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  • 'Only twice a year': a qualitative exploration of 6-month antiretroviral treatment refills in adherence clubs for people living with HIV in Khayelitsha, South Africa

    Keene, CM; Zokufa, N; Venables, EC; Wilkinson, L; Hoffman, R; Cassidy, T; Snyman, L; Grimsrud, A; Voget, J; von der Heyden, E; et al. (BMJ, 2020-07-08)
    Objective Longer intervals between routine clinic visits and medication refills are part of patient-centred, differentiated service delivery (DSD). They have been shown to improve patient outcomes as well as optimise health services—vital as ‘universal test-and-treat’ targets increase numbers of HIV patients on antiretroviral treatment (ART). This qualitative study explored patient, healthcare worker and key informant experiences and perceptions of extending ART refills to 6 months in adherence clubs in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Design and setting In-depth interviews were conducted in isiXhosa with purposively selected patients and in English with healthcare workers and key informants. All transcripts were audio-recorded, transcribed and translated to English, manually coded and thematically analysed. The participants had been involved in a randomised controlled trial evaluating multi-month ART dispensing in adherence clubs, comparing 6-month and 2-month refills. Participants Twenty-three patients, seven healthcare workers and six key informants. Results Patients found that 6-month refills increased convenience and reduced unintended disclosure. Contrary to key informant concerns about patients’ responsibility to manage larger quantities of ART, patients receiving 6-month refills were highly motivated and did not face challenges transporting, storing or adhering to treatment. All participant groups suggested that strict eligibility criteria were necessary for patients to realise the benefits of extended dispensing intervals. Six-month refills were felt to increase health system efficiency, but there were concerns about whether the existing drug supply system could adapt to 6-month refills on a larger scale. Conclusions Patients, healthcare workers and key informants found 6-month refills within adherence clubs acceptable and beneficial, but concerns were raised about the reliability of the supply chain to manage extended multi-month dispensing. Stepwise, slow expansion could avoid overstressing supply and allow time for the health system to adapt, permitting 6-month ART refills to enhance current DSD options to be more efficient and patient-centred within current health system constraints.
  • Population-wide differentials in HIV service access and outcomes in the Western Cape for men as compared to women, South Africa: 2008 to 2018: a cohort analysis

    Osler, M; Cornell, M; Ford, N; Hilderbrand, K; Goemaere, E; Boulle, A (Wiley, 2020-06-26)
    Introduction Few studies have systematically described population‐level differences comparing men and women across the continuum of routine HIV care. This study quantifies differentials in HIV care, treatment and mortality outcomes for men and women over time in South Africa. Methods We analysed population‐wide linked anonymized data, including vital registration linkage, for the Western Cape Province, from the time of first CD4 count. Three antiretroviral therapy guideline eligibility periods were defined: 1 January 2008 to 31 July 2011 (CD4 cell count <200 cells/µL), 1 August 2011 to 31 December 2014 (<350 cells/µL), 1 January 2015 to 31 August 2016 (<500 cells/µL). We estimated care uptake based on service attendance, and modelled associations for men and women with ART initiation and overall, pre‐ART and ART mortality. Separate Cox proportional hazard models were built for each outcome and eligibility period, adjusted for tuberculosis, pregnancy, CD4 count and age. Results Adult men made up 49% of the population and constituted 37% of those living with HIV. In 2009, 46% of men living with HIV attended health services, rising to 67% by 2015 compared to 54% and 77% of women respectively. Men contributed <35% of all CD4 cell counts over 10 years and presented with more advanced disease (39% of all first presentation CD4 cell counts from men were <200 cells/µL compared to 25% in women). ART access was lower in men compared to women (AHR 0.79 (0.77 to 0.80) summarized for Period 2) over the entire study). Mortality was greater in men irrespective of ART (AHR 1.08 (1.01 to 1.16) Period 3) and after ART start (AHR 1.15 (1.05 to 1.20) Period 3) with mortality differences decreasing over time. Conclusions Compared to women, men presented with more advanced disease, were less likely to attend health care services annually, were less likely to initiate ART and had higher mortality overall and while receiving ART care. People living with HIV were more likely to initiate ART if they had acute reasons to access healthcare beyond HIV, such as being pregnant or being co‐infected with tuberculosis. Our findings point to missed opportunities for improving access to and outcomes from interventions for men along the entire HIV cascade.
  • Measuring linkage to HIV treatment services following HIV self-testing in low-income settings

