• Antiretroviral therapy for HIV prevention: many concerns and challenges, but are there ways forward in sub-Saharan Africa?

      Zachariah, R; Harries, A D; Philips, M; Arnould, L; Sabapathy, K; O'Brien, D P; Ferreyra, C; Balkan, S; Médecins Sans Frontières, Medical Department (Operational Research), Brussels Operational Centre, Belgium. (2010-01-28)
      Scientists from the WHO have presented a theoretical mathematical model of the potential impact of universal voluntary HIV testing and counselling followed by immediate antiretroviral therapy (ART). The results of the model suggests that, in a generalised epidemic as severe as that in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), HIV incidence may be reduced by 95% in 10 years and that this approach may be cost effective in the medium term. This offers a 'ray of hope' to those who have thus far only dreamed of curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in SSA, as until now the glaring truth has been pessimistic. When it comes to ART, approximately 7 of 10 people who clinically need ART still do not receive it. From an epidemic point of view, for every person placed on ART an estimated four to six others acquire HIV. The likelihood of achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 and universal ART access by 2010 are thus extremely low. A new window of opportunity may have now opened, but there are many unanswered feasibility and acceptability issues. In this paper, we highlight four key operational challenges linked to acceptability and feasibility and discuss possible ways forward to address them.
    • Baseline characteristics, response to and outcome of antiretroviral therapy among patients with HIV-1, HIV-2 and dual infection in Burkina Faso.

      Harries, Katie; Zachariah, Rony; Manzi, Marcel; Firmenich, Peter; Mathela, Richard; Drabo, Joseph; Onadja, G; Arnould, Line; Harries, A D; Médecins Sans Frontières, Medical Department (Operational Research), Brussels Operational Center, 68 Rue de Gasperich, L-1617, Luxembourg. (2009-09-22)
      In an urban district hospital in Burkina Faso we investigated the relative proportions of HIV-1, HIV-2 and HIV-1/2 among those tested, the baseline sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, and the response to and outcome of antiretroviral therapy (ART). A total of 7368 individuals (male=32%; median age=34 years) were included in the analysis over a 6 year period (2002-2008). The proportions of HIV-1, HIV-2 and dual infection were 94%, 2.5% and 3.6%, respectively. HIV-1-infected individuals were younger, whereas HIV-2-infected individuals were more likely to be male, have higher CD4 counts and be asymptomatic on presentation. ART was started in 4255 adult patients who were followed up for a total of 8679 person-years, during which time 469 deaths occurred. Mortality differences by serotype were not statistically significant, but were generally worse for HIV-2 and HIV-1/2 after controlling for age, CD4 count and WHO stage. Among severely immune-deficient patients, mortality was higher for HIV-2 than HIV-1. CD4 count recovery was poorest for HIV-2. HIV-2 and dually infected patients appeared to do less well on ART than HIV-1 patients. Reasons may include differences in age at baseline, lower intrinsic immune recovery in HIV-2, use of ineffective ART regimens (inappropriate prescribing) by clinicians, and poor drug adherence.
    • Community support is associated with better antiretroviral treatment outcomes in a resource-limited rural district in Malawi.

      Zachariah, R; Teck, R; Buhendwa, L; Fitzgerald, M; Labana, S; Chinji, C; Humblet, P; Harries, A D; Médecins Sans Frontières, Medical Department (Operational Research), Brussels Operational Center, 68 Rue de Gasperich, L-1617, Luxembourg, Belgium. zachariah@internet.lu (Elsevier, 2007-01)
      A study was carried in a rural district in Malawi among HIV-positive individuals placed on antiretroviral treatment (ART) in order to verify if community support influences ART outcomes. Standardized ART outcomes in areas of the district with and without community support were compared. Between April 2003 (when ART was started) and December 2004 a total of 1634 individuals had been placed on ART. Eight hundred and ninety-five (55%) individuals were offered community support, while 739 received no such support. For all patients placed on ART with and without community support, those who were alive and continuing ART were 96 and 76%, respectively (P<0.001); death was 3.5 and 15.5% (P<0.001); loss to follow-up was 0.1 and 5.2% (P<0.001); and stopped ART was 0.8 and 3.3% (P<0.001). The relative risks (with 95% CI) for alive and on ART [1.26 (1.21-1.32)], death [0.22 (0.15-0.33)], loss to follow-up [0.02 (0-0.12)] and stopped ART [0.23 (0.08-0.54)] were all significantly better in those offered community support (P<0.001). Community support is associated with a considerably lower death rate and better overall ART outcomes. The community might be an unrecognized and largely 'unexploited resource' that could play an important contributory role in countries desperately trying to scale up ART with limited resources.
    • Dried blood spots are a useful tool for quality assurance of rapid HIV testing in Kigali, Rwanda.

