) and 17.2 years for women (14.5-20.2). Reductions in pulmonary tuberculosis and HIV-related mortality account for 79.7% of the total life expectancy gains in men (8.4 adult life-years), and 90.7% in women (12.8 adult life-years). For men, 9.5% is the result of a decline in external injuries. By 2014, the life expectancy deficit had decreased to 1.2 years for men (-2.9 to 5.8) and to 5.3 years for women (2.6-7.8). In 2011-14, pulmonary tuberculosis and HIV were responsible for 84.9% of the life expectancy deficit in men and 80.8% in women.

Interpretation: The burden of HIV on adult mortality in this population is rapidly shrinking, but remains large for women, despite their better engagement with HIV-care services. Gains in adult life-years lived as well as the present life expectancy deficit are almost exclusively due to differences in mortality attributed to HIV and pulmonary tuberculosis.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Health and demographic surveillance system (HDSS) sites allow for monitoring of population health through the collection of detailed data on tens of thousands of individuals. Such sites in countries with high HIV prevalence have played an important role in measuring the effects of large-scale programmes, such as the global roll-out of antiretroviral therapy (ART). The data presented in this paper, from the Africa Centre Demographic Information System (ACDIS) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, span 13 years (2001–14) and represent over 93 000 individuals living in an area with extremely high HIV prevalence (29% in adults aged 15–49 years in 2011). At least 15 000 of people studied were HIV-positive, of whom at least 2000 died. ART was first made available to people living with HIV (PLHIV) in this area in 2004.

Among adults aged 15–49 years, the authors report an overall reduction in death rate from 2001–14.  This translates into large increases in life expectancy (i.e., the expected number of years lived from age 15) of 15 and 17 years for men and women, respectively, between 2001 and 2014.  The changes in life expectancy are greater in people who were confirmed HIV-positive: 18 and 21 years for men and women, respectively, from 2007–14.  The large difference in life expectancies between the sexes that still exists (31 versus 44 years in HIV-positive men and women, respectively) are consistent with previously published estimates from Rwanda and Uganda. This study, however, illustrates that HIV-positive men are catching up to their HIV-negative counterparts faster than women are. The ‘deficit’ in 2014 - the gap in life expectancies between HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals, was 1.2 years in men but still 5.3 years in women.

The authors propose that increased access to ART is the primary driver of the gains in life expectancy seen in this cohort. To further support this, they include data from verbal autopsies (VAs), which suggest that reductions in deaths due to HIV and pulmonary tuberculosis were responsible for 80% and 90% of the increases in life expectancy in men and women, respectively. VAs have limitations, however, particularly in areas of high HIV prevalence, but the overall mortality patterns suggested by these findings are likely to be accurate, even if the precise estimates differ.

The dramatic increases in life expectancy, in only seven years, for HIV-positive individuals in this cohort add to the encouraging observations from other low- and middle-income countries that many people receiving ART can expect to live for nearly as long as HIV-negative individuals.  Of course, people with advanced disease starting ART are still at high risk of death and there remain considerable challenges in getting treatment to all people in need of it. 

South Africa
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Lies in clinical trials – the truth about data accuracy

Misreporting of product adherence in the MTN-003/VOICE trial for HIV prevention in Africa: participants' explanations for dishonesty.

Montgomery ET, Mensch B, Musara P, Hartmann M, Woeber K, Etima J, van der Straten. AIDS Behav. 2016 Nov 17. [Epub ahead of print]

