• Challenges and successes in the implementation of option B+ to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in southern Swaziland.

      Etoori, D; Kerschberger, B; Staderini, N; Ndlangamandla, M; Nhlabatsi, B; Jobanputra, K; Mthethwa-Hleza, S; Parker, LA; Sibanda, S; Mabhena, E; et al. (BioMed Central, 2018-03-20)
      Background Universal antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all pregnant/ breastfeeding women living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), known as Prevention of mother-to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) Option B+ (PMTCTB+), is being scaled up in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the transition to PMTCTB+, many countries face challenges with proper implementation of the HIV care cascade. We aimed to describe the feasibility of a PMTCTB+ approach in the public health sector in Swaziland. Methods Lifelong ART was offered to a cohort of HIV+ pregnant women aged ≥16 years at the first antenatal care (ANC1) visit in 9 public sector facilities, between 01/2013 and 06/2014. The study enrolment period was divided into 3 phases (early: 01–06/2013, mid: 07–12/2013 and late: 01–06/2014) to account for temporal trends. Kaplan-Meier estimates and Cox proportional-hazards regression models were applied for ART initiation and attrition analyses. Results Of 665 HIV+ pregnant women, 496 (74.6%) initiated ART. ART initiation increased in later study enrolment phases (mid: aHR: 1.41; later: aHR: 2.36), and decreased at CD4 ≥ 500 (aHR: 0.69). 52.9% were retained in care at 24 months. Attrition was associated with ANC1 in the third trimester (aHR: 2.37), attending a secondary care facility (aHR: 1.98) and ART initiation during later enrolment phases (mid aHR: 1.48; late aHR: 1.67). Of 373 women eligible, 67.3% received a first VL. 223/251 (88.8%) were virologically suppressed (< 1000 copies/mL). Of 670 infants, 53.6% received an EID test, 320/359 had a test result recorded and of whom 7 (2.2%) were HIV+. Conclusions PMTCTB+ was found to be feasible in this setting, with high rates of maternal viral suppression and low transmission to the infant. High treatment attrition, poor follow-up of mother-baby pairs and under-utilisation of VL and EID testing are important programmatic challenges.
    • Feasibility of antiretroviral therapy initiation under the treat‐all policy under routine conditions: a prospective cohort study from Eswatini

      Kerschberger, B; Jobanputra, K; Schomaker, M; Kabore, SM; Teck, R; Mabhena, E; Lukhele, N; Rusch, B; Boulle, A; Ciglenecki, I (Wiley Open Access, 2019-10-24)
      Introduction The World Health Organization recommends the Treat‐All policy of immediate antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation, but questions persist about its feasibility in resource‐poor settings. We assessed the feasibility of Treat‐All compared with standard of care (SOC) under routine conditions. Methods This prospective cohort study from southern Eswatini followed adults from HIV care enrolment to ART initiation. Between October 2014 and March 2016, Treat‐All was offered in one health zone and SOC according to the CD4 350 and 500 cells/mm3 treatment eligibility thresholds in the neighbouring health zone, each of which comprised one secondary and eight primary care facilities. We used Kaplan–Meier estimates, multivariate flexible parametric survival models and standardized survival curves to compare ART initiation between the two interventions. Results Of the 1726 (57.3%) patients enrolled under Treat‐All and 1287 (42.7%) under SOC, cumulative three‐month ART initiation was higher under Treat‐All (91%) than SOC (74%; p < 0.001) with a median time to ART of 1 (IQR 0 to 14) and 10 (IQR 2 to 117) days respectively. Under Treat‐All, ART initiation was higher in pregnant women (vs. non‐pregnant women: adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 1.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.70 to 2.26), those with secondary education (vs. no formal education: aHR 1.48, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.95), and patients with an HIV‐positive diagnosis before care enrolment (aHR 1.22, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.36). ART initiation was lower in patients attending secondary care facilities (aHR 0.64, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.72) and for CD4 351 to 500 when compared with CD4 201 to 350 cells/mm3 (aHR 0.84, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.00). ART initiation varied over time for TB cases, with lower hazard during the first two weeks after HIV care enrolment and higher hazards thereafter. Of patients with advanced HIV disease (n = 1085; 36.0%), crude 3‐month ART initiation was similar in both interventions (91% to 92%) although Treat‐All initiated patients more quickly during the first month after HIV care enrolment. Conclusions ART initiation was high under Treat‐All and without evidence of de‐prioritization of patients with advanced HIV disease. Additional studies are needed to understand the long‐term impact of Treat‐All on patient outcomes.
    • Field suitability and diagnostic accuracy of the Biocentric open real-time PCR platform for plasma-based HIV viral load quantification in Swaziland

      Kerschberger, B; Mpala, Q; Uribe, PAD; Maphalala, G; de la Tour, R; Kalombola, S; Bekele, A; Chawinga, T; Mliba, M; Ntshalintshali, N; et al. (BMC, 2018-11-14)
      Viral load (VL) testing is being scaled up in resource-limited settings. However, not all commercially available VL testing methods have been evaluated under field conditions. This study is one of a few to evaluate the Biocentric platform for VL quantification in routine practice in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    • HIV programmatic outcomes following implementation of the 'Treat-All' policy in a public sector setting in Eswatini: a prospective cohort study

