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1.  Association of the ANRS-12126 Male Circumcision Project with HIV Levels among Men in a South African Township: Evaluation of Effectiveness using Cross-sectional Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(9):e1001509.
Betran Auvert and colleagues report findings from the Bophelo Pele project, a community-based HIV prevention intervention offering free voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), that demonstrate an association between VMMC roll-out and a reduction in the incidence and prevalence of HIV in the community.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Randomized controlled trials have shown that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) reduces HIV infection by 50% to 60% in sub-Saharan African populations; however, little is known about the population-level effect of adult male circumcision (MC) as an HIV prevention method. We assessed the effectiveness of VMMC roll-out on the levels of HIV in the South African township of Orange Farm where the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the effect of VMMC on HIV acquisition was conducted in 2002–2005.
Methods and Findings
The Bophelo Pele project is a community-based campaign against HIV, which includes the roll-out of free VMMC. A baseline cross-sectional biomedical survey was conducted in 2007–2008 among a random sample of 1,998 men aged 15 to 49 (survey response rate 80.7%). In 2010–2011, we conducted a follow-up random survey among 3,338 men aged 15 to 49 (survey response rate 79.6%) to evaluate the project. Participants were interviewed, blood samples were collected and tested for HIV and recent HIV infection (using the BED HIV incidence assay), and MC status was assessed through a clinical examination. Data were analyzed using multivariate and propensity statistical methods.
Owing to the VMMCs performed in the context of the RCT and the Bophelo Pele project, the prevalence rate of adult MC increased from 0.12 (95% CI 0.10–0.14) to 0.53 (95% CI 0.51–0.55). Without these VMMCs, the HIV prevalence rate in 2010–2011 would have been 19% (95% CI 12%–26%) higher (0.147 instead of 0.123).
When comparing circumcised and uncircumcised men, no association of MC status with sexual behavior was detected. Among circumcised and uncircumcised men, the proportion consistently using condoms with non-spousal partners in the past 12 months was 44.0% (95% CI 41.7%–46.5%) versus 45.4% (95% CI 42.2%–48.6%) with weighted prevalence rate ratio (wPRR) = 0.94 (95% CI 0.85–1.03). The proportion having two or more non-spousal partners was 50.4% (95% CI 47.9%–52.9%) versus 44.2% (95% CI 41.3%–46.9%) with wPRR = 1.03 (95% CI 0.95–1.10).
We found a reduction of BED-estimated HIV incidence rate ranging from 57% (95% CI 29%–76%) to 61% (95% CI 14%–83%) among circumcised men in comparison with uncircumcised men.
Conclusions
Findings suggest that the roll-out of VMMC in Orange Farm is associated with a significant reduction of HIV levels in the community. The main limitation of the study is that it was not randomized and cannot prove a causal association. The roll-out of VMMC among adults in sub-Saharan Africa should be an international priority and needs to be accelerated to effectively combat the spread of HIV.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year about 2.2 million people (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa) become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is extremely important. Because HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection by abstaining from sex, by having only one or a few sexual partners, and by always using a male or female condom. The results of three randomized controlled trials conducted in sub-Saharan Africa also suggest that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC)—the removal of the foreskin, a loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—can reduce the heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men by 50%–60%. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) recommended that VMMC should be offered as part of comprehensive HIV risk reduction programs in settings with generalized HIV epidemics and low levels of male circumcision and prioritized 14 east and southern African countries for VMMC roll-out.
Why Was This Study Done?
To date, about 3 million VMMCs have been performed for HIV prevention but it is not known whether “real world” VMMC roll-out programs will replicate the promising results obtained in the earlier trials. Indeed, there are fears that “risk compensation” (an increase in risky sexual behaviors after VMMC) might lead to increased HIV transmission in regions where VMMC is rolled out. In this study, the researchers use sequential cross-sectional surveys (studies that collect data from a group of people at a single time point) to investigate HIV infection levels in men in Orange Farm, a township in South Africa where one of the randomized controlled trials of VMMC was undertaken. The surveys were conducted before and after implementation of the Bophelo Pele project, a community-based campaign against HIV that was initiated in 2008 and that includes free VMMC.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers asked a random sample of nearly 2,000 men aged 15–49 years about their sexual behavior (for example, how many non-spousal partners they had had over the past year), and their intention to become circumcised if uncircumcised in a baseline survey in 2007–2008. The study participants were also offered HIV counseling and testing (including a test that indicated whether the participant had recently become HIV positive) and were examined to see whether they were already circumcised. A similar follow-up survey was conducted in 2010–2011 in which more than 3,000 men were invited to take part. At baseline, 12% of the men surveyed had been circumcised (a prevalence of circumcision of 12%) whereas in the follow-up survey, the overall prevalence of circumcision and the prevalence of circumcision among 15–29 year-olds (an important target group for VMMC roll-out) were 53% and 58%, respectively. The overall HIV prevalence at follow-up was 12% and the researchers estimated that without the VMMCs performed during the Bophelo Pele project and the preceding randomized control trial the prevalence of HIV among men living in Orange Farm would have been 15% in 2011. Using various cut-off values and corrections for a laboratory-based test to measure recent HIV infections, the researchers reported a reduction in the rate of new HIV infections (incidence rate) ranging from 57% to 61% among circumcised men in comparison with uncircumcised men. Importantly, there was no evidence of an association between circumcision status and risky sexual behavior but circumcision was associated with a reduction in the number of men who had recently become HIV positive.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that VMMC roll out in Orange Farm is associated with a reduction in HIV infection levels in the community and that circumcision is not associated with changes in sexual behavior that might affect HIV infection rates. They also suggest that VMMC roll-out is associated with a rapid uptake of VMMC, especially among young men, in an African community where male circumcision is not a social norm. Because this study is not a randomized controlled trial, it cannot establish cause and effect. Thus, although the observed reduction in HIV prevalence among circumcised men compared to uncircumcised men suggests that circumcision provided protection against HIV acquisition within the study population, the results do not conclusively prove this. The findings of this study nevertheless support the continuation and acceleration of the roll-out of adult VMMC in Africa although further studies are needed to show whether VMMC roll-out is also associated with a reduction in HIV acquisition among women and among uncircumcised men.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001509.
Information and resources on male circumcision for HIV prevention are available
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, summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and information on male circumcision for the prevention of HIV transmission
Information is available from WHO and UNAIDS on all aspects of HIV/AIDS; the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision, a resource provided by WHO, UNAIDS and other international bodies, provides information and tools for VMMC policy development and program implementation; a report entitled Progress in scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention in East and Southern Africa, January-December 2011 is available
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in South Africa, on HIV prevention, and on circumcision and HIV (in English and Spanish)
A 2010 PLOS Medicine Research Article by Pascale Lissouba et al. provides more information about the Bophelo Pele project
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, through Nam/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline; a personal story about circumcision in Zimbabwe is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001509
PMCID: PMC3760784  PMID: 24019763
2.  Shared learning in an interconnected world: innovations to advance global health equity 
The notion of “reverse innovation”--that some insights from low-income countries might offer transferable lessons for wealthier contexts--is increasingly common in the global health and business strategy literature. Yet the perspectives of researchers and policymakers in settings where these innovations are developed have been largely absent from the discussion to date. In this Commentary, we present examples of programmatic, technological, and research-based innovations from Rwanda, and offer reflections on how the global health community might leverage innovative partnerships for shared learning and improved health outcomes in all countries.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-9-37
PMCID: PMC3765795  PMID: 24119388
3.  Combatting Substandard and Falsified Medicines: A View from Rwanda 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001476.