      Chaillet, P; Zachariah, R; Harries, K; Rusanganwa, E; Harries, A D; Médecins sans Frontières, Medical Department, Brussels Operational Center, Belgium. (Published by Elsevier, 2009-06)
      A study was conducted in two primary health facilities in Kigali, Rwanda, to determine whether dried blood spots (DBS) used for quality control of HIV testing would give comparable results with serum after being stored for a period of 14 days and 30 days at ambient temperature. DBS and serum specimens were collected from patients undergoing HIV testing. ELISA performed on serum at baseline (gold standard) was compared with DBS results. The study included a total of 491 patients, comprising 92 (19%) males and 399 (81%) females with a median age of 27 years. A total of 148 individuals (30%) were HIV-positive. The average ambient temperature under which DBS specimens were stored at the health facilities was 23 degrees C (range 18-25 degrees C). The kappa statistic at 14 days and 30 days was 0.99 (99.4% agreement) and 0.98 (99.2% agreement), respectively, signifying almost 'perfect agreement (P<0.001)' with the gold standard. In a resource-limited sub-Saharan African country embarking on scaling-up of HIV testing, DBS stored at ambient conditions for up to 1 month were found to be a useful and robust tool to perform quality control of rapid HIV testing at the health centre level.
    • High prevalence of lipoatrophy among patients on stavudine-containing first-line antiretroviral therapy regimens in Rwanda.

      van Griensven, J; De Naeyer, L; Mushi, T; Ubarijoro, S; Gashumba, D; Gazille, C; Zachariah, R; Médecins Sans Frontières, Kimihurura, Kacyiru, 1361 Kigali, Rwanda. jvgrie@yahoo.com <jvgrie@yahoo.com> (Elsevier, 2007-08)
      This study was conducted among individuals placed on WHO-recommended first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) at two urban health centres in Kigali, Rwanda, in order to determine (a) the overall prevalence of lipodystrophy and (b) the risk factors for lipoatropy. Consecutive individuals on ART for >1 year were systematically subjected to a standardised case definition-based questionnaire and clinical assessment. Of a total of 409 individuals, 370 (90%) were on an ART regimen containing stavudine (d4T), whilst the rest were receiving a zidovudine (AZT)-containing regimen. Lipodystrophy was apparent in 140 individuals (34%), of whom 40 (9.8%) had isolated lipoatrophy, 20 (4.9%) had isolated lipohypertrophy and 80 (19.6%) had mixed patterns. Fifty-six percent of patients reported the effects as disturbing. The prevalence of lipoatrophy was more than three times higher when taking d4T compared with AZT-containing regimens (31.4% vs. 10.3%). Being female, d4T-based ART, baseline body mass index >or=25 kg/m(2) or baseline CD4 count >or=150 cells/microl and increasing duration of ART were all significantly associated with lipoatrophy. Lipoatrophy appears to be an important long-term complication of WHO-recommended first-line ART regimens. These data highlight the urgent need for access to more affordable and less toxic ART regimens in resource-limited settings.
    • HIV-1 viral load monitoring: an opportunity to reinforce treatment adherence in a resource-limited setting in Thailand.

