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1.  Public-Health and Individual Approaches to Antiretroviral Therapy: Township South Africa and Switzerland Compared 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e148.
Background
The provision of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in resource-limited settings follows a public health approach, which is characterised by a limited number of regimens and the standardisation of clinical and laboratory monitoring. In industrialized countries doctors prescribe from the full range of available antiretroviral drugs, supported by resistance testing and frequent laboratory monitoring. We compared virologic response, changes to first-line regimens, and mortality in HIV-infected patients starting HAART in South Africa and Switzerland.
Methods and Findings
We analysed data from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and two HAART programmes in townships of Cape Town, South Africa. We included treatment-naïve patients aged 16 y or older who had started treatment with at least three drugs since 2001, and excluded intravenous drug users. Data from a total of 2,348 patients from South Africa and 1,016 patients from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study were analysed. Median baseline CD4+ T cell counts were 80 cells/μl in South Africa and 204 cells/μl in Switzerland. In South Africa, patients started with one of four first-line regimens, which was subsequently changed in 514 patients (22%). In Switzerland, 36 first-line regimens were used initially, and these were changed in 539 patients (53%). In most patients HIV-1 RNA was suppressed to 500 copies/ml or less within one year: 96% (95% confidence interval [CI] 95%–97%) in South Africa and 96% (94%–97%) in Switzerland, and 26% (22%–29%) and 27% (24%–31%), respectively, developed viral rebound within two years. Mortality was higher in South Africa than in Switzerland during the first months of HAART: adjusted hazard ratios were 5.90 (95% CI 1.81–19.2) during months 1–3 and 1.77 (0.90–3.50) during months 4–24.
Conclusions
Compared to the highly individualised approach in Switzerland, programmatic HAART in South Africa resulted in similar virologic outcomes, with relatively few changes to initial regimens. Further innovation and resources are required in South Africa to both achieve more timely access to HAART and improve the prognosis of patients who start HAART with advanced disease.
Comparing HIV treatment in Switzerland, where drug selection is individualized, and South Africa, where a programmatic approach is used, Matthias Egger and colleagues find similar virologic outcomes over two years.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since the first reported case in 1981, and more than 30 million people are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV destroys immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of lymphocyte), leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within 10 years of becoming infected. Then, in 1996, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)—a combination of several antiretroviral drugs—was developed. Now, in resource-rich countries, clinicians provide individually tailored care for HIV-infected people by prescribing combinations of antiretroviral drugs chosen from more than 20 approved medicines. The approach to treatment of HIV in developed countries typically also includes frequent monitoring of the amount of virus in patients' blood (viral load), viral resistance testing (to see whether any viruses are resistant to specific antiretroviral drugs), and regular CD4 cell counts (an indication of immune-system health). Since the implementation of these interventions, the health and life expectancy of people with HIV has improved dramatically in these countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
The history of HIV care in resource-poor countries has been very different. Initially, these countries could not afford to provide HAART for their populations. In 2003, however, governments, international agencies, and funding bodies began to implement plans to increase HAART coverage in developing countries. By December 2006, more than a quarter of the HIV-infected people in low- and middle-income countries who urgently needed treatment were receiving HAART. However, instead of individualized treatment, HAART programs in developing countries follow a public-health approach developed by the World Health Organization. That is, drug regimens, clinical decision-making, and clinical and laboratory monitoring are all standardized. This public-health approach takes into account the realities of under-resourced health systems, but is it as effective as the individualized approach? The researchers addressed this question by comparing virologic responses (the effect of treatment on the viral load), changes to first-line (initial) therapy, and deaths in patients receiving HAART in South Africa (public-health approach) and in Switzerland (individualized approach).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data collected since 2001 from more than 2,000 patients enrolled in HAART programs in two townships (Gugulethu and Khayelitsha) in Cape Town, South Africa, and from more than 1,000 patients enrolled in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study, a nationwide study of HIV-infected people. The patients in South Africa, who had a lower starting CD4 cell count and were more likely to have advanced AIDS than the patients in Switzerland, started their treatment for HIV infection with one of four first-line therapies, and about a quarter changed to a second-line therapy during the study. By contrast, 36 first-line regimens were used in Switzerland and half the patients changed to a different regimen. Despite these differences, the viral load was greatly reduced within a year in virtually all the patients and viral rebound (an increased viral load after a low measurement) developed within 2 years in a quarter of the patients in both countries. However, more patients died in South Africa than in Switzerland, particularly during the first 3 months of therapy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the public-health approach to HAART practiced in South Africa is as effective in terms of virologic outcomes as the individualized approach practiced in Switzerland. This is reassuring because it suggests that “antiretroviral anarchy” (the unregulated use of antiretroviral drugs, interruptions in drug supplies, and the lack of treatment monitoring), which is likely to lead to the emergence of viral resistance, is not happening in South Africa as some experts feared it might. Thus, these findings support the continued rollout of the public-health approach to HAART in resource-poor countries. Conversely, they also suggest that a more standardized approach to HAART could be taken in Switzerland (and in other industrialized countries) without compromising its effectiveness. Finally, the higher mortality in South Africa than in Switzerland, which partly reflects the many patients in South Africa in desperate need of HAART and their more advanced disease at the start of therapy, suggests that HIV-infected patients in South Africa and in other resource-limited countries would benefit from earlier initiation of therapy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050148.
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages) and on its recommendations for a public-health approach to antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection
More details on the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and on the studies in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha are available
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information about antiretroviral therapy and links to treatment guidelines for various countries
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS around the world and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050148
PMCID: PMC2443185  PMID: 18613745
2.  Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation Before, During, or After Pregnancy in HIV-1-Infected Women: Maternal Virologic, Immunologic, and Clinical Response 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e6961.
Background
Pregnancy has been associated with a decreased risk of HIV disease progression in the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) era. The effect of timing of HAART initiation relative to pregnancy on maternal virologic, immunologic and clinical outcomes has not been assessed.
Methods
We conducted a retrospective cohort study from 1997–2005 among 112 pregnant HIV-infected women who started HAART before (N = 12), during (N = 70) or after pregnancy (N = 30).
Results
Women initiating HAART before pregnancy had lower CD4+ nadir and higher baseline HIV-1 RNA. Women initiating HAART after pregnancy were more likely to receive triple-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. Multivariable analyses adjusted for baseline CD4+ lymphocytes, baseline HIV-1 RNA, age, race, CD4+ lymphocyte count nadir, history of ADE, prior use of non-HAART ART, type of HAART regimen, prior pregnancies, and date of HAART start. In these models, women initiating HAART during pregnancy had better 6-month HIV-1 RNA and CD4+ changes than those initiating HAART after pregnancy (−0.35 vs. 0.10 log10 copies/mL, P = 0.03 and 183.8 vs. −70.8 cells/mm3, P = 0.03, respectively) but similar to those initiating HAART before pregnancy (−0.32 log10 copies/mL, P = 0.96 and 155.8 cells/mm3, P = 0.81, respectively). There were 3 (25%) AIDS-defining events or deaths in women initiating HAART before pregnancy, 3 (4%) in those initiating HAART during pregnancy, and 5 (17%) in those initiating after pregnancy (P = 0.01). There were no statistical differences in rates of HIV disease progression between groups.
Conclusions
HAART initiation during pregnancy was associated with better immunologic and virologic responses than initiation after pregnancy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006961
PMCID: PMC2734183  PMID: 19742315
3.  A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing the Effects of Counseling and Alarm Device on HAART Adherence and Virologic Outcomes 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000422.
Michael Chung and colleagues show that intensive early adherence counseling at HAART initiation resulted in sustained, significant impact on adherence and virologic treatment failure, whereas use of an alarm device had no effect.
Background
Behavioral interventions that promote adherence to antiretroviral medications may decrease HIV treatment failure. Antiretroviral treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa confront increasing financial constraints to provide comprehensive HIV care, which include adherence interventions. This study compared the impact of counseling and use of an alarm device on adherence and biological outcomes in a resource-limited setting.
Methods and Findings
A randomized controlled, factorial designed trial was conducted in Nairobi, Kenya. Antiretroviral-naïve individuals initiating free highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in the form of fixed-dose combination pills (d4T, 3TC, and nevirapine) were randomized to one of four arms: counseling (three counseling sessions around HAART initiation), alarm (pocket electronic pill reminder carried for 6 months), counseling plus alarm, and neither counseling nor alarm. Participants were followed for 18 months after HAART initiation. Primary study endpoints included plasma HIV-1 RNA and CD4 count every 6 months, mortality, and adherence measured by monthly pill count. Between May 2006 and September 2008, 400 individuals were enrolled, 362 initiated HAART, and 310 completed follow-up. Participants who received counseling were 29% less likely to have monthly adherence <80% (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.71; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.49–1.01; p = 0.055) and 59% less likely to experience viral failure (HIV-1 RNA ≥5,000 copies/ml) (HR 0.41; 95% CI 0.21–0.81; p = 0.01) compared to those who received no counseling. There was no significant impact of using an alarm on poor adherence (HR 0.93; 95% CI 0.65–1.32; p = 0.7) or viral failure (HR 0.99; 95% CI 0.53–1.84; p = 1.0) compared to those who did not use an alarm. Neither counseling nor alarm was significantly associated with mortality or rate of immune reconstitution.
Conclusions
Intensive early adherence counseling at HAART initiation resulted in sustained, significant impact on adherence and virologic treatment failure during 18-month follow-up, while use of an alarm device had no effect. As antiretroviral treatment clinics expand to meet an increasing demand for HIV care in sub-Saharan Africa, adherence counseling should be implemented to decrease the development of treatment failure and spread of resistant HIV.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials gov NCT00273780
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Adherence to HIV treatment programs in poor countries has long been cited as an important public health concern, especially as poor adherence can lead to drug resistance and inadequate treatment of HIV. However, two factors have recently cast doubt on the poor adherence problem: (1) recent studies have shown that adherence is high in African HIV treatment programs and often better than in Western HIV clinics. For example, in a meta-analysis of 27 cohorts from 12 African countries, adequate adherence was noted in 77% of subjects compared to only 55% among 31 North America cohorts; (2) choice of antiretroviral regimens may impact on the development of antiretroviral resistance. In poor countries, most antiretroviral regimens contain non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), such as nevirapine or efavirenz, which remain in the patient's circulation for weeks after single-dose administration. This situation means that such patients may not experience antiretroviral resistance unless they drop below 80% adherence—contrary to the more stringent 95% plus adherence levels needed to prevent resistance in regimens based on unboosted protease inhibitors—ultimately, off-setting some treatment lapses in resource-limited settings where NNRTI-based regimens are widely used.
