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1.  Laboratory Evaluation of the Alere q Point-of-Care System for Early Infant HIV Diagnosis 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(3):e0152672.
Early infant diagnosis (EID) and prompt linkage to care are critical to minimise the high morbidity and mortality associated with infant HIV infection. Attrition in the “EID cascade” is common; however, point-of-care (POC) EID assays with same-day result could facilitate prompt linkage of HIV-infected infant to treatment. Despite a number of POC EID assays in development, few have been independently evaluated and data on new technologies are urgently needed to inform policy.
We compared Alere q 1/2 Detect POC system laboratory test characteristics with the local standard of care (SOC), Roche CAP/CTM HIV-1 qualitative PCR in an independent laboratory-based evaluation in Cape Town, South Africa. Routinely EID samples collected between November 2013 and September 2014 were each tested by both SOC and POC systems. Repeat testing was done to troubleshoot any discrepancy between POC and SOC results.
Overall, 1098 children with a median age of 47 days (IQR, 42–117) were included. Birth PCR (age <7 days) comprised of 8% (n = 92) tests while 56% (n = 620) of children tested as part of routine EID (ages 6–14 weeks). In the overall direct comparison, Alere q Detect achieved sensitivity of 95.5% (95% CI, 91.7–97.9%) and a specificity of 99.8% (95% CI, 99.1–100%). Following repeat testing of discordant samples and exclusion of any inconclusive results, the POC assay sensitivity and specificity were 96.9% (95% CI 93.4–98.9%) and 100% (lower 95% CI 98%) respectively. Among birth PCR tests the POC assay had slightly lower sensitivity (93.3% vs 96.5% in routine EID) and higher assay error rate (10% vs 5% in samples of older children, p = 0.04).
Our results indicate this POC assay performs well for EID in the laboratory. The high specificity and thus high positive predictive value would suggest a positive POC result may be adequate for immediate infant ART initiation. While POC testing for EID may have particular utility for birth testing at delivery facilities, the lower sensitivity and error rate requires further attention, as does field implementation of POC EID technologies in other clinical care settings.
PMCID: PMC4816318  PMID: 27032094
2.  Incidence of childhood pneumonia: facility-based surveillance estimate compared to measured incidence in a South African birth cohort study 
BMJ Open  2015;5(12):e009111.
Pneumonia is the leading cause of childhood mortality and a major contributor to childhood morbidity, but accurate measurement of pneumonia incidence is challenging. We compared pneumonia incidence using a facility-based surveillance system to estimates from a cohort study conducted contemporaneously in the same community in Cape Town, South Africa.
A surveillance system was developed in six public sector primary care clinics and in a regional referral hospital, to detect childhood pneumonia cases. Nurses recorded all children presenting to facilities who met WHO case definitions of pneumonia, and hospital records were reviewed. Estimates of pneumonia incidence and severity were compared with incidence rates based on active surveillance in the Drakenstein Child Health Study.
From June 2012 until September 2013, the surveillance system detected 306 pneumonia episodes in children under 1 year of age, an incidence of 0.20 episodes/child-year (e/cy) (95% CI 0.17 to 0.22 e/cy). The incidence in the cohort study from the same period was 0.27 e/cy (95% CI 0.23 to 0.32 e/cy). Pneumonia incidence in the surveillance system was almost 30% lower than in the birth cohort; incidence rate ratio 0.72 (95% CI 0.58 to 0.89). In the surveillance system, 18% were severe pneumonia cases, compared to 23% in the birth cohort, rate ratio 0.81 (95% CI 0.55 to 1.18).
In this setting, facility-based pneumonia surveillance detected fewer cases of pneumonia, and fewer severe cases, compared to the corresponding cohort study. Facility pneumonia surveillance using data collected by local healthcare workers provides a useful estimate of the epidemiology of childhood pneumonia but may underestimate incidence and severity.
PMCID: PMC4691755  PMID: 26685027
3.  Mortality among adults transferred and lost to follow-up from antiretroviral therapy programmes in South Africa: a multicentre cohort study 
Background & objectives
Little is known about outcomes after transfer out (TFO) and loss to follow-up (LTF) and how differential outcomes might bias mortality estimates, as analyses generally censor or exclude TFOs/LTF. Using data linked to the National Population Register (NPR), we explored mortality among patients TFO and LTF compared with patients retained and investigated how linkage impacted on mortality estimates.
