Getting to 90-90-90 in China: where are the gaps?

Disparities in HIV care along the path from infection to viral suppression: a cross-sectional study of HIV/AIDS patient records in 2013, Shandong province, China.

Zhang N, Bussell S, Wang G, Zhu X, Yang X, Huang T, Qian Y, Tao X, Kang D, Wang N. Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Jul 1;63(1):115-21. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciw190. Epub 2016 Mar 29.

Background: The 90-90-90 targets recommended by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS require strengthening human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care, which includes diagnosis, linkage to and retention in care, assessment for treatment suitability, and optimization of HIV treatment. We sought to quantify patient engagement along the continuum, 10 years after introduction of Chinese HIV care policies.

Methods: We included patients from Shandong, China, who were diagnosed with HIV from 1992 to 2013. Records were obtained from the HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Response Information Management System to populate a 7-step HIV care continuum. Pearson chi2 test and multivariate logistic regression were used for analysis.

Results: Of 6500 estimated HIV-infected persons, 60.1% were diagnosed, of whom 41.9% received highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Only 59.6% of patients on HAART and 15% of all infected persons achieved viral suppression. Children infected by mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) and persons infected by intravenous drug use were less likely to be linked to and retained in care (odds ratio [OR], 0.33 [95% confidence interval {CI}, .14-.80] and OR, 0.58 [95% CI, .40-.90], respectively). Persons tested in custodial institutions were substantially less likely to be on HAART (OR, 0.22 [95% CI, .09-.59]) compared with those tested in medical facilities. Patients on HAART infected by homosexual or heterosexual transmission and those infected by MTCT were less likely to achieve viral suppression (OR, 0.18 [95% CI, .09-.34]; OR, 0.12 [95% CI, .06-.22]; OR, 0.07 [95% CI, .02-.20], respectively).

Conclusions: Our report suggests, at the current rate, Shandong Province has to accelerate HIV care efforts to close disparities in HIV care and achieve the 90-90-90 goals equitably.

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Editor’s notes: The UNAIDS treatment target set for 2020 aim for at least 90 percent of all people living with HIV to be diagnosed, at least 90 percent of people diagnosed to receive antiretroviral therapy, and for treatment to be effective and consistent enough in at least 90 percent of those people on treatment to suppress the virus. This would result in about 73% of all people living with HIV being virally suppressed.

This study estimated coverage of HIV diagnosis, antiretroviral treatment and viral suppression in Shandong Province in 2013, 10 years after the introduction of a Chinese HIV care policy.

The authors found that overall, only about 60% of people on ART and 15% of all people living with HIV achieved viral suppression (defined in this analysis as having a viral load of less than HIV RNA 50 copies per mL). This is in sharp contrast with recently published figures from Botswana where 97% of people on ART, and about 70% of persons living with HIV were virally suppressed (there defined as having a viral load of less than 400 copies per mL).

With only 15% of persons with HIV being virally suppressed in Shandong Province, a big gap remains for reaching the UNAIDS target of 73%. The authors demonstrate that despite a free, inclusive, nationwide HIV care policy, significant inequalities in HIV testing and treatment exist in Shandong Province. For example people who inject drugs and people in custodial institutions were much less likely to be initiated on ART.

The authors conclude that to achieve the 90-90-90 UNAIDS treatment target, Shandong Province needs to close these disparities in HIV care. 

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