Why Was This Study Done?
Given that adherence may not be as crucial an issue as previously thought, antiretroviral treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa may be spending scarce resources to promote adherence to the detriment of some potentially more effective elements of HIV treatment and management programs. Although many treatment programs currently include adherence interventions, there is limited quality evidence that any of these methods improve long-term adherence to HIV treatment. Therefore, it is necessary to identify adherence interventions that are inexpensive and proven to be effective in resource-limited settings. As adherence counseling is already widely implemented in African HIV treatment programs and inexpensive alarm devices are thought to also improve compliance, the researchers compared the impact of adherence counseling and the use of an alarm device on adherence and biological outcomes in patients enrolled in HIV programs in rural Kenya.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 400 eligible patients (newly diagnosed with HIV, never before taken antiretroviral therapy, aged over 18 years) to four arms: (1) adherence counseling alone; (2) alarm device alone; (3) both adherence counseling and alarm device together; and (4) a control group that received neither adherence counseling nor alarm device. The patients had blood taken to record baseline CD4 count and HIV-1 RNA and after starting HIV treatment, returned to the study clinic every month with their pill bottles for the study pharmacist to count and recorded the number of pills remaining in the bottle, and to receive another prescription. Patients were followed up for 18 months and had their CD4 count and HIV-1 RNA measured at 6, 12, and 18 months.
Patients receiving adherence counseling were 29% less likely to experience poor adherence compared to those who received no counseling. Furthermore, those receiving intensive early adherence counseling were 59% less likely to experience viral failure. However, there was no significant difference in mortality or significant differences in CD4 counts at 18 months follow-up between those who received counseling and those who did not. There were no significant differences in adherence, time to viral failure, mortality, or CD4 counts in patients who received alarm devices compared to those who did not.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study suggest that intensive adherence counseling around the time of HIV treatment initiation significantly reduces poor adherence and virologic treatment failure, while using an alarm device has no effect. Therefore, investment in careful counseling based on individual needs at the onset of HIV treatment initiation, appears to have sustained benefit, possibly through strengthening the relationship between the health care provider and patient through communication, education, and trust. Interactive adherence counseling supports the bond between the clinic and the patient and may result in fewer patients needing to switch to expensive second-line medications and, possibly, may help to decrease the spread of resistant HIV. These findings define an adherence counseling protocol that is effective and are highly relevant to other HIV clinics caring for large numbers of patients in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000422.
UNAIDS provides information about HIV treatment strategies
The American Public Health Association has information about adherence to HIV treatment regimens
The US Department of Health and Human Services has information for patients about adherence to HIV treatment
The World Health Organization provides information about HIV treatment pharmacovigilance
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000422
PMCID: PMC3046986  PMID: 21390262
4.  Switching HIV Treatment in Adults Based on CD4 Count Versus Viral Load Monitoring: A Randomized, Non-Inferiority Trial in Thailand 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001494.
Using a randomized controlled trial, Marc Lallemant and colleagues ask if a CD4-based monitoring and treatment switching strategy provides a similar clinical outcome compared to the standard viral load-based strategy for adults with HIV in Thailand.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Viral load (VL) is recommended for monitoring the response to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) but is not routinely available in most low- and middle-income countries. The purpose of the study was to determine whether a CD4-based monitoring and switching strategy would provide a similar clinical outcome compared to the standard VL-based strategy in Thailand.
Methods and Findings
The Programs for HIV Prevention and Treatment (PHPT-3) non-inferiority randomized clinical trial compared a treatment switching strategy based on CD4-only (CD4) monitoring versus viral-load (VL). Consenting participants were antiretroviral-naïve HIV-infected adults (CD4 count 50–250/mm3) initiating non-nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI)-based therapy. Randomization, stratified by site (21 public hospitals), was performed centrally after enrollment. Clinicians were unaware of the VL values of patients randomized to the CD4 arm. Participants switched to second-line combination with confirmed CD4 decline >30% from peak (within 200 cells from baseline) in the CD4 arm, or confirmed VL >400 copies/ml in the VL arm. Primary endpoint was clinical failure at 3 years, defined as death, new AIDS-defining event, or CD4 <50 cells/mm3. The 3-year Kaplan-Meier cumulative risks of clinical failure were compared for non-inferiority with a margin of 7.4%. In the intent to treat analysis, data were censored at the date of death or at last visit. The secondary endpoints were difference in future-drug-option (FDO) score, a measure of resistance profiles, virologic and immunologic responses, and the safety and tolerance of HAART. 716 participants were randomized, 356 to VL monitoring and 360 to CD4 monitoring. At 3 years, 319 participants (90%) in VL and 326 (91%) in CD4 were alive and on follow-up. The cumulative risk of clinical failure was 8.0% (95% CI 5.6–11.4) in VL versus 7.4% (5.1–10.7) in CD4, and the upper-limit of the one-sided 95% CI of the difference was 3.4%, meeting the pre-determined non-inferiority criterion. Probability of switch for study criteria was 5.2% (3.2–8.4) in VL versus 7.5% (5.0–11.1) in CD4 (p = 0.097). Median time from treatment initiation to switch was 11.7 months (7.7–19.4) in VL and 24.7 months (15.9–35.0) in CD4 (p = 0.001). The median duration of viremia >400 copies/ml at switch was 7.2 months (5.8–8.0) in VL versus 15.8 months (8.5–20.4) in CD4 (p = 0.002). FDO scores were not significantly different at time of switch. No adverse events related to the monitoring strategy were reported.
Conclusions
The 3-year rates of clinical failure and loss of treatment options did not differ between strategies although the longer-term consequences of CD4 monitoring would need to be investigated. These results provide reassurance to treatment programs currently based on CD4 monitoring as VL measurement becomes more affordable and feasible in resource-limited settings.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00162682
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
About 34 million people (most of them living in low-and middle-income countries) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV infection leads to the destruction of immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell), leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected individuals died within 10 years of infection. Then, in 1996, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)—combined drugs regimens that suppress viral replication and allow restoration of the immune system—became available. For people living in affluent countries, HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition but, because HAART was expensive, HIV/AIDS remained a fatal illness for people living in resource-limited countries. In 2003, the international community declared HIV/AIDS a global health emergency and, in 2006, it set the target of achieving universal global access to HAART by 2010. By the end of 2011, 8 million of the estimated 14.8 million people in need of HAART in low- and middle-income countries were receiving treatment.
Why Was This Study Done?
At the time this trial was conceived, national and international recommendations were that HIV-positive individuals should start HAART when their CD4 count fell below 200 cells/mm3 and should have their CD4 count regularly monitored to optimize HAART. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations were updated to promote expanded eligibility for HAART with a CD4 of 500 cells/mm3 or less for adults, adolescents, and older children although priority is given to individuals with CD4 count of 350 cells/mm3 or less. Because HIV often becomes resistant to first-line antiretroviral drugs, WHO also recommends that viral load—the amount of virus in the blood—should be monitored so that suspected treatment failures can be confirmed and patients switched to second-line drugs in a timely manner. This monitoring and switching strategy is widely used in resource-rich settings, but is still very difficult to implement for low- and middle-income countries where resources for monitoring are limited and access to costly second-line drugs is restricted. In this randomized non-inferiority trial, the researchers compare the performance of a CD4-based treatment monitoring and switching strategy with the standard viral load-based strategy among HIV-positive adults in Thailand. In a randomized trial, individuals are assigned different interventions by the play of chance and followed up to compare the effects of these interventions; a non-inferiority trial investigates whether one treatment is not worse than another.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assigned about 700 HIV-positive adults who were beginning HAART for the first time to have their CD4 count (CD4 arm) or their CD4 count and viral load (VL arm) determined every 3 months. Participants were switched to a second-line therapy if their CD4 count declined by more than 30% from their peak CD4 count (CD4 arm) or if a viral load of more than 400 copies/ml was recorded (VL arm). The 3-year cumulative risk of clinical failure (defined as death, a new AIDS-defining event, or a CD4 count of less than 50 cells/mm3) was 8% in the VL arm and 7.4% in the CD4 arm. This difference in clinical failure risk met the researchers' predefined criterion for non-inferiority. The probability of a treatment switch was similar in the two arms, but the average time from treatment initiation to treatment switch and the average duration of a high viral load after treatment switch were both longer in the CD4 arm than in the VL arm. Finally, the future-drug-option score, a measure of viral drug resistance profiles, was similar in the two arms at the time of treatment switch.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, in Thailand, a CD4 switching strategy is non-inferior in terms of clinical outcomes among HIV-positive adults 3 years after beginning HAART when compared to the recommended viral load-based switching strategy and that there is no difference between the strategies in terms of viral suppression and immune restoration after 3-years follow-up. Importantly, however, even though patients in the CD4 arm spent longer with a high viral load than patients in the VL arm, the emergence of HIV mutants resistant to antiretroviral drugs was similar in the two arms. Although these findings provide no information about the long-term outcomes of the two monitoring strategies and may not be generalizable to routine care settings, they nevertheless provide reassurance that using CD4 counts alone to monitor HAART in HIV treatment programs in resource-limited settings is an appropriate strategy to use as viral load measurement becomes more affordable and feasible in these settings.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001494.
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS (in several languages); its 2010 recommendations for antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection in adults and adolescents are available as well as the June 2013 Consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection: recommendations for a public health approach
The 2012 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, on HIV and AIDS in Thailand, on universal access to AIDS treatment, and on starting, monitoring and switching HIV treatment (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including personal stories) about HIV and AIDS
More information about this trial (the PHPT-3 trial) is available
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV, including stories about HIV treatment
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001494
PMCID: PMC3735458  PMID: 23940461
5.  Gender Differences in Survival among Adult Patients Starting Antiretroviral Therapy in South Africa: A Multicentre Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001304.
Morna Cornell and colleagues investigate differences in mortality for HIV-positive men and women on antiretroviral therapy in South Africa.
Background
Increased mortality among men on antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been documented but remains poorly understood. We examined the magnitude of and risk factors for gender differences in mortality on ART.
Methods and Findings
Analyses included 46,201 ART-naïve adults starting ART between January 2002 and December 2009 in eight ART programmes across South Africa (SA). Patients were followed from initiation of ART to outcome or analysis closure. The primary outcome was mortality; secondary outcomes were loss to follow-up (LTF), virologic suppression, and CD4+ cell count responses. Survival analyses were used to examine the hazard of death on ART by gender. Sensitivity analyses were limited to patients who were virologically suppressed and patients whose CD4+ cell count reached >200 cells/µl. We compared gender differences in mortality among HIV+ patients on ART with mortality in an age-standardised HIV-negative population.