A cohort analysis of routine data on adults with civil-identification numbers starting ART 2004–2009 in four large South African ART cohorts. The number, proportion, timing and mortality of TFOs and LTF were reported. Mortality was compared using Kaplan-Meier curves, Cox’s proportional hazards and competing risks regression.
Before linkage, 1207 patients (6%) had died, 2624 (13%) were LTF, 1067 (5%) were TFO and 14583 (75%) were retained. Compared with retained, mortality risk was three times higher among TFOs (aHR 3.11, 95% CI 2.42–3.99) and 20 times higher among LTF patients (aHR 22.03, 95% CI 20.05–24.21). Excluding early deaths after TFO or LTF, the risk was comparable among TFOs and retained (aHR 0.75, 95% CI 0.54–1.03) and higher among LTF (aHR 2.85, 95% CI 2.43–3.33). After linkage, corrected mortality was higher than site-reported mortality. Censoring did not however lead to substantial underestimation of mortality among TFOs.
While TFO and LTF predicted mortality, the lower incidence of TFO and subsequent death compared with LTF meant that censoring TFOs did not bias mortality estimates. Future cohort analyses should explicitly consider proportions TFO/LTF and mortality event rates.
PMCID: PMC4239433  PMID: 24977471
antiretroviral therapy; mortality; transfers; lost to follow-up
4.  A Cross Sectional Analysis of Gonococcal and Chlamydial Infections among Men-Who-Have-Sex-with-Men in Cape Town, South Africa 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0138315.
Men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) are at high risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) transmission. Asymptomatic STIs are common in MSM and remain undiagnosed and untreated where syndromic management is advocated. Untreated STIs could be contributing to high HIV rates. This study investigated symptomatic (SSTI) and asymptomatic STIs (ASTIs) in MSM in Cape Town.
MSM, 18 years and above, were enrolled into this study. Participants underwent clinical and microbiological screening for STIs. Urine, oro-pharyngeal and anal swab specimens were collected for STI analysis, and blood for HIV and syphilis screening. A psychosocial and sexual questionnaire was completed. STI specimens were analysed for Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) and Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) infection.
200 MSM were recruited with a median age of 32 years (IQR 26–39.5). Their median number of sex partners within the last year was 5 (IQR 2–20). 155/200 (78%) reported only male sex partners while 45/200 (23%) reported sex with men and women. 77/200 (39%) reported transactional sex. At enrolment, 88/200 (44%) were HIV positive and 8/112 (7%) initially HIV-negative participants seroconverted during the study. Overall, 47/200 (24%) screened positive for either NG or CT. There were 32 MSM (16%) infected with NG and 7 (3.5%) of these men had NG infections at two anatomical sites (39 NG positive results in total). Likewise, there were 23 MSM (12%) infected with CT and all these men had infections at only one site. Eight of the 47 men (17%) were infected with both NG and CT. ASTI was more common than SSTI irrespective of anatomical site, 38 /200 (19%) versus 9/200 (5%) respectively (p<0.001). The anus was most commonly affected, followed by the oro-pharynx and then urethra. Asymptomatic infection was associated with transgender identity (OR 4.09 CI 1.60–5.62), ≥5 male sex partners in the last year (OR 2.50 CI 1.16–5.62) and transactional sex (OR 2.33 CI 1.13–4.79) but not with HIV infection.
Asymptomatic STI was common and would not have been detected using a syndromic management approach. Although molecular screening for NG/CT is costly, in our study only four MSM needed to be screened to detect one case. This supports dual NG/CT molecular screening for MSM, which, in the case of confirmed NG infections, may trigger further culture-based investigations to determine gonococcal antimicrobial susceptibility in the current era of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea.
PMCID: PMC4587970  PMID: 26418464
5.  Tuberculous Pericarditis is Multibacillary and Bacterial Burden Drives High Mortality 
EBioMedicine  2015;2(11):1634-1639.
Tuberculous pericarditis is considered to be a paucibacillary process; the large pericardial fluid accumulation is attributed to an inflammatory response to tuberculoproteins. Mortality rates are high. We investigated the role of clinical and microbial factors predictive of tuberculous pericarditis mortality using the artificial intelligence algorithm termed classification and regression tree (CART) analysis.
Patients were prospectively enrolled and followed in the Investigation of the Management of Pericarditis (IMPI) registry. Clinical and laboratory data of 70 patients with confirmed tuberculous pericarditis, including time-to-positive (TTP) cultures from pericardial fluid, were extracted and analyzed for mortality outcomes using CART. TTP was translated to log10 colony forming units (CFUs) per mL, and compared to that obtained from sputum in some of our patients.