Agnes Binagwaho and colleagues describe Rwanda's experience of pharmacovigilance for malaria and tuberculosis, and call for a global treaty and leadership by the World Health Organization to address the global manufacture and trade in substandard and falsified medicines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001476
PMCID: PMC3699445  PMID: 23843747
4.  Comprehensive and integrated district health systems strengthening: the Rwanda Population Health Implementation and Training (PHIT) Partnership 
BMC Health Services Research  2013;13(Suppl 2):S5.
Background
Nationally, health in Rwanda has been improving since 2000, with considerable improvement since 2005. Despite improvements, rural areas continue to lag behind urban sectors with regard to key health outcomes. Partners In Health (PIH) has been supporting the Rwanda Ministry of Health (MOH) in two rural districts in Rwanda since 2005. Since 2009, the MOH and PIH have spearheaded a health systems strengthening (HSS) intervention in these districts as part of the Rwanda Population Health Implementation and Training (PHIT) Partnership. The partnership is guided by the belief that HSS interventions should be comprehensive, integrated, responsive to local conditions, and address health care access, cost, and quality. The PHIT Partnership represents a collaboration between the MOH and PIH, with support from the National University of Rwanda School of Public Health, the National Institute of Statistics, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Description of intervention
The PHIT Partnership’s health systems support aligns with the World Health Organization’s six health systems building blocks. HSS activities focus across all levels of the health system — community, health center, hospital, and district leadership — to improve health care access, quality, delivery, and health outcomes. Interventions are concentrated on three main areas: targeted support for health facilities, quality improvement initiatives, and a strengthened network of community health workers.
Evaluation design
The impact of activities will be assessed using population-level outcomes data collected through oversampling of the demographic and health survey (DHS) in the intervention districts. The overall impact evaluation is complemented by an analysis of trends in facility health care utilization. A comprehensive costing project captures the total expenditures and financial inputs of the health care system to determine the cost of systems improvement. Targeted evaluations and operational research pieces focus on specific programmatic components, supported by partnership-supported work to build in-country research capacity.
Discussion
Building on early successes, the work of the Rwanda PHIT Partnership approach to HSS has already seen noticeable increases in facility capacity and quality of care. The rigorous planned evaluation of the Partnership’s HSS activities will contribute to global knowledge about intervention methodology, cost, and population health impact.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-S2-S5
PMCID: PMC3668243  PMID: 23819573
6.  Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV: Cost-Effectiveness of Antiretroviral Regimens and Feeding Options in Rwanda 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e54180.
Background
Rwanda's National PMTCT program aims to achieve elimination of new HIV infections in children by 2015. In November 2010, Rwanda adopted the WHO 2010 ARV guidelines for PMTCT recommending Option B (HAART) for all HIV-positive pregnant women extended throughout breastfeeding and discontinued (short course-HAART) only for those not eligible for life treatment. The current study aims to assess the cost-effectiveness of this policy choice.
Methods
Based on a cohort of HIV-infected pregnant women in Rwanda, we modelled the cost-effectiveness of six regimens: dual ARV prophylaxis with either 12 months breastfeeding or replacement feeding; short course HAART (Sc-HAART) prophylaxis with either 6 months breastfeeding, 12 months breastfeeding, or 18 months breastfeeding; and Sc-HAART prophylaxis with replacement feeding. Direct costs were modelled based on all inputs in each scenario and related unit costs. Effectiveness was evaluated by measuring HIV-free survival at 18 months. Savings correspond to the lifetime costs of HIV treatment and care avoided as a result of all vertical HIV infections averted.
Results
All PMTCT scenarios considered are cost saving compared to “no intervention.” Sc-HAART with 12 months breastfeeding or 6 months breastfeeding dominate all other scenarios. Sc-HAART with 12 months breastfeeding allows for more children to be alive and HIV-uninfected by 18 months than Sc-HAART with 6 months breastfeeding for an incremental cost per child alive and uninfected of 11,882 USD. This conclusion is sensitive to changes in the relative risk of mortality by 18 months for exposed HIV-uninfected children on replacement feeding from birth and those who were breastfed for only 6 months compared to those breastfeeding for 12 months or more.
Conclusion
Our findings support the earlier decision by Rwanda to adopt WHO Option B and could inform alternatives for breastfeeding duration. Local contexts and existing care delivery models should be part of national policy decisions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054180
PMCID: PMC3577801  PMID: 23437040
7.  Designing and Implementing an Innovative SMS-based alert system (RapidSMS-MCH) to monitor pregnancy and reduce maternal and child deaths in Rwanda 
Introduction
With the continuous growth of mobile network coverage and unprecedented penetration of mobile devices in the developing world, several mHealth initiatives are being implemented in developing countries. This paper aims to describe requirements for designing and implementing a mobile phone-based communication system aiming at monitoring pregnancy and reducing bottlenecks in communication associated with maternal and newborn deaths; and document challenges and lessons learned.
Methods
An SMS-based system was developed to improve maternal and child health (MCH) using RapidSMS®, a free and open-sourced software development framework. To achieve the expected results, the RapidSMS-MCH system was customized to allow interactive communication between a community health worker (CHW)following mother-infant pairs in their community, a national centralized database, the health facility and in case of an emergency alert, the ambulance driver. The RapidSMS-MCH system was piloted in Musanze district, Nothern province of Rwanda over a 12-month period.
Results
A total of 432 CHW were trained and equipped with mobile phones. A total of 35,734 SMS were sent by 432 CHW from May 2010 to April 2011. A total of 11,502 pregnancies were monitored. A total of 362 SMS alerts for urgent and life threatening events were registered. We registered a 27% increase in facility based delivery from 72% twelve months before to 92% at the end of the twelve months pilot phase. Major challenges were telephone maintenance and replacement. Disctrict heath team capacity to manage and supervise the system was strengthened by the end of pilot phase. Highly committed CHWs and effective coordination by the District health team were critical enablers.
Conclusion
We successully designed and implemented a mobile phone SMS-based system to track pregnancy and maternal and child outcomes in limited resources setting. Implementation of mobile-phone systems at community level could contribute to improving emergency obstetric and neonatal care, yet it requires a well-organized community health structure in limited resource settings.