Consistent over-reporting of product use limits researchers' ability to accurately measure adherence and estimate product efficacy in HIV prevention trials. While lying is a universal characteristic of the human condition, growing evidence of a stark discrepancy between self-reported product use and biologic or pharmacokinetic evidence demands examination of the reasons research participants frequently misrepresent product use in order to mitigate this challenge in future research. This study (VOICE-D) was an ancillary post-trial study of the vaginal and oral interventions to control the epidemic (VOICE) phase IIb trial (MTN 003). It was conducted in three African countries to elicit candid accounts from former VOICE trial participants about why actual product use was lower than reported. In total 171 participants were enrolled between December 2012 and March 2014 in South Africa (n = 47), Uganda (n = 59) and Zimbabwe (n = 65). Data suggested that participants understood the importance of daily product use and honest reporting, yet acknowledged that research participants typically lie. Participants cited multiple reasons for misreporting adherence, including human nature, self-presentation with study staff, fear of repercussions (study termination resulting in loss of benefits and experience of HIV-related stigma), a permissive environment in which it was easy to get away with misreporting, and avoiding inconvenient additional counseling. Some participants also reported mistrust of the staff and reciprocal dishonesty about the study products. Many suggested real-time blood-monitoring during trials would encourage greater fidelity to product use and honesty in reporting. Participants at all sites understood the importance of daily product use and honesty, while also acknowledging widespread misreporting of product use. Narratives of dishonesty may suggest a wider social context of hiding products from partners and distrust about research, influenced by rumors circulating in clinic waiting-rooms and surrounding communities. Prevailing power hierarchies between staff and participants may exacerbate misreporting. Participants recognized and suggested that objective, real-time feedback is needed to encourage honest reporting.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: The authors of this insightful paper set out the reasons women gave in a trial of vaginal and oral programmes for inaccurately reporting their behaviour during the trial.  The authors could conduct this study because biologic/pharmacokinetic data were available which showed evidence of product use. These data were shared with individual women. None of the reasons women gave for not telling the truth is surprising. They lied to avoid additional questioning from research staff.  They feared telling the truth would result in being removed from the trial. They feared beingreprimanded. Overall, not telling the truth about product use helped them save face and time. The findings do highlight the power difference between researchers and researched, something that is hard to avoid in many areas of research. This difference was exacerbated in some circumstances by the (reported) harsh behaviour of staff towards women. The ease with which women could manipulate pill counts or product use checks, by discarding unused product is also not surprising.  The perception by some women that the researchers had lied, because of changes in the trial part way through, is important to note. This highlights the importance of clear information when a trial is explained as it begins. It also points to the importance of continuous explanations and checking participant understanding. It cannot be assumed that there is a shared understanding between researcher and researched. This is something that is easily overlooked as a trial progresses and routine visits are established. The authors highlight the value of objective measures on product use.  They also observe that some participants suggested objective, real-time feedback, during trials.  However, the authors also note that for many women lying about aspects of their lives to partners and family, was a way of managing their lives. It could be that ‘real time feedback’ would act as a deterrent to participation for some in such circumstances.  No system of data collection is perfect.  It is, however, very useful to have a timely reminder that no interview data, however collected, can be assumed to be wholly accurate.    

South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe
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Improving ART adherence: what works?

Interventions to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.

Kanters S, Park JJ, Chan K, Socias ME, Ford N, Forrest JI, Thorlund K, Nachega JB, Mills EJ. Lancet HIV. 2017 Jan;4(1):e31-e40. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(16)30206-5. Epub 2016 Nov 16.

Background: High adherence to antiretroviral therapy is crucial to the success of HIV treatment. We evaluated comparative effectiveness of adherence interventions with the aim of informing the WHO's global guidance on interventions to increase adherence.

Methods: For this systematic review and network meta-analysis, we searched for randomised controlled trials of interventions that aimed to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy regimens in populations with HIV. We searched Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, and MEDLINE for reports published up to July 16, 2015, and searched major conference abstracts from Jan 1, 2013, to July 16, 2015. We extracted data from eligible studies for study characteristics, interventions, patients' characteristics at baseline, and outcomes for the study populations of interest. We used network meta-analyses to compare adherence and viral suppression for all study settings (global network) and for studies in low-income and middle-income countries only (LMIC network).

Findings: We obtained data from 85 trials with 16 271 participants. Short message service (SMS; text message) interventions were superior to standard of care in improving adherence in both the global network (odds ratio [OR] 1.48, 95% credible interval [CrI] 1.00-2.16) and in the LMIC network (1.49, 1.04-2.09). Multiple interventions showed generally superior adherence to single interventions, indicating additive effects. For viral suppression, only cognitive behavioural therapy (1.46, 1.05-2.12) and supporter interventions (1.28, 1.01-1.71) were superior to standard of care in the global network; none of the interventions improved viral response in the LMIC network. For the global network, the time discrepancy (whether the study outcome was measured during or after intervention was withdrawn) was an effect modifier for both adherence to antiretroviral therapy (coefficient estimate -0.43, 95% CrI -0.75 to -0.11) and viral suppression (-0.48; -0.84 to -0.12), suggesting that the effects of interventions wane over time.