Seventy patients with proven tuberculous pericarditis were enrolled. The median patient age was 35 (range: 20–71) years. The median, follow up was for 11.97 (range: 0·03–74.73) months. The median TTP for pericardial fluid cultures was 22 (range: 4–58) days or 3.91(range: 0·5–8·96) log10CFU/mL, which overlapped with the range of 3.24–7.42 log10CFU/mL encountered in sputum, a multi-bacillary disease. The overall mortality rate was 1.43 per 100 person-months. CART identified follow-up duration of 5·23 months on directly observed therapy, a CD4 + count of ≤ 199.5/mL, and TTP ≤ 14 days (bacillary load ≥ 5.53 log10 CFU/mL) as predictive of mortality. TTP interacted with follow-up duration in a non-linear fashion.
Patients with culture confirmed tuberculous pericarditis have a high bacillary burden, and this bacterial burden drives mortality. Thus proven tuberculosis pericarditis is not a paucibacillary disease. Moreover, the severe immunosuppression suggests limited inflammation. There is a need for the design of a highly bactericidal regimen for this condition.
•The antibiotic concentrations achieved in TB pericarditis fluid have up to now been unknown•The pH in pericardial fluid was alkaline, which would mean that pyrazinamide effect would be compromised.•The protein content in pericardial fluid was high, which would lead to low non-protein bound drug concentrations•The concentrations of rifampicin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide in pericardial were dramatically low and below their MICs
Tuberculous pericarditis kills many patients, even those receiving appropriate antibiotic treatment which consists of a cocktail of rifampicin, isoniazid, ethambutol and pyrazinamide. It is unknown if curative concentrations of these drugs are achieved at the site of tuberculous pericarditis. Therefore, we measured the concentrations of each of these antibiotics in pericardial fluid of patients with tuberculous pericarditis. There were dramatically low rifampicin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide concentrations in pericardial fluid, compared to susceptibility of the infecting bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Only isoniazid entered pericardial fluid at effective concentrations. This could explain the high rates of mortality and morbidity of current therapy. There might be a need to identify new drugs that can penetrate into pericardial fluid for treatment of tuberculosis pericarditis.
PMCID: PMC4740299  PMID: 26870789
CD4 + counts; HIV; Age; Therapy failure; Bacterial burden
6.  Point-of-care HIV early infant diagnosis: is test sensitivity everything? 
Despite improvements in PMTCT services in low- and middle-income countries, there are still almost 200,000 new paediatric HIV infections annually in sub-Saharan Africa. This has led to early infant HIV diagnosis (EID) programmes becoming a public health priority, but until recently, EID has required specialist laboratory equipment and trained personnel which is only feasible in urban, centralized facilities. It is thought that the successful implementation of a point-of-care (POC) test for EID has the potential to increase access to virological tests and address some of the barriers regarding retention of infants in care. However, POC evaluation has not integrated focus on performance characteristics with the health systems issues surrounding the adoption of and optimum use of these new technologies. We propose that moderate improvements in linkage to care can more than offset suboptimal sensitivity of a POC EID test which could be critical in adjusting the focus for EID programme management away from test performance and towards their ability to facilitate successful linkage to antiretroviral therapy (ART) services. These findings also highlight the urgent need to explore the implementation and operational aspects of emerging POC tests in order to fully realize the potential benefits of new technologies in practice.
PMCID: PMC4561293  PMID: 26344017
HIV-exposed infants; EID services; point-of-care; new diagnostic tools; mother-to-child HIV transmission
7.  Factors affecting tuberculosis strain success over 10 years in a high TB- and HIV-burdened community 
Background: Factors associated with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) strain success over time in high burdened communities are unknown.
Methods: Mtb isolates collected over 10 years from sputum-positive tuberculosis (TB) patients resident in the study site underwent IS6110-based restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. Clinical, demographic and social data were extracted from clinic records and interviewer-administered questionnaires. Strains were defined as persistently successful, transiently successful or unsuccessful based on the average number of cases per year and their continued presence over time.
Results: Genotyping data were available on 789 TB cases. Of the 311 distinct Mtb strains (≥6 bands) identified, 247 were categorized as unsuccessful strains, 12 transiently successful and 10 persistently successful strains. Strain success was not associated with age, gender, antiretroviral use or social factors. Persistently successful strains were less likely to be drug-resistant compared with transiently successful strains [odds ratio (OR): 0.13; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.04 − 0.5]. Persistently successful strains were positively associated with host HIV-infection compared with unsuccessful strains, but this finding was not robust in sensitivity analyses.