Among 46,201 adults (65% female, median age 35 years), during 77,578 person-years of follow-up, men had lower median CD4+ cell counts than women (85 versus 110 cells/µl, p<0.001), were more likely to be classified WHO stage III/IV (86 versus 77%, p<0.001), and had higher mortality in crude (8.5 versus 5.7 deaths/100 person-years, p<0.001) and adjusted analyses (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] 1.31, 95% CI 1.22–1.41). After 36 months on ART, men were more likely than women to be truly LTF (AHR 1.20, 95% CI 1.12–1.28) but not to die after LTF (AHR 1.04, 95% CI 0.86–1.25). Findings were consistent across all eight programmes. Virologic suppression was similar by gender; women had slightly better immunologic responses than men. Notably, the observed gender differences in mortality on ART were smaller than gender differences in age-standardised death rates in the HIV-negative South African population. Over time, non-HIV mortality appeared to account for an increasing proportion of observed mortality. The analysis was limited by missing data on baseline HIV disease characteristics, and we did not observe directly mortality in HIV-negative populations where the participating cohorts were located.
Conclusions
HIV-infected men have higher mortality on ART than women in South African programmes, but these differences are only partly explained by more advanced HIV disease at the time of ART initiation, differential LTF and subsequent mortality, and differences in responses to treatment. The observed differences in mortality on ART may be best explained by background differences in mortality between men and women in the South African population unrelated to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
About 34 million people (most living in low- and middle-income countries) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV destroys CD4 lymphocytes and other immune system cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within 10 years of becoming infected. Then, in 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART)—cocktails of drugs that keep HIV in check—became available. For people living in affluent countries, HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition. However, ART was expensive and, for people living in poorer countries, HIV/AIDS remained a fatal illness. In 2003, this situation was declared a global emergency, and governments and international agencies began to implement plans to increase ART coverage in resource-limited countries. Since then, ART programs in these countries have grown rapidly. In South Africa, for example, about 52% of the 3.14 million adults in need of ART were receiving an ART regimen recommended by the World Health Organization by the end of 2010.
Why Was This Study Done?
The outcomes of ART programs in resource-limited countries need to be evaluated thoroughly so that these programs can be optimized. One area of concern to ART providers is that of gender differences in survival among patients receiving treatment. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, men are more likely to die than women while receiving ART. This gender difference in mortality may arise because men initiating ART in many African ART programs have more advanced HIV disease than women (early ART initiation is associated with better outcomes than late initiation) or because men are more likely to be lost to follow-up than women (failure to continue treatment is associated with death). Other possible explanations for gender differentials in mortality on ART include gender differences in immunologic and virologic responses to treatment (increased numbers of immune system cells and reduced amounts of virus in the blood, respectively). In this multicenter cohort study, the researchers examine the size of, and risk factors for, gender differences in mortality on ART in South Africa by examining data collected from adults starting ART at International Epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS South Africa (IeDEA-SA) collaboration sites.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data collected from 46,201 ART-naïve adults who started ART between 2002 and 2009 in eight IeDEA-SA ART programs. At ART initiation, men had a lower CD4 count on average and were more likely to have advanced HIV disease than women. During the study, after allowing for factors likely to affect mortality such as HIV disease stage at initiation, men on ART had a 31% higher risk of dying than women. Men were more likely to be lost to follow-up than women, but men and women who were lost to follow-up were equally likely to die. Women had a slightly better immunological response to ART than men but virologic suppression was similar in both genders. Importantly, in analyses of mortality limited to individuals who were virologically suppressed at 12 months and to patients who had a good immunological response to ART, men still had a higher risk of death than women. However, the gender differences in mortality on ART were smaller than the gender differences in age-standardized mortality in the HIV-negative South African population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These analyses show that among South African patients initiating ART between 2002 and 2009, men were more likely to die than women but that this gender difference in mortality on ART cannot be completely explained by gender differences in baseline characteristics, loss to follow-up, or virologic and/or immunologic responses. Instead, the observed gender differences in mortality can best be explained by background gender differences in mortality in the whole South African population. Because substantial amounts of data were missing in this study (for example, HIV disease stage was not available for all the patients), these findings need to be interpreted cautiously. Moreover, similar studies need to be done in other settings to investigate whether they are generalizable to the South African national ART program and to other countries. If confirmed, however, these findings suggest that the root causes of gender differences in mortality on ART may be unrelated to HIV/AIDS or to the characteristics of ART programs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001304.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
Information on the treatment of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is available from the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV/AIDS treatment and care, and on HIV/AIDS in South Africa (in English and Spanish)
WHO provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment (in several languages); its 2010 ART guidelines can be downloaded
Information about the IeDEA-SA collaboration is available
The Treatment Action Campaign provides information on antiretroviral therapy and South African HIV statistics
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV, including stories about taking anti-HIV drugs and the challenges of anti-HIV drugs
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001304
PMCID: PMC3433409  PMID: 22973181
6.  Pharmacy Refill Adherence Compared with CD4 Count Changes for Monitoring HIV-Infected Adults on Antiretroviral Therapy 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e109.
Background
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for monitoring HIV-infected individuals taking combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in resource-limited settings recommend using CD4+ T cell (CD4) count changes to monitor treatment effectiveness. In practice, however, falling CD4 counts are a consequence, rather than a cause, of virologic failure. Adherence lapses precede virologic failure and, unlike CD4 counts, data on adherence are immediately available to all clinics dispensing cART. However, the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting future or detecting current virologic failure has not been determined. The goal of this study therefore was to determine the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting and detecting virologic failure and to compare the accuracy of adherence-based monitoring approaches with approaches monitoring CD4 count changes.
Methodology and Findings
We conducted an observational cohort study among 1,982 of 4,984 (40%) HIV-infected adults initiating non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based cART in the Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program, which serves nine countries in southern Africa. Pharmacy refill adherence was calculated as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last refill prior to the endpoint of interest, expressed as a percentage. The main outcome measure was virologic failure defined as a viral load > 1,000 copies/ml (1) at an initial assessment either 6 or 12 mo after cART initiation and (2) after a previous undetectable (i.e., < 400 copies/ml) viral load (breakthrough viremia). Adherence levels outperformed CD4 count changes when used to detect current virologic failure in the first year after cART initiation (area under the receiver operating characteristic [ROC] curves [AUC] were 0.79 and 0.68 [difference = 0.11; 95% CI 0.06 to 0.16; χ2 = 20.1] respectively at 6 mo, and 0.85 and 0.75 [difference = 0.10; 95% CI 0.05 to 0.14; χ2 = 20.2] respectively at 12 mo; p < 0.001 for both comparisons). When used to detect current breakthrough viremia, adherence and CD4 counts were equally accurate (AUCs of 0.68 versus 0.67, respectively [difference = 0.01; 95% CI −0.06 to 0.07]; χ2 = 0.1, p > 0.5). In addition, adherence levels assessed 3 mo prior to viral load assessments were as accurate for virologic failure occurring approximately 3 mo later as were CD4 count changes calculated from cART initiation to the actual time of the viral load assessments, indicating the potential utility of adherence assessments for predicting future, rather than simply detecting current, virologic failure. Moreover, combinations of CD4 count and adherence data appeared useful in identifying patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
Conclusions
Pharmacy refill adherence assessments were as accurate as CD4 counts for detecting current virologic failure in this cohort of patients on cART and have the potential to predict virologic failure before it occurs. Approaches to cART scale-up in resource-limited settings should include an adherence-based monitoring approach.
Analyzing pharmacy and laboratory records from 1,982 patients beginning HIV therapy in southern Africa, Gregory Bisson and colleagues find medication adherence superior to CD4 count changes in identifying treatment failure.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Globally, more than 30 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Combinations of antiretroviral drugs that hold HIV in check (viral suppression) have been available since 1996. Unfortunately, most of the people affected by HIV/AIDS live in developing countries and cannot afford these expensive drugs. As a result, life expectancy has plummeted and economic growth has reversed in these poor countries since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. Faced with this humanitarian crisis, the lack of access to HIV treatment was declared a global health emergency in 2003. Today, through the concerted efforts of governments, international organizations, and funding bodies, about a quarter of the HIV-positive people in developing and transitional countries who are in immediate need of life-saving, combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) receive the drugs they need.
Why Was This Study Done?
To maximize the benefits of cART, health-care workers in developing countries need simple, affordable ways to monitor viral suppression in their patients—a poor virologic response to cART can lead to the selection of drug-resistant HIV, rapid disease progression, and death. In developed countries, virologic response is monitored by measuring the number of viral particles in patients' blood (viral load) but this technically demanding assay is unavailable in most developing countries. Instead, the World Health Organization recommends that CD4+ T cell (CD4) counts be used to monitor patient responses to cART in resource-limited settings. HIV results in loss of CD4 cells (a type of immune system cell), so a drop in a patient's CD4 count often indicates virologic failure (failure of treatment to suppress the virus). However, falling CD4 counts are often a result of virologic failure and therefore monitoring CD4 counts for drops is unlikely to prevent virologic failure from occurring. Rather, falling CD4 counts are often used only to guide a change to new medicines, which may be even more expensive or difficult to take. On the other hand “adherence lapses”—the failure to take cART regularly—often precede virologic failure, so detecting them early provides an opportunity for improvement in adherence that could prevent virologic failure. Because clinics that dispense cART routinely collect data that can be used to calculate adherence, in this study the researchers investigate whether assessing adherence might provide an alternative, low-cost way to monitor and predict virologic failure among HIV-infected adults on cART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program provides cART to medical insurance fund subscribers in nine countries in southern Africa. Data on claims for antiretroviral drugs made through this program, plus CD4 counts assessed at about 6 or 12 months after initiating cART, and viral load measurements taken within 45 days of a CD4 count, were available for nearly 2,000 HIV-positive adults who had been prescribed a combination of HIV drugs including either efavirenz or nevirapine. The researchers defined adherence as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last pharmacy refill before a viral load assessment was performed. Virologic failure was defined in two ways: as a viral load of more than 1,000 copies per ml of blood 6 or 12 months after cART initiation, or as a rebound of viral load to similar levels after a previously very low reading (breakthrough viremia). The researchers' statistical analysis of these data shows that at 6 and 12 months after initiation of cART, adherence levels indicated virologic failure more accurately than CD4 count changes. For breakthrough viremia, both measurements were equally accurate. Adherence levels during the first 3 months of cART predicted virologic failure at 6 months as accurately as did CD4 count changes since cART initiation. Finally, the combination of adherence levels and CD4 count changes accurately identified patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that adherence assessments (based in this study on insurance claims for pharmacy refills) can identify the patients on cART who are at high and low risk of virologic failure at least as accurately as CD4 counts. In addition, they suggest that adherence assessments could be used for early identification of patients at high risk of virologic failure, averting the health impact of treatment failure and the cost of changing to second-line drug regimens. Studies need to be done in other settings (in particular, in public clinics where cART is provided without charge) to confirm the generalizability of these findings. These finding do not change that fact that monitoring CD4 counts plays an important role in deciding when to start cART or indicating when cART is no longer protecting the immune system. But, write the researchers, systematic monitoring of adherence to cART should be considered as an alternative to CD4 count monitoring in patients who are receiving cART in resource-limited settings or as a way to direct the use of viral load testing where feasible.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050109.