      Wilson, D; Keiluhu, A K; Kogrum, S; Reid, T; Seriratana, N; Ford, N; KyawKyaw, M K; Talangsri, P; Taochalee, N; Médecins Sans Frontières, 28/36 Chokchai 4 Road, Ladphrao, Bangkok 10230, Thailand. (2008-12-23)
      This paper describes a program to increase patients' treatment literacy regarding viral load (VL) monitoring through patient education materials and a counseling protocol, implemented by peer counselors, in order to reinforce adherence to first-line treatment. VL monitoring and second-line antiretroviral treatment were introduced into an established first-line treatment program in a rural district hospital in Thailand. All patients (171 adults and 14 children) taking antiretroviral treatment for more than 6 months participated and those with detectable VL were targeted for additional adherence support. The main outcome measure recorded was the number of detectable results becoming undetectable after counseling. Four adults and one child had a persistently high VL and switched to second-line treatment. Of 51 adults (30%) with an initial low detectable VL, 47/51 identified likely explanations, usually linked with poor adherence. Following counseling, VL became undetectable in 45/51 cases and some patients could resolve long-standing psychosocial problems. We conclude that HIV-1 VL monitoring together with targeted counseling for patients with detectable VL can promote adherence to treatment, providing an opportunity to delay onset of HIV-1 resistance. When implemented with a patient-centered approach, it can be a very useful tool for psychosocial support.
    • How can the community contribute in the fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis? An example from a rural district in Malawi.

      Zachariah, R; Teck, R; Buhendwa, L; Labana, S; Chinji, C; Humblet, P; Harries, A D; Médecins sans Frontières, Medical Department (Operational Research), Brussels Operational Center, Belgium. zachariah@internet.lu (Elsevier, 2006-02)
      This paper describes (a) the experience of initiating community involvement in HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) activities in a rural district in Malawi and (b) some of the different ways in which the community is contributing in the fight against these two diseases and the outcomes of their involvement. During a 2-year period, a total of 21,358 (41%) of 52,510 HIV tests performed at voluntary counselling and HIV testing (VCT) sites in the district were conducted by lay community counsellors. A team of 465 community volunteers, 1,362 trained family caregivers and 9 community nurses provided care and support to 5,106 HIV-positive individuals, of whom 2,006 (39%) were in WHO stage III or IV. All those in WHO stage III or IV were on co-trimoxazole prophylaxis and 895 (45%) of these were also on antiretroviral treatment. A total of 2,714 TB patients, of whom 1627 (60%) were HIV-positive, also received care and support. A total of 1,694 orphans were trained in vocational skills. Twelve vegetable gardens and three maize farms were set up, and pre-school activities were organised for 900 orphans. Communities can play an important contributory role in reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS and TB and in mitigating its impact. Despite this, community resources in most settings are often under-exploited and their role remains undefined.
    • Implementation and outcomes of an active defaulter tracing system for HIV, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), and TB patients in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya.

      Thomson, Kerry A; Cheti, Erastus O; Reid, Tony; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Operational Centre Brussels, PO BOX 38897 Postal Code 00623, Parklands, Nairobi, Kenya. (2011-06)
      Retention of patients in long term care and adherence to treatment regimens are a constant challenge for HIV, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), and TB programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. This study describes the implementation and outcomes of an active defaulter tracing system used to reduce loss to follow-up (LTFU) among HIV, PMTCT, TB, and HIV/TB co-infected patients receiving treatment at three Médecins Sans Frontières clinics in the informal settlement of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. Patients are routinely contacted by a social worker via telephone, in-person visit, or both very soon after they miss an appointment. Patient outcomes identified through 1066 tracing activities conducted between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009 included: 59.4% returned to the clinic, 9.0% unable to return to clinic, 6.3% died, 4.7% refused to return to clinic, 4.5% went to a different clinic, and 0.8% were hospitalized. Fifteen percent of patients identified for tracing could not be contacted. LTFU among all HIV patients decreased from 21.2% in 2006 to 11.5% in 2009. An active defaulter tracing system is feasible in a resource poor setting, solicits feedback from patients, retains a mobile population of patients in care, and reduces LTFU among HIV, PMTCT, and TB patients.
    • Loss to follow up from isoniazid preventive therapy among adults attending HIV voluntary counseling and testing sites in Uganda.