    Choko, AT; Jamil, MS; MacPherson, P; Corbett, E; Chitembo, L; Ingold, H; Bermudez Aza, E; d'Elbee, M; DiCarlo, M; Majam, M; et al. (Wiley, 2020-06-24)
  • HIV epidemic and cascade of care in 12 east African rural fishing communities: results from a population-based survey in Uganda

    Burgos-Soto, J; Farhat, JB; Alley, I; Ojuka, P; Mulogo, E; Kise-Sete, T; Bouhenia, M; Salumu, L; Mathela, R; Langendorf, C; et al. (BMC, 2020-06-19)
    Background In East Africa, fishing communities are considered most-at-risk populations for the acquisition of HIV. We estimated HIV prevalence and assessed progress towards the UNAIDS 90–90-90 targets along the HIV treatment cascade in 12 fishing communities surrounding Lakes Edward and George, Uganda. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional household-based survey between September and November 2016. All adults between 15 and 69 years old were eligible to participate. Children below 15 years old were eligible for HIV testing if either parent was HIV-positive. Viral load testing was done for all HIV-infected individuals. Logistic regression models adjusted for sociodemographic-behavioral variables were used to assess the association between occupation and HIV positivity. Results Overall, 1738 adults (959 women, 779 men) and 148 children were included. Adult inclusion rate was 96.0%. Of the men, 58% reported to be fishermen. The HIV-prevalence among adults was 17.5% (95%CI: 15.8–19.4) and 6.1% (95%CI: 3.1–11.4) among HIV-exposed children. HIV prevalence was higher among women than among men (20.9% vs. 13.5%, p < 0.001). Among men, fishermen had a higher HIV prevalence (18.7%; 95%CI: 15.1–22.3) and a higher risk of being HIV-positive (aOR: 4.2; 95%CI: 2.0–9.1) than men of other occupations (p < 0.001). Progress towards the UNAIDS 90–90-90 targets was as follows: 86.5% (95%CI: 82.3–90.1%) of the HIV-positive participants were diagnosed, 98.7% (95%CI: 96.1–99.6%) of those aware were on antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 87.3% (95%CI: 82.3–91.0%) of those on ART were virally suppressed. Overall, 73% of all HIV-positive individuals were virally suppressed. Viral suppression was lower among individuals 15–24 years (45.5%) than among those 25–44 years (74.0%) and 45–69 years (85.0%), p < 0.001. Fishermen did not to have significant differences in the HIV cascade of care compared to men with other occupations. Conclusions HIV prevalence was high in these fishing communities, particularly among women and fishermen. Important progress has been made along the HIV treatment cascade, and the UNAIDS goal for viral suppression in population was achieved. However, gaps remain and HIV care strategies focusing on young people are urgently needed. HIV preventive interventions should target particularly women, young people and fishermen though HIV preventive and care services should remain available to the whole fishing communities.
  • Ambulatory management of pre- and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis patients with imipenem delivered through port-a-cath: A mixed methods study on treatment outcomes and challenges