This study is discussed further in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by David Bangsberg
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including an article about adherence to antiretroviral therapy
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages) and on its recommendations for antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection in adults and adolescents
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on global efforts to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050109
PMCID: PMC2386831  PMID: 18494555
7.  Virological effectiveness and CD4+ T-cell increase over early and late courses in HIV infected patients on antiretroviral therapy: focus on HCV and anchor class received 
Background
The aim of this study was to explore the effects of HCV co-infection on virological effectiveness and on CD4+ T-cell recovery in patients with an early and sustained virological response after HAART.
Methods
We performed a longitudinal analysis of 3,262 patients from the MASTER cohort, who started HAART from 2000 to 2008. Patients were stratified into 6 groups by HCV status and type of anchor class. The early virological outcome was the achievement of HIV RNA <500 copies/ml 4–8 months after HAART initiation. Time to virological response was also evaluated by Kaplan-Meier analysis. The main outcome measure of early immunological response was the achievement of CD4+ T-cell increase by ≥100/mm3 from baseline to month 4–8 in virological responder patients. Late immunological outcome was absolute variation of CD4+ T-cell count with respect to baseline up to month 24. Multivariable analysis (ANCOVA) investigated predictors for this outcome.
Results
The early virological response was higher in HCV Ab-negative than HCV Ab-positive patients prescribed PI/r (92.2% versus 88%; p = 0.01) or NNRTI (88.5% versus 84.7%; p = 0.06). HCV Ab-positive serostatus was a significant predictor of a delayed virological suppression independently from other variables, including types of anchor class. Reactivity for HCV antibodies was associated with a lower probability of obtaining ≥100/mm3 CD4+ increase within 8 months from HAART initiation in patients treated with PI/r (62.2% among HCV Ab-positive patients versus 70.9% among HCV Ab-negative patients; p = 0.003) and NNRTI (63.7% versus 74.7%; p < 0.001). Regarding late CD4+ increase, positive HCV Ab appeared to impair immune reconstitution in terms of absolute CD4+ T-cell count increase both in patients treated with PI/r (p = 0.013) and in those treated with NNRTI (p = 0.002). This was confirmed at a multivariable analysis up to 12 months of follow-up.
Conclusions
In this large cohort, HCV Ab reactivity was associated with an inferior virological outcome and an independent association between HCV Ab-positivity and smaller CD4+ increase was evident up to 12 months of follow-up. Although the difference in CD4+ T-cell count was modest, a stricter follow-up and optimization of HAART strategy appear to be important in HIV patients co-infected by HCV. Moreover, our data support anti-HCV treatment leading to HCV eradication as a means to facilitate the achievement of the viro-immunological goals of HAART.
doi:10.1186/1742-6405-9-18
PMCID: PMC3409064  PMID: 22703595
HIV; HCV; HAART
8.  CD4+ T-cell counts and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels beyond 5 years of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) 
Background
The heterogeneity of CD4+ T-cell counts and HIV-1 RNA at 5-12 years after the initiation of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) remains largely uncharacterized.
Methods
In the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, 614 men who initiated HAART contributed data 5-12 years subsequently. Multivariate regression was used to evaluate the predictors of CD4+ counts and HIV-1 RNA levels.
Results
At 5-12 years post-HAART, the median CD4+ T-cell count was 586 (inter quartile range (IQR): 421-791) cells/μl and 78% of the HIV-1 RNA measurements were undetectable. Higher CD4+ T-cell counts 5-12 years post-HAART were predicted by higher CD4+ T-cell counts and higher total lymphocyte count pre-HAART, lack of hepatitis B or C virus co-infections, and greater CD4+ T-cell change as well as suppressed HIV-1 RNA in the first 5 years after starting HAART. Older men (≥50 years) with 351-500 CD4+ cells/μl at HAART initiation had adjusted mean CD4+ T-cell count of 643 cells/μl at 10-12 years post-HAART, which was similar to the adjusted mean CD4+ T-cell count (670 cells/μl, p=0.45) in this period for younger men starting HAART with lower CD4+ T-cell counts. HIV-1 RNA suppression in the first 5 years post-HAART predicted subsequent viral suppression.
Conclusion
Immunological and virological responses in the first five years post-HAART predicted subsequent CD4+ T-cell counts and HIV-1 RNA levels. The association between age and subsequent CD4+ T-cell count supports incorporating age in guidelines for use of HAART.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e31821e9f21
PMCID: PMC3293185  PMID: 21602699
CD4+ T-cells; HIV-1 RNA; HAART; response; age effects
9.  Effect of Nadir CD4+ T Cell Count on Clinical Measures of Periodontal Disease in HIV+ Adults before and during Immune Reconstitution on HAART  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76986.
Background
The contribution of HIV-infection to periodontal disease (PD) is poorly understood.  We proposed that immunological markers would be associated with improved clinical measures of PD.
Methods
We performed a longitudinal cohort study of HIV-infected adults who had started highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) <2 years. PD was characterized clinically as the percent of teeth with ≥1 site with periodontal probing depth (PPD) ≥5.0mm, recession (REC) >0mm, clinical attachment level (CAL) ≥4.0mm, and bleeding on probing (BOP) at ≥4 sites/tooth and microbiologically as specific periodontopathogen concentration. Linear mixed-effects models were used to assess the associations between immune function and PD.
Results
Forty (40) subjects with median 2.7 months on HAART and median nadir CD4+ T-cell count of 212 cells/μl completed a median 3 visits. Over 24 months, CD4+ T-cell count increased by a mean 173 cells/µl (p<0.001) and HIV RNA decreased by 0.5 log10 copies/ml (p<0.001); concurrently, PPD, CAL and BOP decreased by a mean 11.7%, 12.1%, and 14.7% respectively (all p<0.001). Lower nadir CD4+ T-cell count was associated with worse baseline REC (-6.72%; p=0.04) and CAL (9.06%; p<0.001). Further, lower nadir CD4+ T-cell count was associated with a greater relative longitudinal improvement in PPD in subjects with higher baseline levels of Porphyromonas gingivalis (p=0.027), and BOP in subjects with higher baseline levels of Porphyromonas gingivalis or Treponema denticola (p=0.001 and p=0.006 respectively). Longitudinal changes from baseline in CD4+ T-cell count and level of HIV RNA were not independently associated with longitudinal changes in any clinical markers of PD.
Conclusion
Degree of immunosuppression was associated with baseline gingival recession. After HAART initiation, measures of active PD improved most in those with lower nadir CD4+ T-cell counts and higher baseline levels of specific periodontopathogens. Nadir CD4+ T-cell count differentially influences periodontal disease both before and after HAART in HIV-infected adults.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076986
PMCID: PMC3795634  PMID: 24146949
10.  Bimodal virological response to antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection: an application using a mixture model with left censoring 
Study objective
To assess whether HIV RNA levels (log10 scale) in highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) treated population have a bimodal distribution, suggesting optimal or suboptimal response to HAART.
Methods
The study population from two ongoing cohort studies comprised 564 men (4785 person visits) and 1173 women (8675 person visits) with known dates of HAART initiation and with HIV RNA measurements before and after initiation. Values below detection limit of assays were treated in the analysis as left censored. Maximum likelihood methods were used to estimate parameters and to determine possible bimodality of HIV RNA distributions.
Results
A two component mixture model fitted HIV RNA levels significantly better than did a single component distribution at different years from HAART initiation in both therapy experienced and therapy naive patients. In the fifth year after HAART initiation, 32% of men and 44% of women had HIV RNA in the higher component with medians of 5247 and 9253 copies/ml, respectively, suggesting suboptimal virological response to HAART, which was associated with poor adherence and lower frequency of CCR5 heterozygous genotype.
Conclusion
The bimodal distribution of HIV RNA persisted during the years after HAART initiation. The high occurrence of suboptimal virological response at the fifth year after HAART initiation underscore the needs for careful monitoring and patient education about the importance of treatment adherence. This data analysis overcomes limitations of measurement techniques of observations having values below detection limits and serves to characterise the dynamics of the virological response to therapies.
doi:10.1136/jech.2005.044644
PMCID: PMC2566033  PMID: 16905728
mixture model; left censoring; HIV RNA; HAART
11.  Atazanavir Concentration in Hair Is the Strongest Predictor of Outcomes on Antiretroviral Therapy 
In a longitudinal study of outcomes on atazanavir-based therapy in a large cohort of HIV-infected women, hair levels of atazanavir were the strongest independent predictor of virologic suppression. Hair antiretroviral concentrations may serve as a useful tool in HIV care.
Background. Adequate exposure to antiretrovirals is important to maintain durable responses, but methods to assess exposure (eg, querying adherence and single plasma drug level measurements) are limited. Hair concentrations of antiretrovirals can integrate adherence and pharmacokinetics into a single assay.
Methods. Small hair samples were collected from participants in the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), a large cohort of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected (and at-risk noninfected) women. From 2003 through 2008, we analyzed atazanavir hair concentrations longitudinally for women reporting receipt of atazanavir-based therapy. Multivariate random effects logistic regression models for repeated measures were used to estimate the association of hair drug levels with the primary outcome of virologic suppression (HIV RNA level, <80 copies/mL).
Results. 424 WIHS participants (51% African-American, 31% Hispanic) contributed 1443 person-visits to the analysis. After adjusting for age, race, treatment experience, pretreatment viral load, CD4 count and AIDS status, and self-reported adherence, hair levels were the strongest predictor of suppression. Categorized hair antiretroviral levels revealed a monotonic relationship to suppression; women with atazanavir levels in the highest quintile had odds ratios (ORs) of 59.8 (95% confidence ratio, 29.0–123.2) for virologic suppression. Hair atazanavir concentrations were even more strongly associated with resuppression of viral loads in subgroups in which there had been previous lapses in adherence (OR, 210.2 [95% CI, 46.0–961.1]), low hair levels (OR, 132.8 [95% CI, 26.5–666.0]), or detectable viremia (OR, 400.7 [95% CI, 52.3–3069.7]).