      Namuwenge, P M; Mukonzo, J K; Kiwanuka, N; Wanyenze, R; Byaruhanga, R; Bissell, K; Zachariah, R; Makerere University School of Public Health P.O. Box 7072 Kampala Uganda; AIDS Information Centre headquarters, P.O. Box 10446 Kampala, Uganda. (2012-02)
      Among HIV-infected adults attending non-governmental organization voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) sites in Uganda that provide a nine-month course of isoniazid preventive treatment (IPT), we report on loss to follow-up (LTFU) and its associated risk factors. The design was a retrospective cohort study of program data spanning a three year period (2006-2008). A total of 586 IPT patients were enrolled of whom 335 (57.1%) were females with a mean age of 34 years. Of those starting IPT, 341 (58.1%) were lost to follow-up, 197 (33.6%) completed IPT, 29 (4.9%) were discontinued and 19 (3.2%) died. The return rates at one, three, five and seven months were 78.0% (457), 62.1% (364), 52.9% (310) and 33.6% (197) respectively. Being less than 30 years of age, widowed, separated, or divorced were found to be associated with a higher risk of loss to follow-up. Sudden improvement in retention on IPT was observed between the years 2006 and 2007, although causes of the improvement are poorly understood hence the need for more research. At non-governmental VCT sites in Uganda, six out of ten individuals enrolled on IPT are lost to follow-up and efforts to reduce this attrition including systems strengthening might play a critical role in the success of IPT programs.
    • Monitoring the response to antiretroviral therapy in resource-poor settings: the Malawi model.

      Harries, A D; Gomani, P; Teck, R; de Teck, O; Bakali, E; Zachariah, R; Libamba, E; Mwansambo, A; Salaniponi, F; Mpazanje, R; et al. (2004-12)
      With assistance from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), Malawi is scaling-up the delivery of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy to HIV-positive eligible patients. The country has developed National ARV Treatment Guidelines, which emphasize a structured and standardized approach for all aspects of ARV delivery, including monitoring and evaluation. Using the successful DOTS model adapted by National TB Control Programmes throughout the world, Malawi has developed a system of quarterly ARV cohort and cumulative ARV quarterly analyses. Thyolo district, in the southern region of Malawi, has been using this system since April 2003. This paper describes the standardized ARV treatment regimens and the treatment outcomes used in Thyolo to assess the impact of treatment, the registration and monitoring systems and how the cohort analyses are carried out. Data are presented for case registration and treatment outcome for the first quarterly cohort (April to June) and the combined cohorts (April to June and July to September). Such quarterly analyses may be useful for districts and Ministries of Health in assessing ARV delivery, although the burden of work involved in calculating the numbers may become large once ARV delivery systems have been established for several years.
    • The Partec CyFlow Counter could provide an option for CD4+ T-cell monitoring in the context of scaling-up antiretroviral treatment at the district level in Malawi.

      Fryland, M; Chaillet, P; Zachariah, R; Barnaba, A; Bonte, L; Andereassen, R; Charrondière, S; Teck, R; Didakus, O; Médecins sans Frontières-Luxembourg, Thyolo District, Malawi. (Elsevier, 2006-10)
      A study was conducted in rural Malawi to verify (a) whether the Partec CyFlow Counter((R)) for CD4+ T-cell lymphocyte counting in HIV-positive individuals could be introduced into a district hospital laboratory and (b) whether it would produce CD4 counts of acceptable quality. CD4+ cell counting was performed using the Partec CyFlow Counter and the results were compared with a reference method (FACsCount). A total of 311 blood samples were analysed and the correlation coefficient for the CyFlow Counter was 0.92 (95% CI 0.89-0.95). Mean CD4 counts using the Partec and the reference methods were 308.2 cells/microl and 316.9 cells/microl, respectively. The mean difference in CD4 count values was -8.68 cells/microl (95% CI -18.8 to 1.4). Mean intra-run variation was -6.84 cells/microl (95% CI -12.9 to 0.79). In the district laboratory setting, the instrument could accommodate up to 75 blood samples per technician per day. After being trained, local laboratory staff found the CyFlow Counter procedures simple to run and the instrument easy to manipulate. The Partec CyFlow Counter produces sufficiently reliable results and the instrument appears robust under field conditions. It could provide a new option for introducing routine CD4+ cell monitoring at the district level in the context of scaling-up antiretroviral therapy in Malawi.
    • Patient retention and attrition on antiretroviral treatment at district level in rural Malawi.