Interpretation: Several interventions can improve adherence and viral suppression; generally, their estimated effects were modest and waned over time.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Maintaining adherence to self-administered medications is difficult. On average, people who are prescribed medications for chronic diseases take fewer than half the prescribed doses. Evidence suggests that in most settings adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is better than this, but there will always be people that struggle to maintain the high levels of adherence required for durable virologic suppression. In this analysis, there was some evidence that specific activities or combinations of activities improved virologic suppression. However, the effect sizes were small and when the analysis was confined to studies in low-income and middle-income countries, there was no evidence to suggest an effect on virologic suppression. Overall the evidence to support any particular activity or combination of activities was not compelling.     

Findings from this analysis have been incorporated into most recent consolidated ART guidelines from the World Health Organization. Trying to summarize complex evidence in this way creates many challenges. Trials were conducted in different populations. Some with all people starting ART, others with people considered to have high risk of suboptimal adherence, and others with people who already had adherence problems. The trials also naturally would have differed in content and quality of the usual package of care to support adherence (the comparator for most programme). 60% of the trials were conducted exclusively in the United States, while others were conducted across different settings.

These are just some of the things that make it difficult to synthesize this evidence into guidance that can be applicable to people living with HIV worldwide. HIV programmes in countries have to decide whether or not to adopt any of these activities that are recommended by WHO on the basis of relatively weak evidence. Would we expect activities aimed at improving adherence to be generalizable across different settings? One might argue probably not. Adherence is a multifactorial, dynamic process and there is unlikely to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting adherence. In the absence of better evidence for any specific activity, we should perhaps focus on improving the quality of the basic package of adherence support offered to all people receiving ART, while also developing better ways to identify when certain people might benefit from enhanced support.        

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Closing the HIV testing gap with partner-delivered self-testing

Promoting partner testing and couples testing through secondary distribution of HIV self-tests: a randomized clinical trial.

Masters SH, Agot K, Obonyo B, Napierala Mavedzenge S, Maman S, Thirumurthy H. PLoS Med. 2016 Nov 8;13(11):e1002166. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002166. eCollection 2016.

Background: Achieving higher rates of partner HIV testing and couples testing among pregnant and postpartum women in sub-Saharan Africa is essential for the success of combination HIV prevention, including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission. We aimed to determine whether providing multiple HIV self-tests to pregnant and postpartum women for secondary distribution is more effective at promoting partner testing and couples testing than conventional strategies based on invitations to clinic-based testing.

Methods and findings: We conducted a randomized trial in Kisumu, Kenya, between June 11, 2015, and January 15, 2016. Six hundred antenatal and postpartum women aged 18-39 y were randomized to an HIV self-testing (HIVST) group or a comparison group. Participants in the HIVST group were given two oral-fluid-based HIV test kits, instructed on how to use them, and encouraged to distribute a test kit to their male partner or use both kits for testing as a couple. Participants in the comparison group were given an invitation card for clinic-based HIV testing and encouraged to distribute the card to their male partner, a routine practice in many health clinics. The primary outcome was partner testing within 3 mo of enrollment. Among 570 participants analyzed, partner HIV testing was more likely in the HIVST group (90.8%, 258/284) than the comparison group (51.7%, 148/286; difference = 39.1%, 95% CI 32.4% to 45.8%, p < 0.001). Couples testing was also more likely in the HIVST group than the comparison group (75.4% versus 33.2%, difference = 42.1%, 95% CI 34.7% to 49.6%, p < 0.001). No participants reported intimate partner violence due to HIV testing. This study was limited by self-reported outcomes, a common limitation in many studies involving HIVST due to the private manner in which self-tests are meant to be used.