Conclusions: Pathogen characteristics appear to play a greater role in Mtb strain success compared with social or host factors. This study supports the need for further investigations into the role of pathogen characteristics in strain success.
PMCID: PMC4121554  PMID: 24609068
Tuberculosis; pulmonary; epidemiology; molecular; polymorphism; restriction fragment length
8.  Plasma viraemia in HIV-positive pregnant women entering antenatal care in South Africa 
Plasma HIV viral load (VL) is the principle determinant of mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT), yet there are few data on VL in populations of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. We examined the distribution and determinants of VL in HIV-positive women seeking antenatal care (ANC) in Cape Town, South Africa.
Consecutive HIV-positive pregnant women making their first antenatal clinic visit were recruited into a cross-sectional study of viraemia in pregnancy, including a brief questionnaire and specimens for VL testing and CD4 cell enumeration.
Results & discussion
Overall 5551 pregnant women sought ANC during the study period, of whom 1839 (33%) were HIV positive and 1521 (85%) were included. Approximately two-thirds of HIV-positive women in the sample (n=947) were not on antiretrovirals at the time of the first ANC visit, and the remainder (38%, n=574) had initiated antiretroviral therapy (ART) prior to conception. For women not on ART, the median VL was 3.98 log10 copies/mL; in this group, the sensitivity of CD4 cell counts ≤350 cells/µL in detecting VL>10,000 copies/mL was 64% and this increased to 78% with a CD4 threshold of ≤500 cells/µL. Among women on ART, 78% had VL<50 copies/mL and 13% had VL >1000 copies/mL at the time of their ANC visit.
VL >10,000 copies/mL was commonly observed in women not on ART with CD4 cell counts >350 cells/µL, suggesting that CD4 cell counts may not be adequately sensitive in identifying women at greatest risk of MTCT. A large proportion of women entering ANC initiated ART before conception, and in this group more than 10% had VL>1000 copies/mL despite ART use. VL monitoring during pregnancy may help to identify pregnancies that require additional clinical attention to minimize MTCT risk and improve maternal and child health outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4495612  PMID: 26154734
viral load; pregnancy; antiretroviral therapy; prevention of mother-to-child transmission; South Africa
9.  Implementation of community-based adherence clubs for stable antiretroviral therapy patients in Cape Town, South Africa 
Community-based models of antiretroviral therapy (ART) delivery have been recommended to support ART expansion and retention in resource-limited settings. However, the evidence base for community-based models of care is limited. We describe the implementation of community-based adherence clubs (CACs) at a large, public-sector facility in peri-urban Cape Town, South Africa.
Starting in May 2012, stable ART patients were down-referred from the primary care community health centre (CHC) to CACs. Eligibility was based on self-reported adherence, >12 months on ART and viral suppression. CACs were facilitated by four community health workers and met every eight weeks for group counselling, a brief symptom screen and distribution of pre-packed ART. The CACs met in community venues for all visits including annual blood collection and clinical consultations. CAC patients could send a patient-nominated treatment supporter (“buddy”) to collect their ART at alternate CAC visits. Patient outcomes [mortality, loss to follow-up and viral rebound (>1000 copies/ml)] during the first 18 months of the programme are described using Kaplan–Meier methods.
Results and Discussion
From June 2012 to December 2013, 74 CACs were established, each with 25–30 patients, providing ART to 2133 patients. CAC patients were predominantly female (71%) and lived within 3 km of the facility (70%). During the analysis period, 9 patients in a CAC died (<0.1%), 53 were up-referred for clinical complications (0.3%) and 573 CAC patients sent a buddy to at least one CAC visit (27%). After 12 months in a CAC, 6% of patients were lost to follow-up and fewer than 2% of patients retained experienced viral rebound.
Over a period of 18 months, a community-based model of care was rapidly implemented decentralizing more than 2000 patients in a high-prevalence, resource-limited setting. The fundamental challenge for this out of facility model was ensuring that patients receiving ART within a CAC were viewed as an extension of the facility and part of the responsibility of CHC staff. Further research is needed to support down-referral sooner after ART initiation and to describe patient experiences of community-based ART delivery.
PMCID: PMC4444752  PMID: 26022654
models of care; ART delivery; community-based; loss to follow-up; decentralization; task shifting
10.  Cost-effectiveness of a package of interventions for expedited antiretroviral therapy initiation during pregnancy in Cape Town, South Africa 
AIDS and behavior  2014;18(4):697-705.
Initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) early in pregnancy is an important component of effective interventions to prevent the mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). The Rapid initiation of ART in Pregnancy (RAP) program was a package of interventions to expedite ART initiation in pregnant women in Cape Town, South Africa. Retrospective, cost-effectiveness, sensitivity and threshold analyses were conducted of the RAP program to determine the cost-utility thresholds for rapid initiation of ART in pregnancy. Costs were drawn from a detailed microcosting of the program. The overall programmatic cost was US$880 per woman and the base case cost-effectiveness ratio was US$1,160 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) saved. In threshold analyses, the RAP program remained cost-effective if mother-to-child transmission was reduced by ≥0.33%; if ≥1.76 QALY were saved with each averted perinatal infection; or if RAP-related costs were under US$4,020 per woman. The package of rapid initiation services was very cost-effective, as compared to standard services in this setting. Threshold analyses demonstrated that the intervention required minimal reductions in perinatal infections in order to be cost-effective. Interventions for the rapid initiation of ART in pregnancy hold considerable potential as a cost-effective use of limited resources for PMTCT in sub-Saharan Africa.
PMCID: PMC3984926  PMID: 24122044
Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT); Cost-effectiveness Analysis; Costs and Cost Analysis; Antiretroviral Therapy (ART); South Africa
11.  Point-of-Care CD4 Testing to Inform Selection of Antiretroviral Medications in South African Antenatal Clinics: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0117751.
Many prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) programs currently prioritize antiretroviral therapy (ART) for women with advanced HIV. Point-of-care (POC) CD4 assays may expedite the selection of three-drug ART instead of zidovudine, but are costlier than traditional laboratory assays.
We used validated models of HIV infection to simulate pregnant, HIV-infected women (mean age 26 years, gestational age 26 weeks) in a general antenatal clinic in South Africa, and their infants. We examined two strategies for CD4 testing after HIV diagnosis: laboratory (test rate: 96%, result-return rate: 87%, cost: $14) and POC (test rate: 99%, result-return rate: 95%, cost: $26). We modeled South African PMTCT guidelines during the study period (WHO “Option A”): antenatal zidovudine (CD4 ≤350/μL) or ART (CD4>350/μL). Outcomes included MTCT risk at weaning (age 6 months), maternal and pediatric life expectancy (LE), maternal and pediatric lifetime healthcare costs (2013 USD), and cost-effectiveness ($/life-year saved).
In the base case, laboratory led to projected MTCT risks of 5.7%, undiscounted pediatric LE of 53.2 years, and undiscounted PMTCT plus pediatric lifetime costs of $1,070/infant. POC led to lower modeled MTCT risk (5.3%), greater pediatric LE (53.4 years) and lower PMTCT plus pediatric lifetime costs ($1,040/infant). Maternal outcomes following laboratory were similar to POC (LE: 21.2 years; lifetime costs: $23,860/person). Compared to laboratory, POC improved clinical outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.
In antenatal clinics implementing Option A, the higher initial cost of a one-time POC CD4 assay will be offset by cost-savings from prevention of pediatric HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC4355621  PMID: 25756498
12.  Retention in care under universal Antiretroviral Therapy for HIV Infected Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women (“Option B+”) in Malawi 
AIDS (London, England)  2014;28(4):589-598.
To explore the levels and determinants of loss to follow-up (LTF) under universal lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) for pregnant and breastfeeding women (“Option B+”) in Malawi.
We examined retention in care, beginning at date of ART initiation and up to six months, for women in the Option B+ program. We analysed nation-wide facility-level data on women who started ART at 540 facilities (n=21 939). The study included individual-level data on patients who started ART at 19 large facilities (n=11 534).
Of the women who started ART under Option B+ (n=21 939), 17% appeared to be LTF six months after start. Most losses occurred in the first 3 months of therapy. Option B+ patients who started therapy during pregnancy were five times more likely than women who started ART in WHO stage 3/4 or with a CD4 cell count ≤350 cells/μl, to never return after their initial clinic visit (odds ratio 5.0, 95% CI 4.2-6.1). Option B+ patients who started therapy while breastfeeding were twice as likely to miss their first follow-up visit (odds ratio 2.2, 95% CI 1.8-2.8). LTF was highest in pregnant Option B+ patients who began ART at large clinics on the day they were diagnosed with HIV. LTF varied considerably between facilities, ranging from 0% to 58%.