      Kerschberger, B; Schomaker, M; Jobanputra, K; Kabore, SM; Teck, R; Mabhena, E; Mthethwa-Hleza, S; Rusch, B; Ciglenecki, I; Boulle, A (Wiley, 2020-03-03)
      INTRODUCTION: The Treat-All policy - antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation irrespective of CD4 cell criteria - increases access to treatment. Many ART programmes, however, reported increasing attrition and viral failure during treatment expansion, questioning the programmatic feasibility of Treat-All in resource-limited settings. We aimed to describe and compare programmatic outcomes between Treat-All and standard of care (SOC) in the public sectors of Eswatini. METHODS: This is a prospective cohort study of ≥16-year-old HIV-positive patients initiated on first-line ART under Treat-All and SOC in 18 health facilities of the Shiselweni region, from October 2014 to March 2016. SOC followed the CD4 350 and 500 cells/mm3 treatment eligibility thresholds. Kaplan-Meier estimates were used to describe crude programmatic outcomes. Multivariate flexible parametric survival models were built to assess associations of time from ART initiation with the composite unfavourable outcome of all-cause attrition and viral failure. RESULTS: Of the 3170 patients, 1888 (59.6%) initiated ART under Treat-All at a median CD4 cell count of 329 (IQR 168 to 488) cells/mm3 compared with 292 (IQR 161 to 430) (p < 0.001) under SOC. Although crude programme retention at 36 months tended to be lower under Treat-All (71%) than SOC (75%) (p = 0.002), it was similar in covariate-adjusted analysis (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 1.06, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.23). The hazard of viral suppression was higher for Treat-All (aHR 1.12, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.23), while the hazard of viral failure was comparable (Treat-All: aHR 0.89, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.49). Among patients with advanced HIV disease (n = 1080), those under Treat-All (aHR 1.13, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.44) had a similar risk of an composite unfavourable outcome to SOC. Factors increasing the risk of the composite unfavourable outcome under both interventions were aged 16 to 24 years, being unmarried, anaemia, ART initiation on the same day as HIV care enrolment and CD4 ≤ 100 cells/mm3 . Under Treat-All only, the risk of the unfavourable outcome was higher for pregnant women, WHO III/IV clinical stage and elevated creatinine. CONCLUSIONS: Compared to SOC, Treat-All resulted in comparable retention, improved viral suppression and comparable composite outcomes of retention without viral failure.
    • Retention on ART and predictors of disengagement from care in several alternative community-centred ART refill models in rural Swaziland

      Pasipamire, L; Nesbitt, RC; Ndlovu, S; Sibanda, G; Mamba, S; Lukhele, N; Pasipamire, M; Kabore, SM; Rusch, B; Ciglenecki, I; et al. (Wiley, 2018-09-21)
      A broad range of community-centred care models for patients stable on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) have been proposed by the World Health Organization to better respond to patient needs and alleviate pressure on health systems caused by rapidly growing patient numbers. Where available, often a single alternative care model is offered in addition to routine clinical care. We operationalized several community-centred ART delivery care models in one public sector setting. Here, we compare retention in care and on ART and identify predictors of disengagement with care.
    • Successes and challenges in optimizing the viral load cascade to improve antiretroviral therapy adherence and rationalize second-line switches in Swaziland

      Etoori, D; Ciglenecki, I; Ndlangamandla, M; Edwards, CG; Jobanputra, K; Pasipamire, M; Maphalala, G; Yang, C; Zabsonre, I; Kabore, SM; et al. (Wiley Open Access, 2018-10-22)
      As antiretroviral therapy (ART) is scaled up, more patients become eligible for routine viral load (VL) monitoring, the most important tool for monitoring ART efficacy. For HIV programmes to become effective, leakages along the VL cascade need to be minimized and treatment switching needs to be optimized. However, many HIV programmes in resource-constrained settings report significant shortfalls.
    • Successful expansion of community-based drug-resistant TB care in rural Eswatini - a retrospective cohort study.

      Kerschberger, B; Telnov, A; Yano, N; Cox, H; Zabsonre, I; Kabore, SM; Vambe, D; Ngwenya, S; Rusch, B; Luce, TM; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019-08-07)
      OBJECTIVES: Provision of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) treatment is scarce in resource-limited settings. We assessed the feasibility of ambulatory DR-TB care for treatment expansion in rural Eswatini. METHODS: Retrospective patient-level data were used to evaluate ambulatory DR-TB treatment provision in rural Shiselweni (Eswatini), from 2008 to 2016. DR-TB care was either clinic-based led by nurses or community-based at the patient's home with involvement of community treatment supporters for provision of treatment to patients with difficulties in accessing facilities. We describe programmatic outcomes and used multivariate flexible parametric survival models to assess time to adverse outcomes. Both care models were costed in supplementary analyses. RESULTS: Of 698 patients initiated on DR-TB treatment, 57% were women and 84% were HIV-positive. Treatment initiations increased from 27 in 2008 to 127 in 2011 and decreased thereafter to 51 in 2016. Proportionally, community-based care increased from 19% in 2009 to 77% in 2016. Treatment success was higher for community-based care (79%) than clinic-based care (68%, P = 0.002). After adjustment for covariate factors among adults (n = 552), the risk of adverse outcomes (death, loss to follow-up, treatment failure) in community-based care was reduced by 41% (adjusted hazard ratio 0.59, 95% CI: 0.39-0.91). Findings were supported by sensitivity analyses. The care provider's per-patient costs for community-based (USD13 345) and clinic-based (USD12 990) care were similar. CONCLUSIONS: Ambulatory treatment outcomes were good, and community-based care achieved better treatment outcomes than clinic-based care at comparable costs. Contextualised DR-TB care programmes are feasible and can support treatment expansion in rural settings.