Conclusions: Provision of multiple HIV self-tests to women seeking antenatal and postpartum care was successful in promoting partner testing and couples testing. This approach warrants further consideration as countries develop HIVST policies and seek new ways to increase awareness of HIV status among men and promote couples testing.

Trial registration: NCT02386215.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Despite scale-up of HIV testing services, two in every five people living with HIV remain undiagnosed. World Health Organization (WHO) has just issued updated guidance on HIV testing services (HTS). In an effort to plug this testing gap, it strengthened the recommendation that HIV self-testing (HIVST) should be offered as one of the approaches to HTS. This paper adds to the body of evidence supporting that recommendation and provides more insight into the specific role of partner-delivered self-testing.     

There are challenges with conducting clinical trials of HIVST, one of which is selecting an appropriate outcome measure. In this trial, the primary outcome was participant report of male partner testing within three months of enrolment. Overall, uptake of male partner testing as reported by the participants was surprisingly high. It is worth noting that the participants and their partners may not have been particularly hard-to-reach groups. Almost all were married. The female participants were frequent testers. On average, they had tested three times in the past year. Most participants also reported that their male partner had tested at least once in the past year. It should also be noted that many women that were screened chose not to participate, so the participants may have to some extent pre-selected themselves as more interested and more likely to benefit from the activity.   

There were very few male partners reported as testing HIV positive during follow-up. This study was not able to determine how effectively people linked to care after HIVST. This is one of a number of research questions that remain around the delivery and impact of HIVST. Many of these are being addressed by the large HIV Self-Testing Africa (STAR) Project ( What seems to be beyond debate now though is that HIVST can and should play a role in helping us to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target.   

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Dolutegravir in the real world – more intolerance than first thought?

Intolerance of dolutegravir-containing combination antiretroviral therapy regimens in real-life clinical practice.

de Boer MG, van den Berk GE, van Holten N, Oryszcyn JE, Dorama W, Moha DA, Brinkman K. AIDS. 2016 Nov 28;30(18):2831-2834.

Objective: Dolutegravir (DGV) is one of the preferred antiretroviral agents in first-line combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Though considered to be a well tolerated drug, we aimed to determine the actual rate, timing and detailed motivation of stopping DGV in a real-life clinical setting.

Design: A cohort study including all patients who started DGV in two HIV treatment centers in The Netherlands.

Methods: All cART-naive and cART-experienced patients who had started DGV were identified from the institutional HIV databases. Clinical data, including motivation and timing of discontinuation of DGV, were extracted from the patient files. Factors that potentially influenced discontinuation of DGV were compared between patients who stopped or continued DGV by multivariate and Kaplan-Meier analyses.

Results: In total, 556 patients were included, of whom 102 (18.4%) were cART-naive at initiation of DGV. Median follow-up time was 225 days. Overall, in 85 patients (15.3%), DGV was stopped. In 76 patients (13.7%), this was due to intolerability. Insomnia and sleep disturbance (5.6%), gastrointestinal complaints (4.3%) and neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, psychosis and depression (4.3%) were the predominant reasons for switching DGV. In regimens that included abacavir, DGV was switched more frequently (adjusted relative risk 1.92, 95% confidence interval 1.09-3.38, P log-rank 0.01). No virologic failures were observed.

Conclusion: A relatively high rate of preliminary discontinuation of DGV due to intolerability was detected in our patient population. In particular, DGV was stopped more frequently if the regimen included abacavir. Multiple factors may explain these unexpected postmarketing observations, which warrant further investigation.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: The integrase inhibitor dolutegravir has been billed as a very important milestone in the treatment of HIV. Randomized controlled trials reported that not only was it a highly effective antiviral agent, but it also had a high barrier to resistance. Trial data also suggested an excellent safety profile. Trial participants experienced fewer side effects with dolutegravir use compared to many other drugs. For these reasons, dolutegravir is recommended as one of the preferred options for first-line treatment in European and United States treatment guidelines. In addition, it is increasingly becoming a key component in global efforts to expand access to HIV-positive people in low-income countries.

