• 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.
    • 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.
    • The Impact of Same-Day Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation under the WHO Treat-All Policy.

      Kerschberger, B; Boulle, A; Kuwengwa, R; Ciglenecki, I; Schomaker, M (Oxford University Press, 2021-02-12)
      Rapid initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is recommended for people living with HIV, with the option to start treatment on the day of diagnosis (same-day-ART). However, the effect of same-day-ART remains unknown in realistic public sector settings. We established a cohort of ≥16-year-old patients who initiated first-line ART under Treat-All in Nhlangano (Eswatini) between 2014-2016, either on the day of HIV care enrolment (same-day-ART) or 1–14 days thereafter (early-ART). Directed acyclic graphs, flexible parametric survival analysis and targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE) were used to estimate the effect of same-day-ART initiation on the composite unfavourable treatment outcome (loss to follow-up;death;viral failure). Of 1328 patients, 839 (63.2%) initiated same-day ART. The adjusted hazard ratio of the unfavourable outcome was increased by 1.48 (95% CI:1.16–1.89) for same-day-ART compared with early-ART. TMLE suggested that after 1 year, 28.9% of patients would experience the unfavourable outcome under same-day-ART compared with 21.2% under early-ART (difference: 7.7%; 1.3–14.1%). This estimate was driven by loss to follow-up and varied over time, with a higher hazard during the first year after HIV care enrolment and a similar hazard thereafter. We found an increased risk with same-day-ART. A limitation was possible silent transfers that were not captured.
    • 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.
    • PrEP reminds me that I am the one to take responsibility of my life: a qualitative study exploring experiences of and attitudes towards pre-exposure prophylaxis use by women in Eswatini.

      Bjertrup, PJ; Mmema, N; Dlamini, V; Ciglenecki, I; Mpala, Q; Matse, S; Kerschberger, B; Wringe, A (BioMed Central, 2021-04-14)
      Background: Pre-exposure-prophylaxis (PrEP) has been heralded for its potential to put women in control of preventing HIV infection, but uptake and continuation rates have been disappointing in high-incidence settings in sub-Saharan Africa. We explored structural and social factors that influenced PrEP use among young women and pregnant or breastfeeding women in rural Eswatini. Methods: We conducted two in-depth interviews with ten women on PrEP, and one-time in-depth interviews with fourteen women who declined or discontinued PrEP. Interviews covered decision-making processes around PrEP initiation and experiences with pill-taking. In-depth interviews were conducted with nine health workers, covering experiences in delivering PrEP services, and two focus group discussions were held with men to elicit their perceptions of PrEP. Interviews and discussions were audio-recorded, translated, transcribed and analysed thematically, using an inductive approach. Results: PrEP initiation and use were experienced by many women as empowering them to take control of their health and well-being, and stay HIV free, facilitating them to realise their aspirations relating to motherhood and educational attainment. However, the social norms that defined relationship dynamics with partners or family members either undermined or promoted this empowerment potential. In particular, young women were rarely supported by family members to take PrEP unless it was perceived to be for protecting an unborn child. Stigmatisation of pill-taking through its associations with HIV and the burden of daily pill-taking also contributed to PrEP discontinuation. Conclusions: Unlike many prevention tools, PrEP enabled women to achieve a sense of control over their lives. Nevertheless, women's agency to continue and adhere to PrEP was influenced by social and structural factors including gender norms, family expectations of young women, relationship dynamics and stigma related to HIV. Future interventions should address these barriers to promote PrEP use among sexually-active women.
    • Programmatic outcomes and impact of rapid public sector antiretroviral therapy expansion in adults prior to introduction of the WHO treat-all approach in rural Eswatini.

      Boulle, A; Teck, R; Lukhele, N; Rusch, B; Telnov, A; Mabhena, E; Pasipamire, L; Ciglenecki, I; Schomaker, M; Kerschberger, B (John Wiley & Sons, 2019-04-01)
      To assess long-term antiretroviral therapy (ART) outcomes during rapid HIV programme expansion in the public sector of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). This is a retrospectively established cohort of HIV-positive adults (≥16 years) who started first-line ART in 25 health facilities in Shiselweni (Eswatini) between 01/2006 and 12/2014. Temporal trends in ART attrition, treatment expansion and ART coverage were described over 9 years. We used flexible parametric survival models to assess the relationship between time to ART attrition and covariates. Of 24 772 ART initiations, 6% (n = 1488) occurred in 2006, vs. 13% (n = 3192) in 2014. Between these years, median CD4 cell count at ART initiation increased (113-265 cells/mm Programmatic outcomes improved during large expansion of the treatment cohort and increased ART coverage. Changes in ART programming may have contributed to better outcomes.