      Massaquoi, M; Zachariah, R; Manzi, M; Pasulani, O; Misindi, D; Mwagomba, B; Bauernfeind, A; Harries, A D; Médecins Sans Frontières, Thyolo District, Thyolo, Malawi. (Published by Elsevier, 2009-06)
      We report on rates of patient retention and attrition in the context of scaling-up antiretroviral treatment (ART) within a district hospital and its primary health centres in rural Malawi. 'Retention' was defined as being alive and on ART or transferred out, whereas 'attrition' was defined as died, lost to follow-up or stopped treatment. A total of 4074 patients were followed-up for 1803 person-years: 2904 were at the hospital and 1170 at health centres. Approximately 85% of patients were retained in care, both at hospital and health centres, with a retention rate per 100 person-years of 185 and 211, respectively [adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 1.18, 95% CI 1.10-1.28, P=0.001). Attrition rates per 100 person-years were similar: 33 and 36, respectively (adjusted HR 1.17, 95% CI 0.97-1.4, P=0.1). At health centres the incidence of loss to follow-up was significantly lower than at the hospital (adjusted HR 0.24, P<0.001, risk reduction 77%), but the rate of reported deaths was higher at health centres (adjusted HR 2.2, 95% CI 1.76-2.72, P<0.001). As Malawi continues to extend the coverage (and equity) of ART, including in rural areas, attention is needed to reduce losses to follow-up at hospital level and reduce mortality at primary care level.
    • Payment for antiretroviral drugs is associated with a higher rate of patients lost to follow-up than those offered free-of-charge therapy in Nairobi, Kenya.

      Zachariah, R; Van Engelgem, I; Massaquoi, M; Kocholla, L; Manzi, M; Suleh, A; Philips, M; Borgdorff, M; Médecins Sans Frontières - Brussels, Medical Department (Operational Research), 68 Rue de Gasperich, L-1617, Luxembourg. (Elsevier, 2008-03)
      This retrospective analysis of routine programme data from Mbagathi District Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya shows the difference in rates of loss to follow-up between a cohort that paid 500 shillings/month (approximately US$7) for antiretroviral drugs (ART) and one that received medication free of charge. A total of 435 individuals (mean age 31.5 years, 65% female) was followed-up for 146 person-years: 265 were in the 'payment' cohort and 170 in the 'free' cohort. The incidence rate for loss to follow-up per 100 person-years was 47.2 and 20.5, respectively (adjusted hazard ratio 2.27, 95% CI 1.21-4.24, P=0.01). Overall risk reduction attributed to offering ART free of charge was 56.6% (95% CI 20.0-76.5). Five patients diluted their ART regimen to one tablet (instead of two tablets) twice daily in order to reduce the monthly cost of medication by half. All these patients were from the payment cohort. Payment for ART is associated with a significantly higher rate of loss to follow-up, as some patients might be unable to sustain payment over time. In resource-limited settings, ART should be offered free of charge in order to promote treatment compliance and prevent the emergence of drug resistance.
    • Reasons for loss to follow-up among mothers registered in a prevention-of-mother-to-child transmission program in rural Malawi

      Bwirire, L; Fitzgerald, M; Zachariah, R; Chikafa, V; Massaquoi, M; Moens, M; Kamoto, K; Schouten, E (Elsevier, 2008-05-16)
    • Retention and attrition during the preparation phase and after start of antiretroviral treatment in Thyolo, Malawi, and Kibera, Kenya: implications for programmes?

      Zachariah, R; Tayler-Smith, K; Manzi, M; Massaquoi, M; Mwagomba, B; van Griensven, J; van Engelgem, I; Arnould, L; Schouten, E J; Chimbwandira, F M; et al. (2011-08)
      Among adults eligible for antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Thyolo (rural Malawi) and Kibera (Nairobi, Kenya), this study (a) reports on retention and attrition during the preparation phase and after starting ART and (b) identifies risk factors associated with attrition. 'Retention' implies being alive and on follow-up, whilst 'attrition' implies loss to follow-up, death or stopping treatment (if on ART). There were 11,309 ART-eligible patients from Malawi and 3633 from Kenya, of whom 8421 (74%) and 2792 (77%), respectively, went through the preparation phase and started ART. In Malawi, 2649 patients (23%) were lost to attrition in the preparation phase and 2189 (26%) after starting ART. Similarly, in Kenya 546 patients (15%) were lost to attrition in the ART preparation phase and 647 (23%) while on ART. Overall programme attrition was 43% (4838/11,309) for Malawi and 33% (1193/3633) for Kenya. Restricting cohort evaluation to 'on ART' (as is usually done) underestimates overall programme attrition by 38% in Malawi and 36% in Kenya. Risk factors associated with attrition in the preparation phase included male sex, age <35 years, advanced HIV/AIDS disease and increasing malnutrition. Considerable attrition occurs during the preparation phase of ART, and programme evaluations confined to on-treatment analysis significantly underestimate attrition. This has important operational implications, which are discussed here.
    • Sexually transmitted infections among prison inmates in a rural district of Malawi.