Decreasing LTF will improve the effectiveness of the Option B+ approach. Tailored interventions, like community- or family-based PMTCT models could improve its effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC4009400  PMID: 24468999
Option B+; Prevention of mother to child transmission / vertical transmission; Antiretroviral therapy; Retention in care; Loss to follow-up
13.  In-utero exposure to maternal HIV infection alters T-cell immune responses to vaccination in HIV-uninfected infants 
AIDS (London, England)  2014;28(10):1421-1430.
In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) infants have higher morbidity and mortality than HIV-unexposed infants. To evaluate whether immune dysfunction contributes to this vulnerability of HEU infants, we conducted a longitudinal, observational cohort study to assess T-cell immune responses to infant vaccines (Mycobacterium bovis BCG and acellular pertussis) and staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB). In total, 46 HEU and 46 HIV-unexposed infants were recruited from Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
Vaccine-specific T-cell proliferation (Ki67 expression) and intracellular expression of four cytokines [interferon-γ, interleukin (IL)-2, IL-13 and IL-17] were measured after whole blood stimulation with antigens at 6 and 14 weeks of age.
HEU infants demonstrated elevated BCG-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell proliferative responses at 14 weeks (P = 0.041 and 0.002, respectively). These responses were significantly increased even after adjusting for birth weight, feeding mode and gestational age. Similar to BCG, increased CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell proliferation was evident in response to SEB stimulation (P = 0.004 and 0.002, respectively), although pertussis-specific T cells proliferated comparably between the two groups. Within HEU infants, maternal CD4+ cell count and length of antenatal antiretroviral exposure had no effect on T-cell proliferation to BCG or SEB. HIV exposure significantly diminished measurable cytokine polyfunctionality in response to BCG, Bordetella pertussis and SEB stimulation.
These data show for the first time, when adjusting for confounders, that exposure to HIV in utero is associated with significant alterations to CD4+ and CD8+T-cell immune responses in infants to vaccines and nonspecific antigens.
PMCID: PMC4333196  PMID: 24785950
cytokines; infants; maternal HIV; proliferation; T-cell immunity; vaccination
14.  Hormonal Contraception and the Risk of HIV Acquisition: An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(1):e1001778.
In a meta-analysis of individual participant data, Charles Morrison and colleagues explore the association between hormonal contraception use and risk of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
Observational studies of a putative association between hormonal contraception (HC) and HIV acquisition have produced conflicting results. We conducted an individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis of studies from sub-Saharan Africa to compare the incidence of HIV infection in women using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or the injectable progestins depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN) with women not using HC.
Methods and Findings
Eligible studies measured HC exposure and incident HIV infection prospectively using standardized measures, enrolled women aged 15–49 y, recorded ≥15 incident HIV infections, and measured prespecified covariates. Our primary analysis estimated the adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) using two-stage random effects meta-analysis, controlling for region, marital status, age, number of sex partners, and condom use. We included 18 studies, including 37,124 women (43,613 woman-years) and 1,830 incident HIV infections. Relative to no HC use, the aHR for HIV acquisition was 1.50 (95% CI 1.24–1.83) for DMPA use, 1.24 (95% CI 0.84–1.82) for NET-EN use, and 1.03 (95% CI 0.88–1.20) for COC use. Between-study heterogeneity was mild (I2 < 50%). DMPA use was associated with increased HIV acquisition compared with COC use (aHR 1.43, 95% CI 1.23–1.67) and NET-EN use (aHR 1.32, 95% CI 1.08–1.61). Effect estimates were attenuated for studies at lower risk of methodological bias (compared with no HC use, aHR for DMPA use 1.22, 95% CI 0.99–1.50; for NET-EN use 0.67, 95% CI 0.47–0.96; and for COC use 0.91, 95% CI 0.73–1.41) compared to those at higher risk of bias (pinteraction = 0.003). Neither age nor herpes simplex virus type 2 infection status modified the HC–HIV relationship.
This IPD meta-analysis found no evidence that COC or NET-EN use increases women’s risk of HIV but adds to the evidence that DMPA may increase HIV risk, underscoring the need for additional safe and effective contraceptive options for women at high HIV risk. A randomized controlled trial would provide more definitive evidence about the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly DMPA, on HIV risk.