PMCID: PMC3542808  PMID: 23330022
mHealth; eHealth; SMS; RapidSMS; Maternal and Child Health
8.  Improvement in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Postconflict Rwandan Women 
Journal of Women's Health  2011;20(9):1325-1332.
Abstract
Background
Depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common in developing and postconflict countries. The purpose of this study is to examine longitudinal changes in PTSD in HIV-infected and uninfected Rwandan women who experienced the 1994 genocide.
Methods
Five hundred thirty-five HIV-positive and 163 HIV-negative Rwandan women in an observational cohort study were followed for 18 months. Data on PTSD symptoms were collected longitudinally by the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and analyzed in relationship to demographics, HIV status, antiretroviral treatment (ART), and depression. PTSD was defined as a score on the HTQ of ≥2.
Results
There was a continuing reduction in HTQ scores at each follow-up visit. The prevalence of PTSD symptoms changed significantly, with 61% of the cohort having PTSD at baseline vs. 24% after 18 months. Women with higher HTQ score were most likely to have improvement in PTSD symptoms (p<0.0001). Higher rate of baseline depressive symptoms (p<0.0001) was associated with less improvement in PTSD symptoms. HIV infection and ART were not found to be consistently related to PTSD improvement.
Conclusions
HIV care settings can become an important venue for the identification and treatment of psychiatric problems affecting women with HIV in postconflict and developing countries. Providing opportunities for women with PTSD symptoms to share their history of trauma to trained counselors and addressing depression, poverty, and ongoing violence may contribute to reducing symptoms.
doi:10.1089/jwh.2010.2404
PMCID: PMC3168969  PMID: 21732802
9.  Trends in malaria cases, hospital admissions and deaths following scale-up of anti-malarial interventions, 2000–2010, Rwanda 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:236.
Background
To control malaria, the Rwandan government and its partners distributed insecticide-treated nets (ITN) and made artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) widely available from 2005 onwards. The impact of these interventions on malaria cases, admissions and deaths was assessed using data from district hospitals and household surveys.
Methods
District records of ITN and ACT distribution were reviewed. Malaria and non-malaria indictors in 30 district hospitals were ascertained from surveillance records. Trends in cases, admissions and deaths for 2000 to 2010 were assessed by segmented log-linear regression, adjusting the effect size for time trends during the pre-intervention period, 2000–2005. Changes were estimated by comparing trends in post-intervention (2006–2010) with that of pre-intervention (2000–2005) period. All-cause deaths in children under-five in household surveys of 2005 and 2010 were also reviewed to corroborate with the trends of deaths observed in hospitals.
Results
The proportion of the population potentially protected by ITN increased from nearly zero in 2005 to 38% in 2006, and 76% in 2010; no major health facility stock-outs of ACT were recorded following their introduction in 2006. In district hospitals, after falling during 2006–2008, confirmed malaria cases increased in 2009 coinciding with decreased potential ITN coverage and declined again in 2010 following an ITN distribution campaign. For all age groups, from the pre-intervention period, microscopically confirmed cases declined by 72%, (95% Confidence Interval [CI], 12-91%) in 2010, slide positivity rate declined 58%, (CI, 47%–68%), malaria inpatient cases declined 76% (CI, 49%–88%); and malaria deaths declined 47% (CI, 47%–81%). In children below five years of age, malaria inpatients decreased 82% (CI, 61%-92%) and malaria hospital deaths decreased 77% (CI, 40%–91%). Concurrently, outpatient cases, admissions and deaths due to non-malaria diseases in all age groups either increased or remained unchanged. Rainfall and temperature remained favourable for malaria transmission. The annual all-cause mortality in children under-five in household surveys declined from 152 per 1,000 live births during 2001–2005, to 76 per 1,000 live births in 2006–2010 (55% decline). The five-year cumulative number of all-cause deaths in hospital declined 28% (8,051 to 5,801) during the same period.
Conclusions
A greater than 50% decline in confirmed malaria cases, admissions and deaths at district hospitals in Rwanda since 2005 followed a marked increase in ITN coverage and use of ACT. The decline occurred among both children under-five and in those five years and above, while hospital utilization increased and suitable conditions for malaria transmission persisted. Declines in malaria indicators in children under 5 years were more striking than in the older age groups. The resurgence in cases associated with decreased ITN coverage in 2009 highlights the need for sustained high levels of anti-malarial interventions in Rwanda and other malaria endemic countries.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-236
PMCID: PMC3502144  PMID: 22823945
10.  Towards Universal Health Coverage: An Evaluation of Rwanda Mutuelles in Its First Eight Years 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39282.
Background
Mutuelles is a community-based health insurance program, established since 1999 by the Government of Rwanda as a key component of the national health strategy on providing universal health care. The objective of the study was to evaluate the impact of Mutuelles on achieving universal coverage of medical services and financial risk protection in its first eight years of implementation.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a quantitative impact evaluation of Mutuelles between 2000 and 2008 using nationally-representative surveys. At the national and provincial levels, we traced the evolution of Mutuelles coverage and its impact on child and maternal care coverage from 2000 to 2008, as well as household catastrophic health payments from 2000 to 2006. At the individual level, we investigated the impact of Mutuelles' coverage on enrollees' medical care utilization using logistic regression. We focused on three target populations: the general population, under-five children, and women with delivery. At the household level, we used logistic regression to study the relationship between Mutuelles coverage and the probability of incurring catastrophic health spending. The main limitation was that due to insufficient data, we are not able to study the impact of Mutuelles on health outcomes, such as child and maternal mortalities, directly.
The findings show that Mutuelles improved medical care utilization and protected households from catastrophic health spending. Among Mutuelles enrollees, those in the poorest expenditure quintile had a significantly lower rate of utilization and higher rate of catastrophic health spending. The findings are robust to various estimation methods and datasets.
Conclusions
Rwanda's experience suggests that community-based health insurance schemes can be effective tools for achieving universal health coverage even in the poorest settings. We suggest a future study on how eliminating Mutuelles copayments for the poorest will improve their healthcare utilization, lower their catastrophic health spending, and affect the finances of health care providers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039282
PMCID: PMC3377670  PMID: 22723985
11.  HIV-free survival among nine- to 24-month-old children born to HIV-positive mothers in the Rwandan national PMTCT programme: a community-based household survey 
Background
Operational effectiveness of large-scale national programmes for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa remains limited. We report on HIV-free survival among nine- to 24-month-old children born to HIV-positive mothers in the national PMTCT programme in Rwanda.
Methods
We conducted a national representative household survey between February and May 2009. Participants were mothers who had attended antenatal care at least once during their most recent pregnancy, and whose children were aged nine to 24 months. A two-stage stratified (geographic location of PMTCT site, maternal HIV status during pregnancy) cluster sampling was used to select mother-infant pairs to be interviewed during household visits. Alive children born from HIV-positive mothers (HIV-exposed children) were tested for HIV according to routine HIV testing protocol. We calculated HIV-free survival at nine to 24 months. We subsequently determined factors associated with mother to child transmission of HIV, child death and HIV-free survival using logistic regression.