Conclusions. Antiretroviral hair levels surpassed any other predictor of virologic outcomes to HIV treatment in a large cohort. Low antiretroviral exposure in hair may trigger interventions prior to failure or herald virologic failure in settings where measurement of viral loads is unavailable. Monitoring hair antiretroviral concentrations may be useful for prolonging regimen durability.
doi:10.1093/cid/cir131
PMCID: PMC3079399  PMID: 21507924
12.  Virologic and immunologic outcome of HAART in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-1 infected patients with and without tuberculosis (TB) and latent TB infection (LTBI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
Background
HIV/TB coinfection remains a major challenge even after the initiation of HAART. Little is known about Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) specific immune restoration in relation to immunologic and virologic outcomes after long-term HAART during co-infections with latent and active TB.
Methods
A total of 232 adults, including 59 HIV patients with clinical TB (HIV + TB+), 125 HIV patients without clinical TB (HIV + TB-), 13 HIV negative active TB patients (HIV-TB+), and 10 HIV negative Tuberculin Skin TST positive (HIV-TST+), and 25 HIV-TST- individuals were recruited. HAART was initiated in 113 HIV + patients (28 TB + and 85 TB-), and anti-TB treatment for all TB cases. CD4+ T-cell count, HIV RNA load, and IFN-γ responses to ESAT-6/CFP-10 were measured at baseline, 6 months (M6), 18 months (M18) and 24 months (M24) after HAART initiation.
Results
The majority of HIV + TB- (70%, 81%, 84%) as well as HIV + TB + patients (60%, 77%, 80%) had virologic success (HIV RNA < 50 copies/ml) by M6, M18 and M24, respectively. HAART also significantly increased CD4+ T-cell counts at 2 years in HIV + TB + (from 110.3 to 289.9 cells/μl), HIV + TB- patients (197.8 to 332.3 cells/μl), HIV + TST- (199 to 347 cells/μl) and HIV + TST + individuals (195 to 319 cells/μl). Overall, there was no significant difference in the percentage of patients that achieved virologic success and in total CD4+ counts increased between HIV patients with and without TB or LTBI. The Mtb specific IFN-γ response at baseline was significantly lower in HIV + TB + (3.6 pg/ml) compared to HIV-TB + patients (34.4 pg/ml) and HIV + TST + (46.3 pg/ml) individuals; and in HIV-TB + patients compared to HIV-TST + individuals (491.2 pg/ml). By M18 on HAART, the IFN-γ response remained impaired in HIV + TB + patients (18.1 pg/ml) while it normalized in HIV + TST + individuals (from 46.3 to 414.2 pg/ml).
Conclusions
Our data show that clinical and latent TB infections do not influence virologic and immunologic outcomes of ART in HIV patients. Despite this, HAART was unable to restore optimal TB responsiveness as measured by Mtb specific IFN-γ response in HIV/TB patients. Improvement of Mtb-specific immune restoration should be the focus of future therapeutic strategies.
doi:10.1186/1742-6405-10-18
PMCID: PMC3718701  PMID: 23842109
HIV; Tuberculosis; HAART
13.  Impact of hepatitis B virus infection on HIV response to antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria 
Background
As HAART is introduced into areas of the world with high hepatitis B virus (HBV) endemicity, it is important to determine the influence of HBV on HIV-HBV co-infected persons receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Methods
We studied 1,564 HIV-infected subjects in Jos, Nigeria who initiated ART. HIV-HBV co-infected participants had HBeAg and HBV DNA status determined. CD4+ T-cell count and HIV viral load at ART initiation were compared between HIV mono-infected and HIV-HBV co-infected subjects using univariate methods. Regression analyses were used to determine if HBeAg status or HBV DNA at ART initiation were associated with baseline HIV parameters or ART response.
Results
The CD4+ T-cell counts of the 262 (16.7%) HIV-HBV co-infected participants was 107 cells/mL compared to 130 cells/mL in HIV monoinfected participants (p <0.001) at ART initiation. HIV-HBV co-infected participants also had higher HIV viral loads than HIV monoinfected subjects (4.96 vs. 4.75 log10 copies/mL; p = 0.02). Higher HBV DNA and detectable HBeAg were independently associated with lower CD4+ T-cell counts at ART initiation but not with higher HIV viral load. In a multivariable model, HBeAg-positive subjects were less likely to suppress HIV replication to ≤400 copies/ml (OR 0.54, p=0.03) at 24 weeks, but they had similar CD4+ T cell increases. At 48 weeks, there was no significant effect of HBeAg status on ART response.
Conclusions
In HIV-infected Nigerian individuals, HBV co-infection, especially in those with high levels of HBV replication, was associated with lower CD4+ T-cell counts at ART initiation independent of HIV RNA level. Subjects with HBeAg positive status had a slower virological response to ART. Further work is needed to understand the effects of HBV on CD4+ T-cells.
doi:10.1086/605675
PMCID: PMC2753765  PMID: 19772386
hepatitis B; HIV; CD4 cell counts; antiretroviral therapy; Africa
14.  A Very Low Geno2pheno False Positive Rate Is Associated with Poor Viro-Immunological Response in Drug-Naïve Patients Starting a First-Line HAART 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105853.
Background
We previously found that a very low geno2pheno false positive rate (FPR ≤2%) defines a viral population associated with low CD4 cell count and the highest amount of X4-quasispecies. In this study, we aimed at evaluating whether FPR ≤2% might impact on the viro-immunological response in HIV-1 infected patients starting a first-line HAART.
Methods
The analysis was performed on 305 HIV-1 B subtype infected drug-naïve patients who started their first-line HAART. Baseline FPR (%) values were stratified according to the following ranges: ≤2; 2–5; 5–10; 10–20; 20–60; >60. The impact of genotypically-inferred tropism on the time to achieve immunological reconstitution (a CD4 cell count gain from HAART initiation ≥150 cells/mm3) and on the time to achieve virological success (the first HIV-RNA measurement <50 copies/mL from HAART initiation) was evaluated by survival analyses.
Results
Overall, at therapy start, 27% of patients had FPR ≤10 (6%, FPR ≤2; 7%, FPR 2–5; 14%, FPR 5–10). By 12 months of therapy the rate of immunological reconstitution was overall 75.5%, and it was significantly lower for FPR ≤2 (54.1%) in comparison to other FPR ranks (78.8%, FPR 2–5; 77.5%, FPR 5–10; 71.7%, FPR 10–20; 81.8%, FPR 20–60; 75.1%, FPR >60; p = 0.008). The overall proportion of patients achieving virological success was 95.5% by 12 months of therapy. Multivariable Cox analyses showed that patients having pre-HAART FPR ≤2% had a significant lower relative adjusted hazard [95% C.I.] both to achieve immunological reconstitution (0.37 [0.20–0.71], p = 0.003) and to achieve virological success (0.50 [0.26–0.94], p = 0.031) than those with pre-HAART FPR >60%.
Conclusions
Beyond the genotypically-inferred tropism determination, FPR ≤2% predicts both a poor immunological reconstitution and a lower virological response in drug-naïve patients who started their first-line therapy. This parameter could be useful to identify patients potentially with less chance of achieving adequate immunological reconstitution and virological undetectability.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105853
PMCID: PMC4143365  PMID: 25153969
15.  Predictors of suboptimal CD4 response among women achieving virologic suppression in a randomized antiretroviral treatment trial, Africa 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:331.
Background
A subset of HIV-1 infected patients starting highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) experience suboptimal CD4 response (SCR) despite virologic suppression. We studied the rate of and risk factors for SCR among women starting HAART in the ACTG A5208 study conducted in 7 African countries. 741 HAART-naive women with screening CD4 count <200 cells/μL were randomized to start HAART with Tenofovir/Emtricitabine plus either Nevirapine or Lopinavir/Ritonavir.
Methods
This analysis includes the 625 women who remained on-study through 48 weeks without experiencing protocol-defined virologic failure. We defined SCR as < 100 CD4 cells/μL increase from baseline and absolute CD4 cell count < 350 cells/μL, both at 48 weeks after HAART initiation.
Results
The baseline characteristics for the 625 women prior to HAART initiation were: median age 33 years, screening CD4 count 134 cells/μL, and HIV-1 RNA 5.1 log10 copies/mL; 184 (29%) were WHO Stage 3 or 4.
Seventy one (11%) of these 625 women experienced SCR. Baseline factors independently associated with increased odds of SCR included older age, lower HIV-1 RNA, positive Hepatitis B surface antigen, and site location. At 96 weeks, only 6% of the SCR group had CD4 ≥ 350 cells/μL compared with 67% in the non SCR group.
Conclusion
After starting HAART, 11% of women with virologic suppression through 48 weeks experienced SCR. These patients were also less likely to achieve CD4 ≥ 350 cells/μL by 96 weeks. The underlying causes and long term clinical implications of SCR deserve further investigation.
Trial registration
Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00089505
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-331
PMCID: PMC4083139  PMID: 24938526
HIV; Antiretroviral therapy; HAART; Immune response; CD4
16.  Long term outcomes of antiretroviral therapy in a large HIV/AIDS care clinic in urban South Africa: a prospective cohort study 
Background
Clinical, immunologic and virologic outcomes at large HIV/AIDS care clinics in resource poor settings are poorly described beyond the first year of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART). We aimed to prospectively evaluate long-term treatment outcomes at a large scale HIV/AIDS care clinic in South Africa.
Methods
Cohort study of patients initiating HAART between April 1, 2004 and March 13, 2007, and followed up until April 1, 2008 at a public HIV/AIDS care clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa. We performed time to event analysis on key treatment outcomes and program impact parameters including mortality, retention in care, CD4 count gain, virologic success and first line regimen durability.
Results
7583 HIV-infected patients initiated care and contributed to 161,000 person months follow up. Overall mortality rate was low (2.9 deaths per 100 person years, 95% CI 2.6-3.2), but high in the first three months of HAART (8.4 per 100 person years, 95% CI 7.2-9.9). Long-term on-site retention in care was relatively high (74.4% at 4 years, 95%CI 73.2-75.6). CD4 count was above 200 cells/mm3 after 6 months of treatment in almost all patients. By the fourth year of HAART, the majority (59.6%, 95%CI 57.8-61.4) of patients had at least one first line drug (mainly stavudine) substituted. Women were twice as likely to experience drug substitution (OR 1.97, 95% CI 1.80-2.16). By 6 months of HAART, 90.8% suppressed virus below 400 copies. Among those with initial viral suppression, 9.4% (95% CI 8.5-10.3%) had viral rebound within one year of viral suppression, 16.8% (95% CI 15.5-18.1) within 2 years, and 20.6% (95% CI 18.9-22.4) within 3 years of initial suppression. Only 10% of women and 13% of men initiated second line HAART.