Editors’ Summary
AIDS has killed about 36 million people since the first recorded case of the disease in 1981. About 35 million people (including 25 million living in sub-Saharan Africa) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and every year, another 2.3 million people become newly infected with HIV. At the beginning of the epidemic, more men than women were infected with HIV. Now, about half of all adults infected with HIV are women. In 2013, almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15–24 years occurred among women, and it is estimated that, worldwide, 50 young women are newly infected with HIV every hour. Most women become infected with HIV through unprotected intercourse with an infected male partner—biologically, women are twice as likely to become infected through unprotected intercourse as men. A woman’s risk of becoming infected with HIV can be reduced by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by always using condoms.
Why Was This Study Done?
Women and societies both benefit from effective contraception. When contraception is available, women can avoid unintended pregnancies, fewer women and babies die during pregnancy and childbirth, and maternal and infant health improves. However, some (but not all) observational studies (investigations that measure associations between the characteristics of participants and their subsequent development of specific diseases) have reported an association between hormonal contraceptive use and an increased risk of HIV acquisition by women. So, does hormonal contraception increase the risk of HIV acquisition among women or not? Here, to investigate this question, the researchers undertake an individual participant data meta-analysis of studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa (a region where both HIV infection and unintended pregnancies are common) to compare the incidence of HIV infection (the number of new cases in a population during a given time period) among women using and not using hormonal contraception. Meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines the results of several studies; an individual participant data meta-analysis combines the data recorded for each individual involved in the studies rather than the aggregated results from each study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers included 18 studies that measured hormonal contraceptive use and incident HIV infection among women aged 15–49 years living in sub-Saharan Africa in their meta-analysis. More than 37,000 women took part in these studies, and 1,830 became newly infected with HIV. Half of the women were not using hormonal contraception, a quarter were using depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA; an injectable hormonal contraceptive), and the remainder were using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN, another injectable contraceptive). After adjustment for other factors likely to influence HIV acquisition (for example, condom use), women using DMPA had a 1.5-fold increased risk of HIV acquisition compared to women not using hormonal contraception. There was a slightly increased risk of HIV acquisition among women using NET-EN compared to women not using hormonal contraception, but this increase was not statistically significant (it may have happened by chance alone). There was no increased risk of HIV acquisition associated with COC use. DMPA use was associated with a 1.43-fold and 1.32-fold increased risk of HIV acquisition compared with COC and NET-EN use, respectively. Finally, neither age nor herpes simplex virus 2 infection status modified the effect of hormonal contraceptive use on HIV acquisition.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this individual patient data meta-analysis provide no evidence that COC or NET-EN use increases a woman’s risk of acquiring HIV, but add to the evidence suggesting that DMPA use increases the risk of HIV acquisition. These findings are likely to be more accurate than those of previous meta-analyses that used aggregated data but are likely to be limited by the quality, design, and representativeness of the studies included in the analysis. These findings nevertheless highlight the need to develop additional safe and effective contraceptive options for women at risk of HIV, particularly those living in sub-Saharan Africa, where although contraceptive use is generally low, DMPA is the most widely used hormonal contraceptive. In addition, these findings highlight the need to initiate randomized controlled trials to provide more definitive evidence of the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly DMPA, on HIV risk.
Additional Information.
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
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, including personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS and a news report on this meta-analysis
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on women, HIV, and AIDS, and on HIV and AIDS in South Africa (in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS (in several languages); information about a 2012 WHO technical consultation about hormonal contraception and HIV
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it; UNAIDS also provides information about HIV and hormonal contraception
PMCID: PMC4303292  PMID: 25612136
15.  Intimate partner violence: associations with low infant birthweight in a South African birth cohort 
Metabolic brain disease  2014;29(2):281-299.
Violence against women is a global public health problem. Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy has been associated with a number of adverse maternal and fetal outcomes, including delivery of a low birthweight (LBW) infant. However, there is a paucity of data from low-middle income countries (LMIC). We examined the association between antenatal IPV and subsequent LBW in a South African birth cohort. This study reports data from the Drakenstein Child Lung Health Study (DCLHS), a multidisciplinary birth cohort investigation of the influence of a number of antecedent risk factors on maternal and infant health outcomes over time. Pregnant women seeking antenatal care were recruited at two different primary care clinics in a low income, semi-rural area outside Cape Town, South Africa. Antenatal trauma exposure was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and an IPV assessment tool specifically designed for the purposes of this study. Potential confounding variables including maternal sociodemographics, pregnancy intention, partner support, biomedical and mental illness, substance use and psychosocial risk were also assessed. Bivariate and multiple regression analyses were performed to determine the association between IPV during pregnancy and delivery of an infant with LBW and/or low weight-for-age z (WAZ) scores. The final study sample comprised 263 mother-infant dyads. In multiple regression analyses, the model run was significant [r2=0.14 (adjusted r2=0.11, F(8, 212) = 4.16, p=0.0001]. Exposure to physical IPV occurring during the past year was found to be significantly associated with LBW [t=−2.04, p=0.0429] when controlling for study site (clinic), maternal height, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, substance use and childhood trauma. A significant association with decreased WAZ scores was not demonstrated. Exposure of pregnant women to IPV may impact newborn health. Further research is needed in this field to assess the relevant underlying mechanisms, to inform public health policies and to develop appropriate trauma IPV interventions for LMIC settings.