    Chavan, VV; Dalal, A; Nagaraja, S; Thekkur, P; Mansoor, H; Meneguim, A; Paryani, R; Singh, P; Kalon, S; Das, M; et al. (Public Library of Science, 2020-06-16)
    Background Imipenem, an intravenous antibiotic is recommended for use in drug resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) when an effective regimen with combination of other second line drugs is not possible. Though the treatment success rates with carbapenems are promising, the twice daily injection of Imipenem usually requires patients to be hospitalized. The Médecins Sans Frontières independent clinic in Mumbai, India implemented ambulatory and home based management of patients receiving Imipenem through the use of port-a-cath. Objective We aimed to describe the adverse events and treatment outcomes of ambulatory pre- and XDR-TB patients initiated on imipenem through port-a-cath between January 2015 and June 2018 and to explore the challenges with this regimen as perceived by healthcare providers and patients. Methods A convergent mixed methods study with quantitative (longitudinal descriptive study using the routine data) and qualitative (descriptive study) part conducted concurrently. For the quantitative component, all XDR-TB and pre-XDR-TB initiated on imipenem containing regimen during January 2015-June 2018 were included. For qualitative component, interviews were carried out including patients who initiated on imipenem (n = 5) and healthcare providers (n = 7) involved in providing treatment. Treatment outcomes, culture conversion and adverse events during treatment were described. Thematic analysis was carried out for qualitative component. Results Of the 70 patients included, the mean age was 28.1 (standard deviation: 11.2) years and 36 (51.4%) were females. Fifty one (72.9%) had XDR-TB. All patients were resistant to fluoroquinilone, levofloxacin. Vomiting was reported by 55 (78.6%) patients and at least one episode of QTC prolongation (more than 500 msec by Fredrecia method) was detected in 25 (35.7%). Port-a-cath block and infection was seen in 11 (15.7%) and 20 (28.6%) patients respectively. Favourable outcomes were seen in 43 (61.4%) patients. Mortality was seen in 22 (31.4%) patients, 2 (2.9%) were lost-to-follow-up and 3 (4.3%) were declared as treatment failure. The overarching theme of the qualitative analysis was: Challenges in delivering Imipenem via port-a-cath device in ambulatory care. Major challenges identified were difficulties in adhering to drug dose timelines, vomiting, restricted mobility due to port-a-cath, paucity of infection control and space constraints at patients’ home for optimal care. Conclusion Administration of imipenem was feasible through port-a-cath. Though outcomes with ambulatory based imipenem containing regimens were promising, there were several challenges in providing care. The feasibility of infusion at day care facilities needs to explored to overcome challenges in infusion at patients home.
  • Framework for the implementation of advanced HIV disease diagnostics in sub-Saharan Africa: programmatic perspectives

    Ndlovu, Z; Burton, R; Stewart, R; Bygrave, H; Roberts, T; Fajardo, E; Mataka, A; Szumilin, E; Kerschberger, B; van Cutsem, G; et al. (Elsevier, 2020-05-27)
    Patients with advanced HIV disease have a high risk of mortality, mainly from tuberculosis and cryptococcal meningitis. The advanced HIV disease management package recommended by WHO, which includes diagnostics, therapeutics, and patient psychosocial support, is barely implemented in many different countries. Here, we present a framework for the implementation of advanced HIV disease diagnostics. Laboratory and point-of-care-based reflex testing, coupled with provider-initiated requested testing, for cryptococcal antigen and urinary Mycobacterium tuberculosis lipoarabinomannan antigen, should be done for all patients with CD4+ cell counts of 200 cells per μL or less. Implementation of the advanced HIV disease package should be encouraged within primary health-care facilities and task shifting of testing to lay cadres could facilitate access to rapid results. Implementation of differentiated antiretroviral therapy delivery models can allow clinicians enough time to focus on the management of patients with advanced HIV disease. Efficient up-referral and post-discharge systems, including the development of patient-centric advanced HIV disease literacy, are also crucial. Implementation of the advanced HIV disease package is feasible at all health-care levels, and it should be part of the core of the global response towards ending AIDS as a public health threat.
  • Long-term virologic responses to antiretroviral therapy among HIV-positive patients entering adherence clubs in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa: a longitudinal analysis

    Kehoe, K; Boulle, A; Tsondai, PR; Euvrard, J; Davies, MA; Cornell, M (Wiley, 2020-05-14)
    Introduction In South Africa, an estimated 4.6 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2018. As universal Test and Treat is implemented, these numbers will continue to increase. Given the need for lifelong care for millions of individuals, differentiated service delivery models for ART services such as adherence clubs (ACs) for stable patients are required. In this study, we describe long‐term virologic outcomes of patients who have ever entered ACs in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Methods We included adult patients enrolled in ACs in Khayelitsha between January 2011 and December 2016 with a recorded viral load (VL) before enrolment. Risk factors for an elevated VL (VL >1000 copies/mL) and confirmed virologic failure (two consecutive VLs >1000 copies/mL one year apart) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models. VL completeness over time was assessed. Results Overall, 8058 patients were included in the analysis, contributing 16,047 person‐years of follow‐up from AC entry (median follow‐up time 1.7 years, interquartile range [IQR]:0.9 to 2.9). At AC entry, 74% were female, 46% were aged between 35 and 44 years, and the median duration on ART was 4.8 years (IQR: 3.0 to 7.2). Among patients virologically suppressed at AC entry (n = 8058), 7136 (89%) had a subsequent VL test, of which 441 (6%) experienced an elevated VL (median time from AC entry 363 days, IQR: 170 to 728). Older age (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 0.64, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.46 to 0.88), more recent year of AC entry (aHR 0.76, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.84) and higher CD4 count (aHR 0.67, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.84) were protective against experiencing an elevated VL. Among patients with an elevated VL, 52% (150/291) with a repeat VL test subsequently experienced confirmed virologic failure in a median time of 112 days (IQR: 56 to 168). Frequency of VL testing was constant over time (82 to 85%), with over 90% of patients remaining virologically suppressed. Conclusions This study demonstrates low prevalence of elevated VLs and confirmed virologic failure among patients who entered ACs. Although ACs were expanded rapidly, most patients were well monitored and remained stable, supporting the continued rollout of this model.
  • The Enduring Burden of Advanced Human Immunodeficiency Virus Disease