However, with increased use of dolutegravir beyond clinical trials, evidence is growing to suggest that the incidence of side effects is greater than trial data would predict. This study describes the two-year experience of a cohort spanning two medical centres in the Netherlands. It explores the rate and cause of discontinuation of dolutegravir-containing regimes in both antiretroviral therapy naïve and experienced individuals. Of 556 receiving a dolutegravir-containing regimen, just over 15% stopped its use over two years. Adverse effects were cited as the cause in a sizeable 13%. These rates of discontinuation are over five times higher than was reported from clinical trials. The predominant side effects were sleep disturbance and insomnia. Other reactions included gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, depression and general malaise. In terms of factors associated with increased risk of discontinuation, only the concomitant use of abacavir was identified.

These results do not detract from the importance of dolutegravir as an antiretroviral agent. Indeed, it is reassuring that in this cohort no virologic failure occurred as result of its discontinuation. The results instead highlight the need for caution concerning recommendations for dolutegravir as a universal first line agent until further data are accrued from real-world experience.

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Comparing different methods to measure HIV incidence in a sub-Saharan African population

Estimating HIV incidence using a cross-sectional survey: comparison of three approaches in a hyperendemic setting, Ndhiwa sub-county, Kenya, 2012.

Blaizot S, Kim AA, Zeh C, Riche B, Maman D, DeCock K, Etard JF, Ecochard R. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2016 Dec 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Objectives: Estimating HIV incidence is critical for identifying groups at risk for HIV infection, planning and targeting interventions, and evaluating these interventions over time. The use of reliable estimation methods for HIV incidence is thus of high importance. The aim of this study was to compare methods for estimating HIV incidence in a population-based cross-sectional survey.

Design/methods: The incidence estimation methods evaluated included assay-derived methods, a testing history-derived method, and a probability-based method applied to data from the Ndhiwa HIV Impact in Population Survey (NHIPS). Incidence rates by sex and age and cumulative incidence as a function of age were presented.

Results: HIV incidence ranged from 1.38 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.67-2.09] to 3.30 [95% CI 2.78-3.82] per 100 persons-years overall; 0.59 [95% CI 0.00-1.34] to 2.89 [95% CI 0.11-5.68] in men; and 1.62 [95% CI 0.16-6.04] to 4.03 [95% CI 3.30-4.77] per 100 persons-years in women. Women had higher incidence rates than men for all methods. Incidence rates were highest among women aged 15-24 and 25-34 years and highest among men aged 25-34 years.

Conclusion: Comparison of different methods showed variations in incidence estimates, but they were in agreement to identify most-at-risk groups. The use and comparison of several distinct approaches for estimating incidence are important to provide the best-supported estimate of HIV incidence in the population.

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Editor’s notes: The estimation of HIV incidence is important both for planning effective HIV prevention strategies, and also to provide a proximal measure of changes in HIV epidemics both in general populations and in higher risk sub-groups. Further development of methods for accurately measuring HIV incidence that can be applied in routine monitoring settings is necessary.

This study compares three assay-based incidence estimation methods with approaches using self-reported testing history and a probabilistic technique on age and sex stratified sero-prevalence data. Two of the assays, BioRad and Lag, use antibody markers and a recent infection testing algorithm (RITA). The BioRad assay allowed for a longer time window for detection post-infection than the Lag. Recent infections were reclassified using results from HIV viral load tests and self-reported ART use, as appropriate. The other assay detected trace levels of HIV RNA in HIV seronegative individuals. The results for the two RITA assays were very similar at 1.38 [95% CI 0.67 – 2.09] infections per 100 person years (PY) for the BioRad and 1.46 [95% CI 0.71 – 2.22] per 100 PY for Lag. Combining these with HIV-RNA results led to small increases in each incidence estimate. The results for the probability-based incidence assays were very close to those derived from the combination of the RITA and HIV-RNA assays. However, the testing history-derived approach estimated incidence as almost double that from the other methods and this is likely to be in large part due to reporting/recall bias.

Despite the limitations of the methods, it was possible to identify population sub-groups defined by age and sex at higher risk of HIV infection. 

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Moving from facility to community-based models of HIV care - will it work?