      Zachariah, R; Harries, A D; Chantulo, A; Yadidi, A E; Nkhoma, W; Maganga, O; Mission (Malawi), Medecins sans Frontieres-Luxembourg, 70 rue de Gasperich, L-1617, Luxembourg. zachariah@internet.lu (Elsevier, 2008-02-14)
      As part of a comprehensive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention strategy targeting high-risk groups, sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics are offered to all prisoners in Thyolo district, southern Malawi. Prison inmates are not, however, allowed access to condoms as it is felt that such an intervention might encourage homosexuality which is illegal in Malawi. A study was conducted between January 2000 and December 2001 in order to determine the prevalence, incidence, and patterns of STIs among male inmates of 2 prisons in this rural district. A total of 4229 inmates were entered into the study during a 2-year period. Of these, 178 (4.2%) were diagnosed with an STI. This included 83 (46%) inmates with urethral discharge, 60 (34%) with genital ulcer disease (GUD), and 35 (20%) inmates with epididymo-orchitis. Fifty (28%) STIs were considered incident cases acquired within the prisons (incidence risk 12 cases/1000 inmates/year). GUD was the most common STI in this group comprising 52% of all STI. This study shows that a considerable proportion of STIs among inmates are acquired within prison. In a setting of same-sex inmates, this suggests inter-prisoner same-sex sexual activity. The findings have implications for HIV transmission and might help in developing more rational policies on STI control and condom access within Malawi prisons.
    • Stavudine- and nevirapine-related drug toxicity while on generic fixed-dose antiretroviral treatment: incidence, timing and risk factors in a three-year cohort in Kigali, Rwanda.

      van Griensven, J; Zachariah, R; Rasschaert, F; Mugabo, J; Atté, EF; Reid, T; Médecins Sans Frontières, Operational Centre Brussels, Medical Department, Duprestraat 94, 1090 Brussels, Belgium. (2009-09-02)
      This cohort study was conducted to report on the incidence, timing and risk factors for stavudine (d4T)- and nevirapine (NVP)-related severe drug toxicity (requiring substitution) with a generic fixed-dose combination under program conditions in Kigali, Rwanda. Probability of 'time to first toxicity-related drug substitution' was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox-proportional hazards modeling was used to identify risk factors. Out of 2190 adults (median follow-up: 1.5 years), d4T was replaced in 175 patients (8.0%) for neuropathy, 69 (3.1%) for lactic acidosis and 157 (7.2%) for lipoatrophy, which was the most frequent toxicity by 3 years of antiretroviral treatment (ART). NVP was substituted in 4.9 and 1.3% of patients for skin rash and hepatotoxicity, respectively. Use of d4T 40mg was associated with increased risk of lipoatrophy and early (<6 months) neuropathy. Significant risk factors associated with lactic acidosis and late neuropathy included higher baseline body weight. Older age and advanced HIV disease increased the risk of neuropathy. Elevated baseline liver tests and older age were identified as risk factors for NVP-related hepatotoxicity. d4T is associated with significant long-term toxicity. d4T-dose reduction, increased access to safer ART in low-income countries and close monitoring for those at risk are all relevant strategies.
    • Targeting CD4 testing to a clinical subgroup of patients could limit unnecessary CD4 measurements, premature antiretroviral treatment and costs in Thyolo District, Malawi.