Results
Out of 1448 HIV-exposed children surveyed, 44 (3.0%) were reported dead by nine months of age. Of the 1340 children alive, 53 (4.0%) tested HIV positive. HIV-free survival was estimated at 91.9% (95% confidence interval: 90.4-93.3%) at nine to 24 months. Adjusting for maternal, child and health system factors, being a member of an association of people living with HIV (adjusted odds ratio: 0.7, 95% CI: 0.1-0.995) improved by 30% HIV-free survival among children, whereas the maternal use of a highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) regimen for PMTCT (aOR: 0.6, 95% CI: 0.3-1.07) had a borderline effect.
Conclusions
HIV-free survival among HIV-exposed children aged nine to 24 months is estimated at 91.9% in Rwanda. The national PMTCT programme could achieve greater impact on child survival by ensuring access to HAART for all HIV-positive pregnant women in need, improving the quality of the programme in rural areas, and strengthening linkages with community-based support systems, including associations of people living with HIV.
doi:10.1186/1758-2652-15-4
PMCID: PMC3293013  PMID: 22289641
children and HIV; vertical transmission of HIV; PMTCT; programme effectiveness; elimination of MTCT, HIV-free survival; Africa, Rwanda
12.  What Will It Take to Eliminate Pediatric HIV? Reaching WHO Target Rates of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission in Zimbabwe: A Model-Based Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(1):e1001156.
Using a simulation model, Andrea Ciaranello and colleagues find that the latest WHO PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV) guidelines plus better access to PMTCT programs, better retention of women in care, and better adherence to drugs are needed to eliminate pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe.
Background
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the “virtual elimination” of pediatric HIV: a mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk of less than 5%. We investigated uptake of prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) services, infant feeding recommendations, and specific drug regimens necessary to achieve this goal in Zimbabwe.
Methods and Findings
We used a computer model to simulate a cohort of HIV-infected, pregnant/breastfeeding women (mean age, 24 y; mean CD4, 451/µl; breastfeeding duration, 12 mo). Three PMTCT regimens were evaluated: (1) single-dose nevirapine (sdNVP), (2) WHO 2010 guidelines' “Option A” (zidovudine in pregnancy, infant nevirapine throughout breastfeeding for women without advanced disease, lifelong combination antiretroviral therapy for women with advanced disease), and (3) WHO “Option B” (pregnancy/breastfeeding-limited combination antiretroviral drug regimens without advanced disease; lifelong antiretroviral therapy with advanced disease). We examined four levels of PMTCT uptake (proportion of pregnant women accessing and adhering to PMTCT services): reported rates in 2008 and 2009 (36% and 56%, respectively) and target goals in 2008 and 2009 (80% and 95%, respectively). The primary model outcome was MTCT risk at weaning.
The 2008 sdNVP-based National PMTCT Program led to a projected 12-mo MTCT risk of 20.3%. Improved uptake in 2009 reduced projected risk to 18.0%. If sdNVP were replaced by more effective regimens, with 2009 (56%) uptake, estimated MTCT risk would be 14.4% (Option A) or 13.4% (Option B). Even with 95% uptake of Option A or B, projected transmission risks (6.1%–7.7%) would exceed the WHO goal of less than 5%. Only if the lowest published transmission risks were used for each drug regimen, or breastfeeding duration were shortened, would MTCT risks at 95% uptake fall below 5%.
Conclusions
Implementation of the WHO PMTCT guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the “virtual elimination” of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A woman who is infected with HIV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breastfeeding—mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT). Without treatment, up to 30% of babies born to HIV-infected women will become infected with HIV during pregnancy or at delivery, and a further 5%–20% will become infected through breastfeeding. In 2009, around 400,000 children under 15 years of age became infected with HIV, mainly through MTCT—90% of these MTCT infections occurred in Africa.
In addition to preventing HIV infection among prospective parents and avoiding unwanted pregnancies among HIV-positive women, effective prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) requires preventing the transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their infants during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding.
In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) published new guidelines for PMTCT based on combination antiretroviral therapy for women with advanced HIV disease, and two options for countries to select for women with less advanced disease. Option A includes zidovudine (ZDV) during pregnancy and single-dose nevirapine (sdNVP) at delivery, followed by daily nevirapine syrup for infants throughout the duration of breastfeeding; Option B includes maternal triple-drug ARV regimens throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, WHO estimates that only 53% of pregnant women worldwide received any antiretroviral medicines for PMTCT in 2009.
Why Was This Study Done?
As in many sub-Saharan African countries where prolonged breastfeeding is common, and necessary to improve child health, Zimbabwe is implementing the 2010 WHO guidelines with Option A. However, because of the challenges of enrolling and retaining women in PMTCT programs, the effectiveness of this strategy is unknown. Therefore in this study, the researchers used a model to calculate the level of PMTCT uptake in Zimbabwe, the PMTCT drug regimens, and the duration of breastfeeding that would be necessary to reach the WHO goal of an MTCT risk below 5%.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a validated computer simulation model developed for analyzing the cost-effectiveness of preventing AIDS complications to measure risk of infant HIV transmission at the time of weaning, the HIV infection risk at 4–6 weeks of age, infant survival at two years of age, and 2-year HIV-free survival. The researchers used four scenarios of PMTCT uptake and linked the models to two populations of pregnant and breastfeeding women (mean age, 24 years) in Zimbabwe, and then analyzed the combinations of the factors necessary to reach MTCT risks less than 5%.
At baseline, the researchers found that the 2008 National PMTCT Program in Zimbabwe led to a projected 12-month MTCT risk of 20.3%. The projected risk in 2009 was 18.0% because of improved uptake. The estimated MTCT risk with Option A at 56% uptake (2009 levels) was 14.4% and with Option B was 13.4%. However, even with greatly increased uptake, such as 95% levels, the researchers found that projected transmission risks would exceed the WHO goal of less than 5% MTCT, and that the MTCT risk would fall below 5% at the 95% uptake level only if the lowest transmission risks were used for each drug regimen, or if breastfeeding duration were shortened.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the planned implementation of the 2010 WHO PMTCT guidelines with Option A in Zimbabwe could substantially reduce infant HIV infection risk compared to the 2009 national program with sdNVP. Furthermore, in order to reach a MTCT risk of less than 5%, a national program based on either Option A or Option B will also need to include strategies to improve access to PMTCT services (to almost 100% uptake), retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. These findings from a resource-limited country with high HIV prevalence and prolonged breastfeeding may be useful for other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001156.
Avert gives some more information on MTCT and PMTCT.
The United Nations Children's Fund has factsheets on national PMTCT responses in the most affected countries.