Community-based interventions to improve and sustain antiretroviral therapy adherence, retention in HIV care and clinical outcomes in low- and middle-income countries for achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets.

Nachega JB, Adetokunboh O, Uthman OA, Knowlton AW, Altice FL, Schechter M, Galarraga O, Geng E, Peltzer K, Chang LW, Van Cutsem G, Jaffar SS, Ford N, Mellins CA, Remien RH, Mills EJ. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2016 Oct;13(5):241-55. doi: 10.1007/s11904-016-0325-9.

Little is known about the effect of community versus health facility-based interventions to improve and sustain antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, virologic suppression, and retention in care among HIV-infected individuals in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We systematically searched four electronic databases for all available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and comparative cohort studies in LMICs comparing community versus health facility-based interventions. Relative risks (RRs) for pre-defined adherence, treatment engagement (linkage and retention in care), and relevant clinical outcomes were pooled using random effect models. Eleven cohort studies and eleven RCTs (N = 97 657) were included. Meta-analysis of the included RCTs comparing community- versus health facility-based interventions found comparable outcomes in terms of ART adherence (RR = 1.02, 95 % CI 0.99 to 1.04), virologic suppression (RR = 1.00, 95 % CI 0.98 to 1.03), and all-cause mortality (RR = 0.93, 95 % CI 0.73 to 1.18). The result of pooled analysis from the RCTs (RR = 1.03, 95 % CI 1.01 to 1.06) and cohort studies (RR = 1.09, 95 % CI 1.03 to 1.15) found that participants assigned to community-based interventions had statistically significantly higher rates of treatment engagement. Two studies found community-based ART delivery model either cost-saving or cost-effective. Community- versus facility-based models of ART delivery resulted in at least comparable outcomes for clinically stable HIV-infected patients on treatment in LMICs and are likely to be cost-effective.

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Editor’s notes: The remarkable global scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes, while much-needed and impressive, has had inevitable consequences. These include overcrowding of health facilities, longer waiting times, reduced time for counselling and care of newly-enrolled people and restricted capacity to provide support for people who do not remain engaged with care. Furthermore, the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target for 2020 to have 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of all diagnosed individuals receiving ART and 90% of people living with HIV on ART to be virally suppressed, will now require an additional 20 million people living with HIV to start treatment.

Community-based programmes to complement facility-based model of HIV care delivery are increasingly being recognised as an important and sustainable approach to address the growing numbers of people accessing care in high-HIV prevalence settings. This review compared outcomes of community-based versus facility-based models of ART delivery and treatment support. There was no statistical difference in optimal ART adherence, virologic suppression or all-cause mortality between participants assigned to community-based ART and facility-based ART in randomised controlled trials (RCTs). When data from RCTs and cohort studies were pooled, participants assigned to community-based ART appeared to have higher rates of retention in care at the end of the follow-up period. Notably, the few studies that did examine cost-effectiveness found community-based programmes to be cost-saving.

The findings demonstrate that community-level programmes are certainly not inferior to facility-based programmes. However, it is important to note some key limitations. Firstly, many of the studies are subject to selection bias, i.e. people at risk of poorer outcomes e.g. sicker people or people with a history of poor adherence may be excluded from receiving community-based programmes. The authors also highlight a high risk of “other forms of bias” in the cohort studies, but these are not specified. Secondly, adherence measures based on self-report may not be reliable. Thirdly, the review compared a heterogeneous set of programmes. Fourthly, as with other systematic reviews, publication bias is highly likely.   

Notwithstanding these limitations, this study suggests that community-based programmes have promise in supporting fragile and overcrowded facility-based healthcare systems in providing HIV care to a growing number of people. There may even be potential for integrating HIV care with care for other chronic conditions.

Well-designed studies are necessary, given the ambitious targets we have set ourselves, to explore the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of community-based programmes. This is particularly important in under-represented groups with disproportionately poor outcomes such as children, adolescents and pregnant women. Further, for community-based programmes to be effective, it will be critical to ensure that adequate training and mentorship and ongoing monitoring for quality assurance is in place.      

Africa, Asia, Latin America
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