    Ford, N; Goemaere, E; Hildebrand, K; Perez-Casas, C (Oxford University Press, 2020-05-05)
  • Routine viral load monitoring and enhanced adherence counselling at a public ART centre in Mumbai, India

    Laxmeshwar, C; Acharya, S; Das, M; Keskar, P; Pazare, A; Ingole, N; Mehta, P; Gori, P; Mansoor, H; Kalon, S; et al. (Public Library of Science, 2020-05-05)
    Background Routine viral-load (VL) measurements along with enhanced adherence counselling (EAC) are recommended to achieve virological suppression among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) on anti-retroviral therapy (ART). The Mumbai Districts AIDS Control Society along with Médecins Sans Frontières has provided routine VL measurements and EAC to PLHA on ART at King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital, Mumbai since October-2016. This study aims to describe the initial VL results and impact of EAC on viral suppression and factors associated with initial viral non-suppression among patients with an initial detectable VL, in a cohort of patients tested between October-2016 and September-2018. Methods This is a descriptive study of PLHA on ART who received VL testing and EAC during October-2016 to September-2018. Log-binomial regression was used to identify factors associated with a high VL. Results Among 3849 PLHA who underwent VL testing, 1603(42%) were female and median age was 42 years (IQR:35–48). Majority were referred for routine testing (3432(89%)) and clinical/immunological failure (233(6%)). Overall, 3402(88%) PLHA had suppressed VL at initial testing. Among 3432 tested for routine monitoring, 3141(92%) had VL suppressed. Of 291 with VL>1000c/ml, 253(87%) received EAC and after repeat VL, 70(28%) had VL<1000c/ml. Among 233 referred for clinical/immunological failure, 122(52%) had VL>1000c/ml and 109 have been switched to second-line ART. CD4 count<500 (aOR-5.0[95%CI 3.8–6.5]), on ART for<5 years (aOR-1.5[1.1–2.0]) and age<15 years (aOR-5.2[3.0–8.9]) were associated with an initial VL>1000c/ml. Factors associated with follow-up VL suppression included EAC (p<0.05) and being on second-line ART (p<0.05). Conclusion Results from a routine VL program in public sector in India were encouraging and in line with UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. Routine VL monitoring along with EAC resulted in early switch to alternative optimised regimens while also preventing unnecessary switches. Along with the vital scale up of routine VL monitoring, implementation of enhanced adherence strategies for patients with detectable viral load should be ensured.
  • Diagnostic performance and usability of the VISITECT CD4 semi-quantitative test for advanced HIV disease screening