WHO's strategic vision for PMTCT for 2010–2015 is also available.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001156
PMCID: PMC3254654  PMID: 22253579
13.  Under-two child mortality according to maternal HIV status in Rwanda: assessing outcomes within the National PMTCT Program 
Introduction
We sought to compare risk of death among children aged under-2 years born to HIV positive mother (HIV-exposed) and to HIV negative mother (HIV non-exposed), and identify determinants of under-2 mortality among the two groups in Rwanda.
Methods
In a stratified, two-stage cluster sampling design, we selected mother-child pairs using national Antenatal Care (ANC) registers. Household interview with each mother was conducted to capture socio-demographic data and information related to pregnancy, delivery and post-partum. Data were censored at the date of child death. Using Cox proportional hazard model, we compared the hazard of death among HIV-exposed children and HIV non-exposed children.
Results
Of 1,455 HIV-exposed children, 29 (2.0%; 95% CI: 1.3%-2.7%) died by 6 months compared to 18 children of the 1,565 HIV non-exposed children (1.2%; 95% CI: 0.6%-1.7%). By 9 months, cumulative risks of death were 3.0% (95%; CI: 2.2%-3.9%) and 1.3% (96%; CI: 0.7%-1.8%) among HIV-exposed and HIV non-exposed children, respectively. By 2 years, the hazard of death among HIV-exposed children was more than 3 times higher (aHR:3.5; 95% CI: 1.8-6.9) among HIV-exposed versus non-exposed children. Risk of death by 9-24 months of age was 50% lower among mothers who attended 4 or more antenatal care (ANC) visits (aHR: 0.5, 95% CI: 0.3-0.9), and 26% lower among families who had more assets (aHR: 0.7, 95% CI: 0.5-1.0).
Conclusion
Infant mortality was independent of perinatal HIV exposure among children by 6 months of age. However, HIV-exposed children were 3.5 times more likely to die by 2 years. Fewer antenatal visits, lower household assets and maternal HIV seropositive status were associated with increased mortality by 9-24 months.
PMCID: PMC3215559  PMID: 22145068
HIV; PMTCT; maternal HIV infection; infant mortality; child mortality; under-five mortality; Rwanda
14.  Prevalence of Kidney Disease in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Rwandan Women 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e18352.
Background
In the United States, HIV-related kidney disease disproportionately affects individuals of African descent; however, there are few estimates of kidney disease prevalence in Africa. We evaluated the prevalence of kidney disease among HIV-infected and uninfected Rwandan women.
Methods
The Rwandan Women's Interassociation Study and Assessment prospectively enrolled 936 women. Associations with estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR)<60 mL/min/1.73 m2 and proteinuria were assessed in separate logistic regression models.
Results
Among 891 non-pregnant women with available data, 2.4% had an eGFR<60 mL/min/1.73 m2 (calculated by the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease equation, MDRD eGFR) and 8.7% had proteinuria ≥1+. The prevalence of decreased eGFR varied markedly depending on the estimating method used, with the highest prevalence by Cockcroft-Gault. Regardless of the method used to estimate GFR, the proportion with decreased eGFR or proteinuria did not differ significantly between HIV-infected and -uninfected women in unadjusted analysis. After adjusting for age and blood pressure, HIV infection was associated with significantly higher odds of decreased MDRD eGFR but not proteinuria.
Conclusion
In a well-characterized cohort of Rwandan women, HIV infection was associated with decreased MDRD eGFR. The prevalence of decreased eGFR among HIV-infected women in our study was lower than that previously reported in African-Americans and in other Central and East African HIV populations, although there was substantial variability depending on the equation used to estimate GFR. Future studies are needed to optimize GFR estimates and to determine the impact of antiretroviral therapy on kidney disease in this population.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018352
PMCID: PMC3065469  PMID: 21464937
15.  Prevalence and Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in HIV-Infected and At-Risk Rwandan Women 
Journal of Women's Health  2009;18(11):1783-1791.
Abstract
Objective
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, rape was used as a weapon of war to transmit HIV. This study measures trauma experiences of Rwandan women and identifies predictors associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms.
Methods
The Rwandan Women's Interassociation Study and Assessment (RWISA) is a prospective observational cohort study designed to assess effectiveness and toxicity of antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected Rwandan women. In 2005, a Rwandan-adapted Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) were used to assess genocide trauma events and prevalence of PTSD (HTQ mean >2) and depressive symptoms (CES-D ≥ 16) for 850 women (658 HIV-positive and 192 HIV-negative).
Results
PTSD was common in HIV-positive (58%) and HIV-negative women (66%) (p = 0.05). Women with HIV had a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms than HIV-negative women (81% vs. 65%, p < 0.0001). Independent predictors for increased PTSD were experiencing more genocide-related trauma events and having more depressive symptoms. Independent predictors for increased depressive symptoms were making <$18 a month, HIV infection (and, among HIV-positive women, having lower CD4 cell counts), a history of genocidal rape, and having more PTSD symptoms.
Conclusions
The prevalence of PTSD and depressive symptoms is high in women in the RWISA cohort. Four of five HIV-infected women had depressive symptoms, with highest rates among women with CD4 cell counts <200. In addition to treatment with antiretroviral therapy, economic empowerment and identification and treatment of depression and PTSD may reduce morbidity and mortality among women in postconflict countries.
doi:10.1089/jwh.2009.1367
PMCID: PMC2828188  PMID: 19951212
16.  Arterial Wave Reflection in HIV-Infected and HIV-Uninfected Rwandan Women 
Abstract
To assess differences in arterial wave reflection, a marker of atherosclerosis, in HIV-positive and HIV-negative Rwandan women, applanation tonometry was performed on 276 HIV+ and 67 HIV− participants. Radial artery pressure waveforms were recorded and central aortic waveforms were derived by validated transfer function. Central augmentation index (C-AI), central pulse pressure (C-PP), and peripheral augmentation index (P-AI) were measured. HIV+ participants were younger and had lower diastolic blood pressure (BP) and 41% of the HIV+ women were taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). Mean C-AI and P-AI were significantly lower in HIV-infected than in uninfected participants (20.3 ± 12.0 vs. 25.5 ± 12.1, p = 0.002 and 74.6 ± 18.8 vs. 83.7 ± 20.0, p < 0.001). After age matching, C-AI, C-PP, and P-AI were similar among the groups. On multivariate analysis, age, heart rate, weight, and mean arterial pressure were independently associated with C-AI (R2 = 0.33, p < 0.0001). Among HIV-infected women, current CD4 count did not correlate with C-AI (Rho = −0.01, p = 0.84), C-PP (Rho = 0.09, p = 0.16), or P-AI (Rho = −0.01, p = 0.83). In conclusion, HIV infection was not associated with increased arterial wave reflection in women with little exposure to antiretroviral therapy and without CV risk factors. Whether long-term ART increases measures of arterial stiffness remains unknown.
doi:10.1089/aid.2008.0269
PMCID: PMC2858930  PMID: 19689195
17.  A Model for the Roll-Out of Comprehensive Adult Male Circumcision Services in African Low-Income Settings of High HIV Incidence: The ANRS 12126 Bophelo Pele Project 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(7):e1000309.
