• 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.
    • Retention in care among clinically stable antiretroviral therapy patients following a six-monthly clinical consultation schedule: findings from a cohort study in rural Malawi

      Wringe, A; Cawley, C; Szumilin, E; Salumu, L; Amoros Quiles, I; Pasquier, E; Masiku, C; Nicholas, S (Wiley Open Access, 2018-11)
      Longer intervals between clinic consultations for clinically stable antiretroviral therapy (ART) patients may improve retention in care and reduce facility workload. We assessed long-term retention among clinically stable ART patients attending six-monthly clinical consultations (SMCC) with three-monthly fast-track drug refills, and estimated the number of consultations "saved" by this model of ART delivery in rural Malawi.
    • 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.
    • Successes and gaps in the HIV cascade of care of a high HIV prevalence setting in Zimbabwe: a population-based survey.

      Conan, N; Coulborn, RM; Simons, E; Mapfumo, A; Apollo, T; Garone, DB; Casas, EC; Puren, AJ; Chihana, ML; Maman, D (Wiley Open Access, 2020-09-24)
      Introduction: Gutu, a rural district in Zimbabwe, has been implementing comprehensive HIV care with the support of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since 2011, decentralizing testing and treatment services to all rural healthcare facilities. We evaluated HIV prevalence, incidence and the cascade of care, in Gutu District five years after MSF began its activities. Methods: A cross-sectional study was implemented between September and December 2016. Using multistage cluster sampling, individuals aged ≥15 years living in the selected households were eligible. Individuals who agreed to participate were interviewed and tested for HIV at home. All participants who tested HIV-positive had their HIV-RNA viral load (VL) measured, regardless of their antiretroviral therapy (ART) status, and those not on ART with HIV-RNA VL ≥ 1000 copies/mL had Limiting-Antigen-Avidity EIA Assay for cross-sectional estimation of population-level HIV incidence. Results: Among 5439 eligible adults ≥15 years old, 89.0% of adults were included in the study and accepted an HIV test. The overall prevalence was 13.6% (95%: Confidence Interval (CI): 12.6 to 14.5). Overall HIV-positive status awareness was 87.4% (95% CI: 84.7 to 89.8), linkage to care 85.5% (95% CI: 82.5 to 88.0) and participants in care 83.8% (95% CI: 80.7 to 86.4). ART coverage among HIV-positive participants was 83.0% (95% CI: 80.0 to 85.7). Overall, 71.6% (95% CI 68.0 to 75.0) of HIV-infected participants had a HIV-RNA VL < 1000 copies/mL. Women achieved higher outcomes than men in the five stages of the cascade of care. Viral Load Suppression (VLS) among participants on ART was 83.2% (95% CI: 79.7 to 86.2) and was not statistically different between women and men (p = 0.98). The overall HIV incidence was estimated at 0.35% (95% CI 0.00 to 0.70) equivalent to 35 new cases/10,000 person-years. Conclusions: Our study provides population-level evidence that achievement of HIV cascade of care coverage overall and among women is feasible in a context with broad access to services and implementation of a decentralized model of care. However, the VLS was relatively low even among participants on ART. Quality care remains the most critical gap in the cascade of care to further reduce mortality and HIV transmission.
    • Twenty‐four‐month outcomes from a cluster‐randomized controlled trial of extending antiretroviral therapy refills in ART adherence clubs

      Cassidy, T; Grimsrud, A; Keene, C; Lebelo, K; Hayes, H; Orrell, C; Zokufa, N; Mutsetekwa, T; Voget, J; Gerstenhaber, R; et al. (Wiley Open Access, 2020-12-19)
      Introduction The antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence club (AC) model has supported clinically stable HIV patients’ retention with group ART refills and psychosocial support. Reducing visit frequency by increasing ART refills to six months could further benefit patients and unburden health systems. We conducted a pragmatic non‐inferiority cluster randomized trial comparing standard of care (SoC) ACs and six‐month refill intervention ACs in a primary care facility in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Methods Existing community‐based and facility‐based ACs were randomized to either SoC or intervention ACs. SoC ACs met five times annually, receiving two‐month refills with a four‐month refill over year‐end. Blood was drawn at one AC visit with a clinical assessment at the next. Intervention ACs met twice annually receiving six‐month refills, with an individual blood collection visit before the annual clinical assessment AC visit. The first study visits were in October and November 2017 and participants followed for 27 months. We report retention in care, viral load completion and viral suppression (<400 copies/mL) 24 months after enrolment and calculated intention‐to‐treat risk differences for the primary outcomes using generalized estimating equations specifying for clustering by AC. Results Of 2150 participants included in the trial, 977 were assigned to the intervention arm (40 ACs) and 1173 to the SoC (48 ACs). Patient characteristics at enrolment were similar across groups. Retention in care at 24 months was similarly high in both arms: 93.6% (1098/1173) in SoC and 92.6% (905/977) in the intervention arm, with a risk difference of −1.0% (95% CI: −3.2 to 1.3). The intervention arm had higher viral load completion (90.8% (999/1173) versus 85.1% (887/977)) and suppression (87.3% (969 /1173) versus 82.6% (853/977)) at 24 months, with a risk difference for completion of 5.5% (95% CI: 1.5 to 9.5) and suppression of 4.6% (95% CI: 0.2 to 9.0). Conclusions Intervention AC patients receiving six‐month ART refills showed non‐inferior retention in care, viral load completion and viral load suppression to those in SoC ACs, adding to a growing literature showing good outcomes with extended ART dispensing intervals.