Conclusion
Despite advanced disease presentation and a very large-scale program, high quality care was achieved as indicated by good long-term clinical, immunologic and virologic outcomes and a low rate of second line HAART initiation. High rates of single drug substitution suggest that the public health approach to HAART could be further improved by the use of a more durable first line regimen.
doi:10.1186/1758-2652-12-38
PMCID: PMC2811100  PMID: 20017918
17.  HAART receipt and viral suppression among HIV-infected patients with co-occurring mental illness and illicit drug use 
AIDS care  2009;21(5):655-663.
Mental illness (MI) and illicit drug use (DU) frequently co-occur. We sought to determine the individual and combined effects of MI and DU on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) receipt and HIV-RNA suppression among individuals engaged in HIV care. Using 2004 data from the HIV Research Network (HIVRN), we performed a cross-sectional study of HIV-infected patients followed at seven primary care sites. Outcomes of interest were HAART receipt and virological suppression, defined as an HIV-RNA <400 copies/ml. Independent variables of interest were: (1) MI/DU; (2) DU only; (3) MI only; and (4) Neither. We used chi-squared analysis for comparison of categorical variables, and logistic regression to adjust for age, race, sex, frequency of outpatient visits, years in clinical care, CD4 nadir, and study site. During 2004, 10,284 individuals in the HIVRN were either on HAART or HAART eligible defined as a CD4 cell count ≤350. Nearly half had neither MI nor DU (41%), 22% MI only, 15% DU only, and 22% both MI and DU. In multivariate analysis, co-occurring MI/DU was associated with the lowest odds of HAART receipt (Adjusted Odds Ratio: 0.63 (95% CI: (0.55-0.72]), followed by those with DU only (0.75(0.63-0.87)), compared to those with neither. Among those on HAART, concurrent MI/DU (0.66 (0.58-0.75)), DU only (0.77 (0.67-0.88)), were also associated with a decreased odds of HIV-RNA suppression compared to those with neither. MI only was not associated with a statistically significant decrease in HAART receipt (0.93(0.81-1.07)) or viral suppression (0.93 (0.82-1.05)) compared to those with neither. Post-estimation testing revealed a significant difference between those with MI/DU and DU only, and MI/DU and MI only. Co-occurring MI and DU is associated with lower HAART receipt and viral suppression compared to individuals with either MI or DU or neither. Integrating HIV, substance abuse, and mental healthcare may improve outcomes in this population.
doi:10.1080/09540120802459762
PMCID: PMC2727701  PMID: 19444675
HIV; mental health; illicit drug use; viral suppression
18.  Long-Term Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Response to Lamivudine-Containing Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy in HIV-HBV Co-Infected Patients in Thailand 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e42184.
Background
Approximately 4 million of people are co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis B virus (HBV). In resource-limited settings, the majority of HIV-infected patients initiate first-line highly active antiretroviral therapy containing lamivudine (3TC-containing-HAART) and long-term virological response of HBV to lamivudine-containing HAART in co-infected patients is not well known.
Methodology/Principal Finding
HIV-HBV co-infected patients enrolled in the PHPT cohort (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00433030) and initiating a 3TC-containing-HAART regimen were included. HBV-DNA, HIV-RNA, CD4+ T-cell counts and alanine transaminase were measured at baseline, 3 months, 12 months and then every 6 months up to 5 years. Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to estimate the cumulative rates of patients who achieved and maintained HBV-DNA suppression. Of 30 co-infected patients, 19 were positive for HBe antigen (HBeAg). At initiation of 3TC-containing-HAART, median HBV DNA and HIV RNA levels were 7.35 log10 IU/mL and 4.47 log10 copies/mL, respectively. At 12 months, 67% of patients achieved HBV DNA suppression: 100% of HBeAg-negative patients and 47% of HBeAg-positive. Seventy-three percent of patients had HIV RNA below 50 copies/mL. The cumulative rates of maintained HBV-DNA suppression among the 23 patients who achieved HBV-DNA suppression were 91%, 87%, and 80% at 1, 2, and 4 years respectively. Of 17 patients who maintained HBV-DNA suppression while still on 3TC, 4 (24%) lost HBsAg and 7 of 8 (88%) HBeAg-positive patients lost HBeAg at their last visit (median duration, 59 months). HBV breakthrough was observed only in HBeAg-positive patients and 6 of 7 patients presenting HBV breakthrough had the rtM204I/V mutations associated with 3TC resistance along with rtL180M and/or rtV173L.
Conclusions
All HBeAg-negative patients and 63% of HBeAg-positive HIV-HBV co-infected patients achieved long-term HBV DNA suppression while on 3TC-containing-HAART. This study provides information useful for the management of co-infected patients in resource-limited countries where the vast majority of co-infected patients are currently receiving 3TC.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042184
PMCID: PMC3409123  PMID: 22860080
19.  The relationship between non-injection drug use behaviors on progression to AIDS and death in a cohort of HIV seropositive women in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy use 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2005;100(7):990-1002.
Aims
To evaluate the effects of longitudinal patterns and types of non-injection drug use (NIDU) on HIV progression in the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) era.
Design
Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), a prospective cohort study conducted at six US sites.
Methods
Data were collected semi-annually from 1994 to 2002 on 1046 HIV+ women. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards modeling was used to estimate relative hazards for developing AIDS and for death by pattern and type of NIDU.
Findings
During follow-up, 285 AIDS events and 287 deaths, of which 177 were AIDS-related, were reported. At baseline, consistent and former NIDU was associated with CD4+ counts of < 200 cells/μl (43% and 46%, respectively) and viral load > 40 000 copies/ml (53% and 55%, respectively). Consistent NIDU reported less HAART use (53%) compared with other NIDU patterns. Stimulant use was associated with CD4+ cell counts of < 200 cells/μl (53%) and lower HAART initiation (63%) compared with other NIDU types. In multivariate analyses, progression to AIDS was significantly higher among consistent (RH = 2.52), inconsistent (RH = 1.63) and former (RH = 1.56) users compared with never users; and for stimulant (RH = 2.04) and polydrug (RH = 1.65) users compared with non-users. Progression to all-cause death was higher only among former users (RH = 1.48) compared with never users in multivariate analysis. NIDU behaviors were not associated with progression to AIDS-related death.
Conclusions
In this study, pattern and type of NIDU were associated with HIV progression to AIDS and all-cause mortality. These differences were associated with lower HAART utilization among consistent NIDU and use of stimulants, and poor baseline immunological and virological status among former users.
doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01098.x
PMCID: PMC3128378  PMID: 15955015
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; highly active anti-retroviral therapy; human immunodeficiency virus; mortality; non-injection drug use
20.  Three Generic Nevirapine-Based Antiretroviral Treatments in Chinese HIV/AIDS Patients: Multicentric Observation Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(12):e3918.
Background
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of three nevirapine-based antiretroviral treatments for adult antiretroviral-naïve Chinese patients with HIV-1 infection.
Methodology
This was a prospective, multicenter study. 198 antiretroviral-naïve HIV-1 positive subjects with CD4 lymphocyte counts between 100/ul and 350/ul and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels more than 500 copies/ml were randomized to start three NVP-based antiretroviral treatments: group A, NVP+AZT+ddI; group B, NVP+3TC+d4T; group C, NVP+AZT+3TC. Viral responses, immunologic responses, adverse events and drug resistence were monitored at baseline and the end of week 4, 12, 24, 36, 52. Viralogical response and immunological response were also comparaed in different strata of baseline CD4 T lymphocyte counts and plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations. At baseline, the plasma HIV-1 RNA was 4.44±0.68, 4.52±0.71 and 4.41±0.63 lg copies/ml in group A, B and C respectively (p = 0.628). At the end of the study, the plasma viral load reached 2.54±1.11, 1.89±0.46 and 1.92±0.58 lg copies/ml in group A, B and C respectively (p<0.001). At week 52, suppression of plasma HIV-1 RNA to less than 50 copies/ml was achieved in more patients in group B and C than in group A (68.2%, 69% vs. 39.7%; p<0.001). In planned subgroup analyses, the decrease of viral response rate was seen in group A when CD4 cell count >200/ul (subgroup H). But in subgroup L, viral response rate of three groups has no significant statistic difference. There were no statistically significant differences among three groups in immunological response wthin any of the CD4 or pVL strata. 3 out of 193 patients with available genotype at baseline showed primary drug resistant. Of 26 patients with virologic failure, 17 patients showed secondary drug resistant, 16 subjects in group A and 1 subject in group B. Logistic regression analysis indicated that presence of hepatotoxicity was associated with HCV-Ab positive (OR = 2.096, 95%CI: 1.106–3.973, P = 0.023) and higher CD4 baseline (CD4 count >250/ul)(OR = 2.096, 95%CI: 1.07–4.107, P = 0.031).
Conclusion
Our findings strongly support the use of 3TC+d4T and 3TC+AZT as the nucleoside analogue combination in NVP-based antiretroviral therapy. The regimen of AZT+ddI+NVP produced poor virological response especially in the stratum of CD4 count more than 200/ul. More patients showed secondary drug resistant in this arm too. Patients with HCV-Ab+ and CD4 count >250/ul appear to have significantly high risk of hepatoxicity.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00618176
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003918
PMCID: PMC2597744  PMID: 19081791
21.  Nevirapine- Versus Lopinavir/Ritonavir-Based Initial Therapy for HIV-1 Infection among Women in Africa: A Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001236.
In a randomized control trial, Shahin Lockman and colleagues compare nevirapine-based therapy with lopinavir/ritonavir-based therapy for HIV-infected women without previous exposure to antiretroviral treatment.
Background
Nevirapine (NVP) is widely used in antiretroviral treatment (ART) of HIV-1 globally. The primary objective of the AA5208/OCTANE trial was to compare the efficacy of NVP-based versus lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r)-based initial ART.