Bertrand Auvert and colleagues describe the large-scale roll-out of adult male circumcision through a program in South Africa.
Background
World Health Organization (WHO)/Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) has recommended adult male circumcision (AMC) for the prevention of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men from communities where HIV is hyperendemic and AMC prevalence is low. The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility of the roll-out of medicalized AMC according to UNAIDS/WHO operational guidelines in a targeted African setting.
Methods and Findings
The ANRS 12126 “Bophelo Pele” project was implemented in 2008 in the township of Orange Farm (South Africa). It became functional in 5 mo once local and ethical authorizations were obtained. Project activities involved community mobilization and outreach, as well as communication approaches aimed at both men and women incorporating broader HIV prevention strategies and promoting sexual health. Free medicalized AMC was offered to male residents aged 15 y and over at the project's main center, which had been designed for low-income settings. Through the establishment of an innovative surgical organization, up to 150 AMCs under local anesthesia, with sterilized circumcision disposable kits and electrocautery, could be performed per day by three task-sharing teams of one medical circumciser and five nurses. Community support for the project was high. As of November 2009, 14,011 men had been circumcised, averaging 740 per month in the past 12 mo, and 27.5% of project participants agreed to be tested for HIV. The rate of adverse events, none of which resulted in permanent damage or death, was 1.8%. Most of the men surveyed (92%) rated the services provided positively. An estimated 39.1% of adult uncircumcised male residents have undergone surgery and uptake is steadily increasing.
Conclusion
This study demonstrates that a quality AMC roll-out adapted to African low-income settings is feasible and can be implemented quickly and safely according to international guidelines. The project can be a model for the scale-up of comprehensive AMC services, which could be tailored for other rural and urban communities of high HIV prevalence and low AMC rates in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed about 25 million people since 1981, and more than 30 million people (22 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone) are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV infection is extremely important. Because HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by always using a male or female condom. In addition, three trials in sub-Saharan Africa recently reported that medicalized adult male circumcision (AMC)—the surgical removal of the foreskin, a loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—can reduce HIV transmission rates in men by more than a half. Thus, AMC delivered as a catch-up campaign—in the long-term, circumcision of male infants is likely to be a more sustainable strategy—has the potential to reduce the prevalence of HIV (the proportion of the population infected with HIV) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) now recommend that AMC programs should be rolled-out wherever there is a generalized HIV epidemic and few men are circumcised. Accordingly, these organizations have defined a minimum package of AMC services and have issued guidelines and tools designed to engage communities in the roll-out and to ensure that appropriate AMC counseling and surgical facilities are available. But is rapid AMC roll-out feasible in real-life settings? Here, the researchers try to find out by studying the “Bophelo Pele” (Health First) project. This project, which follows the WHO/UNAIDS guidelines for AMC, aims to offer free, safe AMC services to all men aged 15 years or more living in the Orange Farm township in South Africa as part of a community-based intervention against HIV. Orange Farm is in a low-income region of South Africa where HIV prevalence is 15.2% and AMC prevalence is about 25%.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Before the Bophelo Pele project started in January 2008, the researchers consulted the community about the implementation of AMC, helped to create a community advisory board, organized community workshops to discuss the project, and surveyed people's knowledge about AMC and willingness to undergo AMC. These activities indicated a high level of community support for the project and a high level of willingness among men to undergo AMC. Once the project started, the researchers used multiple communication channels to tell the Orange Farm residents about AMC and broader HIV prevention strategies and provided eligible men with counseling about AMC and with voluntary HIV counseling and testing during the recruitment process. Three days after recruitment, eligible men were circumcised free-of-charge at the project's main center, where three teams of one medical circumciser and five nurses were able to complete up to 150 AMCs per day. By November 2009, 14,011 men had been circumcised (more than a third of the eligible men in the township), and AMC uptake was still increasing steadily. Nearly all the men circumcised over one 2-month period rated the AMC services positively in a survey and adverse effects (all mild) occurred after fewer than 1 in 50 circumcisions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the rapid roll-out of high-quality, free AMC as an intervention against HIV has been successful in the Orange Farm township. However, other findings highlight some of the challenges that face AMC roll-out. For example, only a quarter of the participants agreed to voluntary HIV counseling and testing, which is worrying because newly circumcised HIV-positive men have an increased risk of transmitting HIV if they resume sexual activity too soon after the operation. Similarly, only two-thirds of the participants returned for a check-up after circumcision; this proportion needs to be increased to ensure the safety and efficacy of AMC programs. Nevertheless, these findings and those from similar intervention programs in Kenya and Uganda indicate that AMC scale-up should be feasible, at least in the short term, as an HIV prevention strategy in low-income communities where there is a high HIV prevalence and a low AMC rate.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000309.
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
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in South Africa, and on circumcision and HIV (in English and Spanish)
More information about male circumcision is available from WHO and from the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision, including a June 2010 report from WHO/UNAIDS entitled Progress in male circumcision scale-up: country implementation and research update
More information about the Bophelo Pele project is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000309
PMCID: PMC2907271  PMID: 20652013
18.  When one can infect two: a reflection on the impact of HIV discordance on child HIV infection 
This is an opinion piece based on data and experience from Rwanda. The authors believe this opinion piece may help improve current programs on prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child in Africa taking into account the prevalence of HIV sero-discordance in couples. The authors recommend that if we want to ensure newborns stay HIV negative, PMTCT protocols should offer a series of HIV tests linked with antenatal visits and the lactation period as well as HIV testing of current sexual partners. Moreover, if the male partner is found to be positive and the woman is negative, programs should provide intensive counseling on the use of condoms. The lives of three individuals have the potential to be changed from HIV testing and counseling. Morally, this cannot be ignored.
PMCID: PMC2984317  PMID: 21120009
Sero-discordant couples; HIV discordance; PMTCT; children; HIV; Rwanda
19.  Male Circumcision at Different Ages in Rwanda: A Cost-Effectiveness Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000211.
Agnes Binagwaho and colleagues predict that circumcision of newborn boys would be effective and cost-saving as a long-term strategy to prevent HIV in Rwanda.