    Ndlovu, Z; Massaquoi, L; Bangwen, NE; Batumba, JN; Bora, RU; Mbuaya, J; Nzadi, R; Ntabugi, N; Kisaka, P; Manciya, G; et al. (Public Library of Science, 2020-04-03)
    BACKGROUND: In sub-Saharan Africa, a third of people starting antiretroviral therapy and majority of patients returning to HIV-care after disengagement, present with advanced HIV disease (ADH), and are at high risk of mortality. Simplified and more affordable point-of-care (POC) diagnostics are required to increase access to prompt CD4 cell count screening for ambulatory and asymptomatic patients. The Visitect CD4 Lateral Flow Assay (LFA) is a disposable POC test, providing a visually interpreted result of above or below 200 CD4cells/mm3. This study evaluated the diagnostic performance of this index test. METHODS: Consenting patients above 18years of age and eligible for CD4 testing were enrolled in Nsanje district hospital (Malawi), Gutu mission hospital (Zimbabwe) and Centre hopitalier de Kabinda (DRC). A total of 708 venous blood samples were tested in the index test and in the BD FACSCount assay (reference test method) in the laboratories (Phase 1) to determine diagnostic accuracy. A total of 433 finger-prick (FP) samples were tested on the index test at POC by clinicians (Phase 2) and a self-completed questionnaire was administered to all testers to explore usability of the index test. RESULTS: Among 708 patients, 67.2% were female and median CD4 was 297cells/mm3. The sensitivity of the Visitect CD4 LFA using venous blood in the laboratory was 95.0% [95% CI: 91.3-97.5] and specificity was 81.9% [95% CI: 78.2-85.2%]. Using FP samples, the sensitivity of the Visitect CD4 LFA was 98.3% [95% CI: 95.0-99.6] and specificity was 77.2% [95% CI: 71.6-82.2%]. Usability of the Visitect CD4 LFA was high across the study sites with 97% successfully completed tests. Due to the required specific multiple incubation and procedural steps during the Visitect CD4 LFA testing, few health workers (7/26) were not confident to manage testing whilst multi-tasking in their clinical work. CONCLUSIONS: Visitect CD4 LFA is a promising test for decentralized CD4 screening in resource-limited settings, without access to CD4 testing and and it can trigger prompt management of patients with AHD. Lay health cadres should be considered to conduct Visitect CD4 LFA testing in PHCs as well as coordinating all other POC quality assurance.
  • Implementation of community and facility-based HIV self-testing under routine conditions in southern Eswatini

    Pasipamire, L; Nesbitt, R; Dube, L; Mabena, E; Nzima, M; Dlamini, M; Rugongo, N; Maphalala, N; Obulutsa, TA; Ciglenecki, I; et al. (Wiley, 2020-03-27)
    OBJECTIVES: WHO recommends HIV self-testing (HIVST) as an additional approach to HIV testing services. The study describes the strategies used during phase-in of HIVST under routine conditions in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). METHODS: Between May 2017 and January 2018, assisted and unassisted oral HIVST was offered at HIV testing services (HTS) sites to people aged ≥ 16 years. Additional support tools were available, including a telephone hotline answered 24/7, HIVST demonstration videos and printed educational information about HIV prevention and care services. Demographic characteristics of HIVST users were described and compared with standard blood-based HTS in the community. HIVST results were monitored with follow-up phone calls and the hotline. RESULTS: During the 9-month period, 1895 people accessed HIVST and 2415 HIVST kits were distributed. More people accessed HIVST kits in the community (n = 1365, 72.0%) than at health facilities (n = 530, 28.0%). The proportion of males and median age among those accessing HIVST and standard HTS in the community were similar (49.3%, 29 years HIVST vs. 48.7%, 27 years standard HTS). In total, 34 (3.9%) reactive results were reported from 938 people with known HIVST results; 32.4% were males, and median age was 30 years (interquartile range 25-36). Twenty-one (62%) patients were known to have received confirmatory blood-based HTS; of these, 20 (95%) had concordant reactive results and 19 (95%) were linked to HIV care at a clinic. CONCLUSION: Integration of HIVST into existing HIV facility- and community-based testing strategies in Eswatini was found to be feasible, and HIVST has been adopted by national testing bodies in Eswatini.
  • Knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards people with HIV and AIDS among private higher education students in Johannesburg, South Africa

    Khamisa, N; Mokgobi, M; Basera, T (Health and Medical Publishing Group, 2020-03-24)
    Background Human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV and AIDS) is a global health and social problem, with South Africa having an estimated overall prevalence rate of 13.5%. Compared to young male participants, young female participants have been reported to have less knowledge about HIV and AIDS, including prevention strategies, and this is associated with risky sexual behaviours and negative attitudes towards condom use. Objectives The study investigated gender differences in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards HIV and AIDS among 542 private higher education students in Johannesburg, South Africa. Method Participants completed an online structured questionnaire measuring knowledge, attitudes and behaviours as well as demographics (including age, gender and relationship status). Results The results indicate that overall there were no significant differences between male and female students in terms of HIV and AIDS knowledge. However, female students had significantly less knowledge with regard to unprotected anal sex as a risk factor for HIV and AIDS. In addition, young female students reported condom use at last sex less frequently than male students. Nonetheless, both genders reported a positive attitude towards condom use and towards people living with HIV and AIDS. Conclusion It is recommended that the relevant authorities at the state and the higher education level seriously consider implementing specific strategies for preventing HIV and AIDS through improved knowledge, attitudes and behaviours among young females.
  • Retention and sustained viral suppression in HIV patients transferred to community refill centres in Kinshasa, DRC