Methods and Findings
In seven African countries (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), 500 antiretroviral-naïve HIV-infected women with CD4<200 cells/mm3 were enrolled into a two-arm randomized trial to initiate open-label ART with tenofovir (TDF)/emtricitabine (FTC) once/day plus either NVP (n = 249) or LPV/r (n = 251) twice/day, and followed for ≥48 weeks. The primary endpoint was time from randomization to death or confirmed virologic failure ([VF]) (plasma HIV RNA<1 log10 below baseline 12 weeks after treatment initiation, or ≥400 copies/ml at or after 24 weeks), with comparison between treatments based on hazard ratios (HRs) in intention-to-treat analysis. Equivalence of randomized treatments was defined as finding the 95% CI for HR for virological failure or death in the range 0.5 to 2.0. Baseline characteristics were (median): age = 34 years, CD4 = 121 cells/mm3, HIV RNA = 5.2 log10copies/ml. Median follow-up = 118 weeks; 29 (6%) women were lost to follow-up. 42 women (37 VFs, five deaths; 17%) in the NVP and 50 (43 VFs, seven deaths; 20%) in the LPV/r arm reached the primary endpoint (HR 0.85, 95% CI 0.56–1.29). During initial assigned treatment, 14% and 16% of women receiving NVP and LPV/r experienced grade 3/4 signs/symptoms and 26% and 22% experienced grade 3/4 laboratory abnormalities. However, 35 (14%) women discontinued NVP because of adverse events, most in the first 8 weeks, versus none for LPV/r (p<0.001). VF, death, or permanent treatment discontinuation occurred in 80 (32%) of NVP and 54 (22%) of LPV/r arms (HR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.2–2.4), with the difference primarily due to more treatment discontinuation in the NVP arm. 13 (45%) of 29 women tested in the NVP versus six (15%) of 40 in the LPV/r arm had any drug resistance mutation at time of VF.
Conclusions
Initial ART with NVP+TDF/FTC demonstrated equivalent virologic efficacy but higher rates of treatment discontinuation and new drug resistance compared with LPV/r+TDF/FTC in antiretroviral-naïve women with CD4<200 cells/mm3.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00089505
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
About 34 million people (mostly living in low- or middle-income countries) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV destroys CD4 lymphocytes and other immune cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within 10 years of infection. Then, in 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART)—cocktails of drugs that attack different parts of HIV—became available. For people living in affluent countries, HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition. But, because ART was expensive, for people living in developing countries, HIV/AIDS remained a fatal illness. In 2006, the international community set a target of achieving universal access to ART by 2010 and, although this target has not been reached, by the end of 2010, 6.6 million of the estimated 15 million people in need of ART in developing countries were receiving one of the ART regimens recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its 2010 guidelines.
Why Was This Study Done?
A widely used combination for the initial treatment of HIV-infected people (particularly women) in resource-limited settings is tenofovir and emtricitabine (both nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors; reverse transcriptase is essential for HIV replication) and nevirapine (NVP, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor). However, little is known about the efficacy of this NVP-based ART combination. Moreover, its efficacy and toxicity has not been compared with regimens containing lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r). LPV/r, which inhibits the viral protease that is essential for HIV replication, is available in resource-limited settings but is usually reserved for second-line treatment. LPV/r-based ART is more expensive than NVP-based ART but if it were more effective or better tolerated than NVP-based ART, then first-line treatment with LPV/r-based ART might be cost-effective in resource-limited settings. Conversely, evidence of the clinical equivalence of NVP-based and LPV/r-based ART would provide support for NVP-based ART as an initial therapy. In this randomized equivalence trial, the researchers compare the efficacy and toxicity of NVP-based and LVP/r-based initial therapy for HIV infection among antiretroviral-naïve African women. In a randomized trial, patients are assigned different treatments by the play of chance and followed to compare the effects of these treatments; an equivalence trial asks whether the effects of two treatments are statistically equivalent.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers followed 500 antiretroviral-naïve HIV-infected women with a low CD4 cell count living in seven African countries, half of whom received NVP-based ART and half of whom received LPV/r-based ART, for an average of 118 weeks and recorded the time to virologic failure (the presence of virus in the blood above pre-specified levels) or death among the participants. Forty-two women in the NVP arm reached this primary endpoint (37 virologic failures and five deaths) compared to 50 women in the LPV/r arm (43 virologic failures and seven deaths), a result that indicates equivalent virologic efficacy according to preset statistical criteria. During the initial assigned treatment, similar proportions of women in both treatment arms developed serious drug-related signs and symptoms and laboratory abnormalities. However, whereas 14% of the women in the NVP arm discontinued treatment because of adverse effects, none of the women in the LPV/r arm discontinued treatment. Finally, nearly half of the women tested in the NVP arm but only 15% of the women tested in the LVP/r arm had developed any drug resistance at the time of virologic failure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, among HIV-infected, treatment-naïve African women, initial NVP-based ART is as effective as LPV/r-based ART in terms of virologic failure and death although more women in the NVP arm discontinued treatment or developed new drug resistance than in the LPV/r arm. Several limitations of this study may affect the accuracy of these findings. In particular, some of the study participants may have been exposed to single-dose NVP during childbirth to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; in a parallel randomized trial, the researchers found that LPV/r-based ART was superior to NVP-based ART among women with prior exposure to single-dose NVP. Moreover, the duration of the current study means the long-term effects of the two treatments cannot be compared. Nevertheless, these findings support the WHO recommendation of NVP-based ART with careful early toxicity monitoring as an initial affordable and effective HIV treatment regiment in resource-limited settings, until access to better-tolerated and more potent regimens is possible.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001236.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment (in several languages)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on HIV treatment and care (in English and Spanish)
WHO provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment (in English, French and Spanish); its 2010 ART guidelines can be downloaded
More information about this trial, the OCTANE trial, is available
MedlinePlus provides detailed information about nevirapine and lopinavir/ritinovir (in English and Spanish)
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV, including stories about taking anti-HIV drugs and the challenges of anti-HIV drugs
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001236
PMCID: PMC3373629  PMID: 22719231
22.  The Effect of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy on the Survival of HIV-Infected Children in a Resource-Deprived Setting: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(6):e1001044.
This observational cohort study by Andrew Edmonds and colleagues reports that treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) markedly improves the survival of HIV-infected children in Kinshasa, DRC, a resource-deprived setting.
Background
The effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) on the survival of HIV-infected children has not been well quantified. Because most pediatric HIV occurs in low- and middle-income countries, our objective was to provide a first estimate of this effect among children living in a resource-deprived setting.
Methods and Findings
Observational data from HAART-naïve children enrolled into an HIV care and treatment program in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, between December 2004 and May 2010 were analyzed. We used marginal structural models to estimate the effect of HAART on survival while accounting for time-dependent confounders affected by exposure. At the start of follow-up, the median age of the 790 children was 5.9 y, 528 (66.8%) had advanced or severe immunodeficiency, and 405 (51.3%) were in HIV clinical stage 3 or 4. The children were observed for a median of 31.2 mo and contributed a total of 2,089.8 person-years. Eighty children (10.1%) died, 619 (78.4%) initiated HAART, six (0.8%) transferred to a different care provider, and 76 (9.6%) were lost to follow-up. The mortality rate was 3.2 deaths per 100 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.4–4.2) during receipt of HAART and 6.0 deaths per 100 person-years (95% CI 4.1–8.6) during receipt of primary HIV care only. The mortality hazard ratio comparing HAART with no HAART from a marginal structural model was 0.25 (95% CI 0.06–0.95).
Conclusions
HAART reduced the hazard of mortality in HIV-infected children in Kinshasa by 75%, an estimate that is similar in magnitude but with lower precision than the reported effect of HAART on survival among children in the United States.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2009, an estimated 2.5 million children were living with HIV, the majority of whom (2.3 million) were in sub-Saharan Africa. Most (90%) of these children acquired HIV from their HIV-infected mothers during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding, highlighting the importance of giving effective drugs for the prevention of mother to child transmission. As such interventions are still not widely accessible or available in most resource-limited countries, where the burden of HIV is highest, every day an estimated 1,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2009, but only 360,000 children were receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
Although HAART improves the survival of adults living with HIV, less is known about the degree to which HAART affects the survival of HIV-infected children—although response to antiretroviral treatment is known to differ across age groups. Furthermore, as the course of HIV disease in children is different from that in adults (partly because of the impact of the virus on the immature thymus, which can lead to high HIV RNA viremia and rapid death), it is inappropriate to extrapolate results from studies of adults to pediatric populations. Therefore, it is imperative that the effect of HAART on survival be quantified specifically in children.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most observational studies of the effects of treatment on child survival have been undertaken in high-income countries, such as Italy and the United States. As most children with HIV live in low-resource areas, where multiple factors, such as delayed presentation to care and a higher incidence of co-occurring conditions, might adversely affect treatment outcomes, there is a specific need for information on the effects of HAART in children with HIV living in low-income countries. Although some investigations have taken place in pediatric cohorts from such countries (for example, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti, Lesotho, Thailand, and Zambia), the effect of HAART on mortality has not been accurately quantified among children in a resource-deprived setting. Therefore, in this observational clinical cohort study, the researchers investigated the effect of HAART on mortality in HIV-infected children in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data from 790 children enrolled into an HIV program in Kinshasa, DRC, between December 2004 and May 2010 and used a statistical model (marginal structural models) to adjust for time-dependent confounding factors, such as the fact that HAART is typically initiated in sicker patients, for example, those with lower CD4 cell percentages. Assuming that all children starting HAART received it uninterruptedly throughout follow-up, using this statistical model, the researchers were able to compare the hazard ratio of death had all children initiated HAART to that had no children initiated HAART during follow-up.
In the study, 619 out of the 790 children (78.4%) initiated HAART during follow-up and were followed for a median of 31.2 months, with a median of 30 HIV care visits. Of those who started treatment, 110 (17.8%) switched to an alternative regimen because of an adverse event or treatment failure. During the 2,089.8 accrued person-years of follow-up, 80 children (10.1%) died, giving an overall mortality rate of 3.8 deaths per 100 person-years. The unadjusted mortality rate ratio comparing HAART to no HAART was 0.54. Using a marginal structural model, the researchers estimated that compared to no HAART, HAART reduced the hazard (rate) of mortality during follow-up by 75%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that treatment with HAART markedly improved the survival of children infected with HIV in Kinshasa, DRC, and suggest that HAART is as effective in improving the survival of HIV-infected children in a severely resource-deprived country (still recovering from civil war) as in more resource-privileged settings—an important finding given that the vast majority of children receiving HAART live in resource-poor areas. This study provides additional evidence that accelerating rollout of antiretroviral therapy to children with HIV in resource-poor countries is lifesaving and effective. Future research needs to address how effective HAART is in understudied populations in resource-poor countries, such as undernourished children or those with co-infections such as tuberculosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001044.