Background
There is strong evidence showing that male circumcision (MC) reduces HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In Rwanda, where adult HIV prevalence is 3%, MC is not a traditional practice. The Rwanda National AIDS Commission modelled cost and effects of MC at different ages to inform policy and programmatic decisions in relation to introducing MC. This study was necessary because the MC debate in Southern Africa has focused primarily on MC for adults. Further, this is the first time, to our knowledge, that a cost-effectiveness study on MC has been carried out in a country where HIV prevalence is below 5%.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness model was developed and applied to three hypothetical cohorts in Rwanda: newborns, adolescents, and adult men. Effectiveness was defined as the number of HIV infections averted, and was calculated as the product of the number of people susceptible to HIV infection in the cohort, the HIV incidence rate at different ages, and the protective effect of MC; discounted back to the year of circumcision and summed over the life expectancy of the circumcised person. Direct costs were based on interviews with experienced health care providers to determine inputs involved in the procedure (from consumables to staff time) and related prices. Other costs included training, patient counselling, treatment of adverse events, and promotion campaigns, and they were adjusted for the averted lifetime cost of health care (antiretroviral therapy [ART], opportunistic infection [OI], laboratory tests). One-way sensitivity analysis was performed by varying the main inputs of the model, and thresholds were calculated at which each intervention is no longer cost-saving and at which an intervention costs more than one gross domestic product (GDP) per capita per life-year gained. Results: Neonatal MC is less expensive than adolescent and adult MC (US$15 instead of US$59 per procedure) and is cost-saving (the cost-effectiveness ratio is negative), even though savings from infant circumcision will be realized later in time. The cost per infection averted is US$3,932 for adolescent MC and US$4,949 for adult MC. Results for infant MC appear robust. Infant MC remains highly cost-effective across a reasonable range of variation in the base case scenario. Adolescent MC is highly cost-effective for the base case scenario but this high cost-effectiveness is not robust to small changes in the input variables. Adult MC is neither cost-saving nor highly cost-effective when considering only the direct benefit for the circumcised man.
Conclusions
The study suggests that Rwanda should be simultaneously scaling up circumcision across a broad range of age groups, with high priority to the very young. Infant MC can be integrated into existing health services (i.e., neonatal visits and vaccination sessions) and over time has better potential than adolescent and adult circumcision to achieve the very high coverage of the population required for maximal reduction of HIV incidence. In the presence of infant MC, adolescent and adult MC would evolve into a “catch-up” campaign that would be needed at the start of the program but would eventually become superfluous.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since 1981 and more than 31 million people (22 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone) are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and no vaccine against HIV infection. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is extremely important. HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection, therefore, by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few sexual partners, and by always using a male or female condom. In addition, male circumcision—the removal of the foreskin, the loose fold of skin that covers the head of penis—can halve HIV transmission rates to men resulting from sex with women. Thus, as part of its HIV prevention strategy, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that male circumcision programs be scaled up in countries where there is a generalized HIV epidemic and where few men are circumcised.
Why Was This Study Done?
One such country is Rwanda. Here, 3% of the adult population is infected with HIV but only 15% of men are circumcised—worldwide, about 30% of men are circumcised. Demand for circumcision is increasing in Rwanda but, before policy makers introduce a country-wide male circumcision program, they need to identify the most cost-effective way to increase circumcision rates. In particular, they need to decide the age at which circumcision should be offered. Circumcision soon after birth (neonatal circumcision) is quick and simple and rarely causes any complications. Circumcision of adolescents and adults is more complex and has a higher complication rate. Although several studies have investigated the cost-effectiveness (the balance between the clinical and financial costs of a medical intervention and its benefits) of circumcision in adult men, little is known about its cost-effectiveness in newborn boys. In this study, which is one of several studies on male circumcision being organized by the National AIDS Control Commission in Rwanda, the researchers model the cost-effectiveness of circumcision at different ages.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a simple cost-effectiveness model and applied it to three hypothetical groups of Rwandans: newborn boys, adolescent boys, and adult men. For their model, the researchers calculated the effectiveness of male circumcision (the number of HIV infections averted) by estimating the reduction in the annual number of new HIV infections over time. They obtained estimates of the costs of circumcision (including the costs of consumables, staff time, and treatment of complications) from health care providers and adjusted these costs for the money saved through not needing to treat HIV in males in whom circumcision prevented infection. Using their model, the researchers estimate that each neonatal male circumcision would cost US$15 whereas each adolescent or adult male circumcision would cost US$59. Neonatal male circumcision, they report, would be cost-saving. That is, over a lifetime, neonatal male circumcision would save more money than it costs. Finally, using the WHO definition of cost-effectiveness (for a cost-effective intervention, the additional cost incurred to gain one year of life must be less than a country's per capita gross domestic product), the researchers estimate that, although adolescent circumcision would be highly cost-effective, circumcision of adult men would only be potentially cost-effective (but would likely prove cost-effective if the additional infections that would occur from men to their partners without a circumcision program were also taken into account).
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all modeling studies, the accuracy of these findings depends on the many assumptions included in the model. However, the findings suggest that male circumcision for infants for the prevention of HIV infection later in life is highly cost-effective and likely to be cost-saving and that circumcision for adolescents is cost-effective. The researchers suggest, therefore, that policy makers in Rwanda and in countries with similar HIV infection and circumcision rates should scale up male circumcision programs across all age groups, with high priority being given to the very young. If infants are routinely circumcised, they suggest, circumcision of adolescent and adult males would become a “catch-up” campaign that would be needed at the start of the program but that would become superfluous over time. Such an approach would represent a switch from managing the HIV epidemic as an emergency towards focusing on sustainable, long-term solutions to this major public-health problem.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000211.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Seth Kalichman
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
Information is available from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on HIV infection and AIDS and on male circumcision in relation to HIV and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Africa, and on circumcision and HIV (some information in English and Spanish)
More information about male circumcision is available from the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision
The National AIDS Control Commission of Rwanda provides detailed information about HIV/AIDS in Rwanda (in English and French)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000211
PMCID: PMC2808207  PMID: 20098721
20.  Task Shifting for Scale-up of HIV Care: Evaluation of Nurse-Centered Antiretroviral Treatment at Rural Health Centers in Rwanda 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000163.
Fabienne Shumbusho and colleagues evaluate a task-shifting model of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment prescribing in rural primary health centers in Rwanda and find that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
Background
The shortage of human resources for health, and in particular physicians, is one of the major barriers to achieve universal access to HIV care and treatment. In September 2005, a pilot program of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment (ART) prescription was launched in three rural primary health centers in Rwanda. We retrospectively evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of this task-shifting model using descriptive data.
Methods and Findings
Medical records of 1,076 patients enrolled in HIV care and treatment services from September 2005 to March 2008 were reviewed to assess: (i) compliance with national guidelines for ART eligibility and prescription, and patient monitoring and (ii) key outcomes, such as retention, body weight, and CD4 cell count change at 6, 12, 18, and 24 mo after ART initiation. Of these, no ineligible patients were started on ART and only one patient received an inappropriate ART prescription. Of the 435 patients who initiated ART, the vast majority had adherence and side effects assessed at each clinic visit (89% and 84%, respectively). By March 2008, 390 (90%) patients were alive on ART, 29 (7%) had died, one (<1%) was lost to follow-up, and none had stopped treatment. Patient retention was about 92% by 12 mo and 91% by 24 mo. Depending on initial stage of disease, mean CD4 cell count increased between 97 and 128 cells/µl in the first 6 mo after treatment initiation and between 79 and 129 cells/µl from 6 to 24 mo of treatment. Mean weight increased significantly in the first 6 mo, between 1.8 and 4.3 kg, with no significant increases from 6 to 24 mo.