    Moudachirou, R; van Cutsem, G; Chuy, RI; Tweya, H; Senkoro, M; Mabhala, M; Zolfo, M (International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, 2020-03-21)
    Setting: In 2010, Médecins Sans Frontières set up decentralised community antiretroviral therapy (ART) refill centres ("poste de distribution communautaire", PODI) for the follow-up of stable human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients. Objective: To assess retention in care and sustained viral suppression after transfer to three main PODI in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (PODI Barumbu/Central, PODI Binza Ozone/West and PODI Masina I/East). Design: Retrospective cohort study using routine programme data for adult HIV patients transferred from Kabinda Hospital to PODIs between January 2015 and June 2017. Results: A total of 337 patients were transferred to PODIs: 306 (91%) were on ART for at least 12 months; 118 (39%) had a routine "12-month" viral load (VL) done, 93% (n = 110) of whom had a suppressed VL <1000 copies/ml. Median time from enrolment into PODI to 12-month routine VL was 14.6 months (IQR 12.2-20.8). Kaplan-Meier estimates of retention in care at 6, 12 and 18 months after enrolment into PODIs were respectively 96%, 92% and 88%. Conclusion: Retention in care and viral suppression among patients in PODI with VL results were better than patients in clinic care and national outcomes.
  • High levels of viral repression, malnutrition and second-line ART use in adolescents living with HIV: a mixed methods study from Myanmar

    Murray, J; Whitehouse, K; Ousley, J; Bermudez, E; Soe, TT; Hilbig, A; Soe, KP; Mon, PE; Tun, KT; Ei, WLSS; et al. (BioMed Central, 2020-03-20)
    BACKGROUND: Adolescents living with HIV/AIDS (ALHIV) are a particularly vulnerable but often overlooked group in the HIV response despite additional disease management challenges. METHODS: All ALHIV (10-19 years), on ART for ≥6 months, presenting to care at a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic in Myanmar from January-April 2016 were eligible for the quantitative study component (clinical history, medical examination, laboratory investigation). A subset of these respondents were invited to participate in qualitative interviews. Interviews and focus groups were also conducted with other key informants (care givers, clinicians). RESULTS: Of 177 ALHIV, 56% (100) were aged 9-13 years and 77 (44%) were 14-19. 49% (86) had been orphaned by one parent, and 19% (33) by both. 59% (104) were severely underweight (BMI < 16). 47% presented with advanced HIV (WHO stage III/IV). 93% were virally supressed (< 250 copies/mL). 38 (21%) of ALHIV were on a second-line ART after first-line virological failure. Qualitative interviewing highlighted factors limiting adherence and the central role that HIV counsellors play for both ALHIV patients and caregivers. CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows good clinical, immunological, and virological outcomes for a cohort of Myanmar adolescents living with HIV, despite a majority being severely underweight, presenting with Stage III or IV illness, and the prevalence of comorbid infections (TB). Many treatment and adherence challenges were articulated in qualitative interviewing but emphasized the importance of actively engaging adolescents in their treatment. Comprehensive HIV care for this population must include routine viral load testing and social support programs.
  • 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.
  • "We give them threatening advice…": expectations of adherence to antiretroviral therapy and their consequences among adolescents living with HIV in rural Malawi