      Zachariah, R; Teck, R; Ascurra, O; Humblet, P; Harries, A D; Médecins sans Frontières, Medical Department (Operational Research HIV-TB), Brussels Operational Center, 94 Rue Dupre, Brussels, Belgium. zachariah@internet.lu (Elsevier, 2006-01)
      Malawi offers antiretroviral treatment (ART) to all HIV-positive adults who are clinically classified as being in WHO clinical stage III or IV without 'universal' CD4 testing. This study was conducted among such adults attending a rural district hospital HIV/AIDS clinic (a) to determine the proportion who have CD4 counts >or=350 cells/microl, (b) to identify risk factors associated with such CD4 counts and (c) to assess the validity and predictive values of possible clinical markers for CD4 counts >or=350 cells/microl. A CD4 count >or=350 cells/microl was found in 36 (9%) of 401 individuals who are thus at risk of being placed prematurely on ART. A body mass index (BMI) >22 kg/m(2), the absence of an active WHO indicator disease at the time of presentation for ART, and a total lymphocyte count >1,200 cells/microl were significantly associated with such a CD4 count. The first two of these variables could serve as clinical markers for selecting subgroups of patients who should undergo CD4 testing. In a resource-limited district setting, assessing the BMI and checking for active opportunistic infections are routine clinical procedures that could be used to target CD4 measurements, thereby minimising unnecessary CD4 measurements, unnecessary (too early) treatment and costs.
    • Task shifting in HIV/AIDS: opportunities, challenges and proposed actions for sub-Saharan Africa.

      Zachariah, R; Ford, N; Philips, M; Lynch, S; Massaquoi, M; Janssens, V; Harries, A D; Médecins Sans Frontières, Medical Department, Brussels Operational Center, Rue de Gasperich, Luxembourg. zachariah@internet.lu (Published by Elsevier, 2009-06)
      Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a crisis in human health resources due to a critical shortage of health workers. The shortage is compounded by a high burden of infectious diseases; emigration of trained professionals; difficult working conditions and low motivation. In particular, the burden of HIV/AIDS has led to the concept of task shifting being increasingly promoted as a way of rapidly expanding human resource capacity. This refers to the delegation of medical and health service responsibilities from higher to lower cadres of health staff, in some cases non-professionals. This paper, drawing on Médecins Sans Frontières' experience of scaling-up antiretroviral treatment in three sub-Saharan African countries (Malawi, South Africa and Lesotho) and supplemented by a review of the literature, highlights the main opportunities and challenges posed by task shifting and proposes specific actions to tackle the challenges. The opportunities include: increasing access to life-saving treatment; improving the workforce skills mix and health-system efficiency; enhancing the role of the community; cost advantages and reducing attrition and international 'brain drain'. The challenges include: maintaining quality and safety; addressing professional and institutional resistance; sustaining motivation and performance and preventing deaths of health workers from HIV/AIDS. Task shifting should not undermine the primary objective of improving patient benefits and public health outcomes.
    • Unacceptable attrition among WHO stages 1 and 2 patients in a hospital-based setting in rural Malawi: can we retain such patients within the general health system?

      Tayler-Smith, Katie; Zachariah, Rony; Massaquoi, M; Massaquoi, M; Manzi, Marcel; Pasulani, Olesi; van den Akker, Thomas; Bemelmans, Marielle; Bauernfeind, Ariane; Mwagomba, Beatrice; et al. (2010-05)
      A study conducted among HIV-positive adults in WHO clinical stages 1 and 2 was followed up at Thyolo District Hospital (rural Malawi) to report on: (1) retention and attrition before and while on antiretroviral treatment (ART); and (2) the criteria used for initiating ART. Between June 2008 and January 2009, 1633 adults in WHO stages 1 and 2 were followed up for a total of 282 person-years. Retention in care at 1, 2, 3 and 6 months for those not on ART (n=1078) was 25, 18, 11 and 4% vs. 99, 97, 95 and 90% for patients who started ART (n=555, P=0.001). Attrition rates were 31 times higher among patients not started on ART compared with those started on ART (adjusted hazard ratio, 31.0, 95% CI 22-44). Ninety-two patients in WHO stage 1 or 2 were started on ART without the guidance of a CD4 count, and 11 were incorrectly started on ART with CD4 count > or = 250 cells/mm(3). In a rural district hospital setting in Malawi, attrition of individuals in WHO stages 1 and 2 is unacceptably high, and specific operational strategies need to be considered to retain such patients in the health system.