Conclusions
Patient outcomes in our pilot program compared favorably with other ART cohorts in sub-Saharan Africa and with those from a recent evaluation of the national ART program in Rwanda. These findings suggest that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a serious health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. The virus attacks white blood cells that protect against infection, most commonly a type of white blood cell called CD4. When a person has been infected with HIV for a long time, the number of CD4 cells they have goes down, resulting in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), in which the person's immune system no longer functions effectively.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the disease into four stages as it progresses, according to symptoms including weight loss and so-called opportunistic infections. These are known as clinical stage I, II, III, or IV but were revised and renamed 1, 2, 3, and 4 in September 2005. HIV infection and AIDS cannot be cured but they can be managed with antiretroviral treatment (ART). The WHO currently recommends that ART is begun when the CD4 count falls below 350.
Rwanda is a country situated in the central Africa with a population of around 9 million inhabitants; over 3% of the rural population and 7% of the urban population are infected with HIV. In 2007, the WHO estimated that 220,000 Rwandan children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Why Was This Study Done?
The WHO estimates that 9.7 million people with HIV in low- to middle-income countries need ART but at the end of 2007, only 30% of these, including in Rwanda, had access to treatment. In many low-income countries a major factor in this is a lack of doctors. Rwanda, for example, has one doctor per 50,000 inhabitants and one nurse per 3,900 inhabitants.
This situation has led the WHO to recommend “task shifting,” i.e., that the task of prescribing ART should be shifted from doctors to nurses so that more patients can be treated. This type of reorganization is well studied in high-income countries, but the researchers wanted to help develop a system for treating AIDS that would be effective and timely in a predominantly rural, low-income setting such as Rwanda.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In conjunction with the Rwandan Ministry of Health, the researchers developed and piloted a task-shifting program, in which one nurse in each of three rural Rwandan primary health centers (PHCs) was trained to examine HIV patients and prescribe ART in simple cases. Nurses had to complete more than 50 consultations observed by the doctor before being permitted to consult patients independently. More complex cases were referred to a doctor. The authors developed standard checklists, instructions, and evaluation forms to guide nurses and the doctors who supervised them once a week.
The authors evaluated the pilot program by reviewing the records of 1,076 patients who enrolled on it between September 2005 and March 2008. They looked to see whether the nurses had followed guidelines and monitored the patients correctly. They also considered health outcomes for the patients, such as their death rate, their body weight, their CD4 cell count, and whether they maintained contact with caregivers.
They found that by March 2008, 451 patients had been eligible for ART. 435 received treatment and none of the patients were prescribed ART when they should not have been. Only one prescription did not follow national guidelines.
At every visit, nurses were supposed to assess whether patients were taking their drugs and to monitor side effects. They did this and maintained records correctly for the vast majority of the 435 patients who were prescribed ART. 390 patients (over 90%) of the 435 prescribed receiving ART continued to take it and maintain contact with the pilot PHC's program. 29 patients died. Only one was lost to follow up and the others transferred to another ART site. The majority gained weight in the first six months and their CD4 cell counts rose. Outcomes, including death rate, were similar to those treated on the (doctor-led) Rwandan national ART program and other sub-Saharan African national (doctor-led) programs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The study suggests that nurses are able to prescribe ART safely and effectively in a rural sub-Saharan setting, given sufficient training, mentoring, and support. Nurse-led prescribing of ART could mean that timely, appropriate treatment reaches many more HIV patients. It would reduce the burden of HIV care for doctors, freeing their time for other duties, and the study is already being used by the Rwandan Ministry of Health as a basis for plans to adopt a task-shifting strategy for the national ART program.
The study does have some limitations. The pilot program was funded and designed as a health project to deliver ART in rural areas, rather than a research project to compare nurse-led and doctor-led ART programs. There was no group of equivalent patients treated by doctors rather than nurses for direct comparison, although the authors did compare outcomes with those achieved nationally for doctor-led ART. The most promising sites, nurses, and patients were selected for the pilot and careful monitoring may have been an additional motivation for the nurses and doctors taking part. Health professionals in a scaled-up program may not be as committed as those in the pilot, who were carefully monitored. In addition, the nature of the pilot, which lasted for under three years and recruited new patients throughout, meant that patients were followed up for relatively short periods.
The authors also warn that they did not consider in this study the changes task shifting will make to doctors' roles and the skills required of both doctors and nurses. They recommend that task shifting should be implemented as part of a wider investment in health systems, human resources, training, adapted medical records, tools, and protocols.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000163.
PLoS Medicine includes a page collecting together its recent articles on HIV infection and AIDS that includes research articles, perspectives, editorials, and policy forums
SciDev.net provides news, views, and information about science, technology, and the developing world, including a section specific to HIV/AIDs
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a downloadable booklet Task Shifting to Tackle Health Worker Shortages
The WHO offers information on HIV and AIDS (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) as well as health information and fact sheets on individual countries, including on Rwanda
The UNAIDS/WHO working group on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Surveillance gathers and publishes data on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in individual countries, including on Rwanda
AIDS.ORG provides information to help prevent HIV infections and to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and AIDS. Factsheets on many aspects of HIV and AIDS are available. It is the official online publisher of AIDS Treatment News
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000163
PMCID: PMC2752160  PMID: 19823569
21.  The Role of Social Capital in Successful Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy in Africa 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e18.
Agnes Binagwaho and Niloo Ratnayake discuss the implications of a new ethnographic study that explores the reasons for the high rates of adherence to antiretroviral medicines in Africa.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000018
PMCID: PMC2631052  PMID: 19175286
22.  Individual Level Injection History: A Lack of Association with HIV Incidence in Rural Zimbabwe 
PLoS Medicine  2005;2(2):e37.
Background
It has recently been argued that unsafe medical injections are a major transmission route of HIV infection in the generalised epidemics of sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods and Findings
We have analysed the pattern of injections in relation to HIV incidence in a population cohort in Manicaland in a rural area of Zimbabwe. In Poisson regression models, injections were not found to be associated with HIV in males (rate ratio = 0.33; 95% confidence interval: 0.07 to 1.46) or females (rate ratio = 1.04; 95% confidence interval: 0.59 to 1.85).
Conclusion
It is important that unsafe medical injections can be confidently excluded as a major source of HIV infection. In rural Zimbabwe the evidence is that they can.
A debate is raging over whether unsafe medical injections are an important cause of HIV infection in Africa; in rural Zimbabwe evidence suggests they are not
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020037
PMCID: PMC549586  PMID: 15736994
23.  Palliative Care in Africa and the Caribbean 
PLoS Medicine  2004;1(1):e5.
In many of the world's poorest countries, dying is often accompanied by avoidable pain and other distressing symptoms. How can we improve care at the end of life?
It must be made a public health priority
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010005
PMCID: PMC523828  PMID: 15526053

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