    Burns, R; Magalasi, D; Blasco, P; Szumilin, E; Pasquier, E; Schramm, B; Wringe, A (Wiley, 2020-03-02)
    Introduction Many adolescents living with HIV in sub‐Saharan Africa struggle to achieve optimal adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART), but few studies have investigated how their treatment‐taking decisions are influenced by their social interactions with providers, caregivers and community leaders. This study aims to explore the narratives that define expectations of adherence to ART among adolescents living with HIV in a rural Malawian setting. Methods Overall, 45 in‐depth interviews were conducted in 2016 with adolescents living with HIV, caregivers, health workers and community leaders, and four group sessions using participatory tools were undertaken with adolescents. Interviews and group sessions were audio‐recorded, transcribed and translated into English. Data were coded inductively and analysed thematically. Results Adolescents were given strict behavioural codes around optimal treatment adherence, which were often enforced through encouragement, persuasian and threats. In HIV clinics, some staff supported adolescents with broader concerns relating to living with HIV, but other measures to address sub‐optimal adherence in HIV clinics were perceived by patients as punitive, including pill‐counts and increased frequency of clinic visits. Community leaders felt responsible for young peoples' health, sometimes attempting to influence their treatment‐taking by threatening to withdraw services, or to publically “out” those deemed to be non‐adherent. At home, discussions with adolescents about HIV were often limited to dose reminders, and some caretakers resorted to physical punishment to ensure adherence. While some adolescents complied with strictly‐enforced adherence rules, others demonstrated resistance by hiding missed doses, secretly throwing away drugs, or openly refusing to take them. Conclusions The potential of young people to adhere to their ART may be undermined by restrictive messages and punitive approaches to enforce and control their engagement with treatment at home, in the clinic and in the wider community. Interventions should focus on creating safe spaces for adolescents to speak frankly about the adherence challenges that they face and support for caregivers including home‐based interventions.
  • Dissonance of Choice: Biomedical and Lived Perspectives on HIV Treatment-Taking

    Horter, S; Seeley, J; Bernays, S; Kerschberger, B; Lukhele, N; Wringe, A (Taylor & Francis, 2020-02-20)
    Treat-all recommends prompt treatment initiation for those diagnosed HIV positive, requiring adaptations to individuals' behavior and practice. Drawing on data from a longitudinal qualitative study in Eswatini, we examine the choice to initiate treatment when asymptomatic, the dissonance between the biomedical logic surrounding Treat-all and individuals' conceptions of treatment necessity, and the navigation over time of ongoing engagement with care. We reflect on the perspectives of healthcare workers, responsible for implementing Treat-all and holding a duty of care for their patients. We explore how the potentially differing needs and priorities of individuals and the public health agenda are navigated and reconciled. Rationalities regarding treatment-taking extend beyond the biomedical realm, requiring adjustments to sense of self and identity, and decision-making that is situated and socially embedded. Sense of choice and ownership for this process is important for individuals' engagement with treatment and care.
  • Emerging priorities for HIV service delivery

    Ford, N; Geng, E; Ellman, T; Orrell, C; Ehrenkranz, P; Sikazwe, I; Jahn, A; Rabkin, M; Ayisi Addo, S; Grimsrud, A; et al. (Public Library of Science, 2020-02-14)
    Nathan Ford and co-authors discuss global priorities in the provision of HIV prevention and treatment services.
  • Tailored HIV programmes and universal health coverage

    Holmes, CB; Rabkin, M; Ford, N; Preko, P; Rosen, S; Ellman, T; Ehrenkranz, P (World Health Organization, 2020-02-01)
    Improvements in geospatial health data and tailored human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing, prevention and treatment have led to greater microtargeting of the HIV response, based on location, risk, clinical status and disease burden. These approaches show promise for achieving control of the HIV epidemic. At the same time, United Nations Member States have committed to achieving broader health and development goals by 2030, including universal health coverage (UHC). HIV epidemic control will facilitate UHC by averting the need to commit ever-increasing resources to HIV services. Yet an overly targeted HIV response could also distort health systems, impede integration and potentially threaten broader health goals. We discuss current approaches to achieving both UHC and HIV epidemic control, noting potential areas of friction between disease-specific microtargeting and integrated health systems, and highlighting opportunities for convergence that could enhance both initiatives. Examples of these programmatic elements that could be better aligned include: improved information systems with unique identifiers to track and monitor individuals across health services and the life course; strengthened subnational data use; more accountable supply chains that supply a broad range of services; and strengthened community-based services and workforces. We argue that the response both to HIV and to broader health threats should use these areas of convergence to increase health systems efficiency and mitigate the harm of any potential decrease in health funding. Further investments in implementation and monitoring of these programme elements will be needed to make progress towards both UHC and HIV epidemic control.
  • HIV viral load algorithm

    Shroufi, A; van Cutsem, G; Phillips, A; Maman, D; Murphy, R; Duncan, K; Cambiano, V; Bansi-Matharu, L (Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health), 2020-01)
    Letter to the Editor | No Abstract

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