The World Health Organization's Web site has more information about the treatment of children living with HIV
Médecins Sans Frontières's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines Web site has more information on pediatric HAART
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001044
PMCID: PMC3114869  PMID: 21695087
23.  A Switch in Therapy to a Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor Sparing Combination of Lopinavir/Ritonavir and Raltegravir in Virologically Suppressed HIV-Infected Patients: A Pilot Randomized Trial to Assess Efficacy and Safety Profile: The KITE Study 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2012;28(10):1196-1206.
Abstract
A nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) backbone is a recommended component of standard highly active antiretroviral therapy (sHAART). However, long-term NRTI exposure can be limited by toxicities. NRTI class-sparing alternatives are warranted in select patient populations. This is a 48-week single-center, open-label pilot study in which 60 HIV-infected adults with plasma HIV-1 RNA (<50 copies/ml) on sHAART were randomized (2:1) to lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r) 400/100 mg BID+raltegravir (RAL) 400 mg BID switch (LPV-r/RAL arm) or to continue on sHAART. The primary endpoint was the proportion of subjects with HIV-RNA<50 copies/ml at week 48. Secondary efficacy and immunologic and safety endpoints were evaluated. Demographics and baseline lipid profile were similar across arms. Mean entry CD4 T cell count was 493 cells/mm3. At week 48, 92% [95% confidence interval (CI): 83–100%] of the LPV-r/RAL arm and 88% (95% CI: 75–100%) of the sHAART arm had HIV-RNA<50 copies/ml (p=0.70). Lipid profile (mean±SEM, mg/dl, LPV-r/RAL vs. sHAART) at week 24 was total-cholesterol 194±5 vs. 176±9 (p=0.07), triglycerides 234±30 vs. 133±27 (p=0.003), and LDL-cholesterol 121±6 vs. 110±8 (p=0.27). There were no serious adverse events (AEs) in either arm. Regimen change occurred in three LPV-r/RAL subjects (n=1, due to LPV-r/RAL-related AEs) vs. 0 in sHAART. There were no differences between arms in bone mineral density, total body fat composition, creatinine clearance, or CD4 T cell counts at week 48. In virologically suppressed patients on HAART, switching therapy to the NRTI-sparing LPV-r/RAL combination produced similar sustained virologic suppression and immunologic profile as sHAART. AEs were comparable between arms, but the LPV-r/RAL arm experienced higher triglyceridemia.
doi:10.1089/aid.2011.0336
PMCID: PMC3448110  PMID: 22364141
24.  Bacterial Vaginosis Associated with Increased Risk of Female-to-Male HIV-1 Transmission: A Prospective Cohort Analysis among African Couples 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001251.
In a prospective study, Craig Cohen and colleagues investigate the association between bacterial vaginosis and the risk of female-to-male HIV-1 transmission.
Background
Bacterial vaginosis (BV), a disruption of the normal vaginal flora, has been associated with a 60% increased risk of HIV-1 acquisition in women and higher concentration of HIV-1 RNA in the genital tract of HIV-1–infected women. However, whether BV, which is present in up to half of African HIV-1–infected women, is associated with an increase in HIV-1 transmission to male partners has not been assessed in previous studies.
Methods and Findings
We assessed the association between BV on female-to-male HIV-1 transmission risk in a prospective study of 2,236 HIV-1–seropositive women and their HIV-1 uninfected male partners from seven African countries from a randomized placebo-controlled trial that enrolled heterosexual African adults who were seropositive for both HIV-1 and herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2, and their HIV-1–seronegative partners. Participants were followed for up to 24 months; every three months, vaginal swabs were obtained from female partners for Gram stain and male partners were tested for HIV-1. BV and normal vaginal flora were defined as a Nugent score of 7–10 and 0–3, respectively. To reduce misclassification, HIV-1 sequence analysis of viruses from seroconverters and their partners was performed to determine linkage of HIV-1 transmissions. Overall, 50 incident HIV-1 infections occurred in men in which the HIV-1–infected female partner had an evaluable vaginal Gram stain. HIV-1 incidence in men whose HIV-1–infected female partners had BV was 2.91 versus 0.76 per 100 person-years in men whose female partners had normal vaginal flora (hazard ratio 3.62, 95% CI 1.74–7.52). After controlling for sociodemographic factors, sexual behavior, male circumcision, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels in female partners, BV was associated with a greater than 3-fold increased risk of female-to-male HIV-1 transmission (adjusted hazard ratio 3.17, 95% CI 1.37–7.33).
Conclusions
This study identified an association between BV and increased risk of HIV-1 transmission to male partners. Several limitations may affect the generalizability of our results including: all participants underwent couples HIV counseling and testing and enrolled in an HIV-1 prevention trial, and index participants had a baseline CD4 count ≥250 cells/mm3 and were HSV-2 seropositive. Given the high prevalence of BV and the association of BV with increased risk of both female HIV-1 acquisition and transmission found in our study, if this association proves to be causal, BV could be responsible for a substantial proportion of new HIV-1 infections in Africa. Normalization of vaginal flora in HIV-1–infected women could mitigate female-to-male HIV-1 transmission.
Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.com NCT00194519
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Since the first reported case of AIDS in 1981, the number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has risen steadily. By the end of 2010, 34 million people were living with HIV/AIDS. At the beginning of the epidemic more men than women were infected with HIV. Now, however, 50% of all adults infected with HIV are women and in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of HIV-positive people live, women account for 59% of people living with HIV. Moreover, among 15–24 year-olds, women are eight times more likely than men to be HIV-positive. This pattern of infection has developed because most people in sub-Saharan Africa contract HIV through unprotected heterosexual sex. The risk of HIV transmission for both men and women in Africa and elsewhere can be reduced by abstaining from sex, by only having one or a few partners, by always using condoms, and by male circumcision. In addition, several studies suggest that antiretroviral therapy (ART) greatly reduces HIV transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, in sub-Saharan Africa, only about a fifth of HIV-positive people are currently receiving ART, which means that there is an urgent need to find other effective ways to reduce HIV transmission in this region. In this prospective cohort study (a type of study that follows a group of people for some time to see which personal characteristics are associated with disease development), the researchers investigate whether bacterial vaginosis—a condition in which harmful bacteria disrupt the normal vaginal flora—increases the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission among African couples. Bacterial vaginosis, which is extremely common in sub-Saharan Africa, has been associated with an increased risk of HIV acquisition in women and induces viral replication and shedding in the vagina in HIV-positive women, which may mean that HIV-positive women with bacterial vaginosis are more likely to transmit HIV to their male partners than women without this condition. If this is the case, then interventions that reduce the incidence of bacterial vaginosis might be valuable HIV prevention strategies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data collected from 2,236 heterosexual African couples enrolled in a clinical trial (the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study) whose primary aim was to investigate whether suppression of herpes simplex virus infection could prevent HIV transmission. In all the couples, the woman was HIV-positive and the man was initially HIV-negative. The female partners were examined every three months for the presence of bacterial vaginosis and the male partners were tested regularly for HIV infection. The researchers also determined whether the men who became HIV-positive were infected with the same HIV strain as their partner to check that their infection had been acquired from this partner. The HIV incidence in men whose partners had bacterial vaginosis was 2.9 per 100 person-years (that is, 2.9 out of every 100 men became HIV-positive per year) whereas the HIV incidence in men whose partners had a normal vaginal flora was 0.76 per 100 person-years. After controlling for factors that might affect the risk of HIV transmission such as male circumcision and viral levels in female partner's blood, the researchers estimated that bacterial vaginosis was associated with a 3.17-fold increased risk of female-to-male HIV transmission in their study population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-positive African women with bacterial vaginosis are more than three times as likely to transmit HIV to their male partners as those with a normal vaginal flora. It is possible that some unknown characteristic of the men in this study might have increased both their own risk of HIV infection and their partner's risk of bacterial vaginosis. Nevertheless, because bacterial vaginosis is so common in Africa (half of the women in this study had bacterial vaginosis at least once during follow-up) and because this condition is associated with both female HIV acquisition and transmission, these findings suggest that bacterial vaginosis could be responsible for a substantial proportion of new HIV infections in Africa. Normalization of vaginal flora in HIV-infected women by frequent presumptive treatment with antimicrobials (treatment with a curative dose of antibiotics without testing for bacterial vaginosis) or possibly by treatment with probiotics (live “good” bacteria) might, therefore, reduce female-to-male HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001251.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS and on bacterial vaginosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including specific information about HIV/AIDS and women; it also has information on bacterial vaginosis (in English and Spanish)
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and information on bacterial vaginosis and HIV transmission (in several languages)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS nonprofit group on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on HIV and AIDS prevention, on women, HIV and AIDS and on HIV/AIDS in Africa (in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available; the website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV
More information about the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001251
PMCID: PMC3383741  PMID: 22745608
25.  Hepatitis B Virus Infection and Response to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) in a South African ART Program 
Background
Coinfection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is common in Africa; however, the impact of HBV infection on the outcomes of antiretroviral therapy programs is unclear. We evaluated the impact of chronic hepatitis B on HIV virologic response, changes in CD4 cell count, hepatotoxicity, and mortality among Africans receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
Methods
We conducted a retrospective cohort study involving a workplace HAART program in South Africa. Participants received HAART according to a protocol and were followed up for up to 72 weeks. On the basis of pre-HAART serum assays, patients were classified as being hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) negative, HBsAg positive with a low HBV DNA level (≤1 × 104 copies/mL), and HBsAg positive with a high HBV DNA level (>1 × 104 copies/mL). The relationships between HBV status and HIV RNA suppression, change in CD4 cell count, mortality, and hepatotoxicity were assessed with use of regression techniques.
Results
Five hundred thirty-seven individuals fulfilled the inclusion criteria; 431 (80.3%) of these patients were HBsAg negative, 60 (11.2%) were HBsAg positive with a low HBV DNA level, and 46 (8.6%) were HBsAg positive with a high HBV DNA level. All groups had similar rates of HIV RNA suppression (P =.61), CD4 cell count increases (P =.75), and mortality (17 total deaths; P =.11) for up to 72 weeks after the initiation of HAART. Baseline transaminase levels were highest in the group with high HBV DNA levels (P =.004). Hepatotoxicity was similar between the HBsAg-negative group and the group with low HBV DNA levels but was higher in the group with high HBV DNA levels (incidence rate ratio, 4.4).
Conclusions
We revealed that HBV status does not affect HIV RNA suppression, CD4 cell count response, or mortality during the first 72 weeks of HAART in an African setting. The risk of HBV-associated hepatotoxicity, however, is associated with the baseline HBV DNA level.
doi:10.1086/593104
PMCID: PMC2670447  PMID: 18937580

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