PMCID: PMC4300125  PMID: 24729207
Intimate partner violence; Trauma; Pregnancy; Low birth weight; South Africa
16.  Task sharing of a psychological intervention for maternal depression in Khayelitsha, South Africa: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15:457.
Maternal depression carries a major public health burden for mothers and their infants, yet there is a substantial treatment gap for this condition in low-resourced regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. To address this treatment gap, the strategy of “task sharing” has been proposed, involving the delivery of interventions by non-specialist health workers trained and supervised by specialists in routine healthcare delivery systems. Several psychological interventions have shown benefit in treating maternal depression, but few have been rigorously evaluated using a task sharing approach. The proposed trial will be the first randomised controlled trial (RCT) evaluating a task sharing model of delivering care for women with maternal depression in sub-Saharan Africa. The objective of this RCT is to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a task sharing counseling intervention for maternal depression in South Africa.
The study is an individual-level two-arm RCT. A total of 420 depressed pregnant women will be recruited from two ante-natal clinics in a low-income township area of Cape Town, using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to screen for depression; 210 women will be randomly allocated to each of the intervention and control arms. The intervention group will be given six sessions of basic counseling over a period of 3 to 4 months, provided by trained community health workers (CHW)s. The control group will receive three monthly phone calls from a CHW trained to conduct phone calls but not basic counseling. The primary outcome measure is the 17-Item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17). The outcome measures will be applied at the baseline assessment, and at three follow-up points: 1 month before delivery, and 3 and 12 months after delivery. The primary analysis will be by intention-to-treat and secondary analyses will be on a per protocol population. The primary outcome measure will be analyzed using linear regression adjusting for baseline symptom severity measured using the HDRS-17.
The findings of this trial can provide policy makers with evidence regarding the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of structured psychological interventions for maternal depression delivered by appropriately trained and supervised non-specialist CHWs in sub-Saharan Africa.
Trial registration
Clinical Trials ( NCT01977326, registered on 24/10/2013; Pan African Clinical Trials Registry ( PACTR201403000676264, registered on 11/10/2013.
PMCID: PMC4289378  PMID: 25416557
Community health workers; Cost-effectiveness; Counseling; Hamilton depression rating scale; Maternal depression; Randomized controlled trial; Task sharing
17.  Disengagement of HIV-positive pregnant and postpartum women from antiretroviral therapy services: a cohort study 
Recent international guidelines call for expanded access to triple-drug antiretroviral therapy (ART) in HIV-positive women during pregnancy and postpartum. However, high levels of non-adherence and/or disengagement from care may attenuate the benefits of ART for HIV transmission and maternal health. We examined the frequency and predictors of disengagement from care among women initiating ART during pregnancy in Cape Town, South Africa.
We used routine medical records to follow-up pregnant women initiating ART within prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services in Cape Town, South Africa. Outcomes assessed through six months postpartum were (1) disengagement (no attendance within 56 days of a scheduled visit) and (2) missed visits (returning to care 14–56 days late for a scheduled visit).
A total of 358 women (median age, 28 years; median gestational age, 26 weeks) initiated ART during pregnancy. By six months postpartum, 24% of women (n=86) had missed at least one visit and an additional 32% (n=115) had disengaged from care; together, 49% of women had either missed a visit or had disengaged by six months postpartum. Disengagement was more than twice as frequent postpartum compared to in the antenatal period (6.2 vs. 2.4 per 100 woman-months, respectively; p<0.0001). In a proportional hazards model, later gestational age at initiation (HR: 1.04; 95% CI: 1.00–1.07; p=0.030) and being newly diagnosed with HIV (HR: 1.57; 95% CI: 1.07–2.33; p=0.022) were significant predictors of disengagement after adjusting for patient age, starting CD4 cell count and site of ART initiation.
These results demonstrate that missed visits and disengagement from care occur frequently, particularly post-delivery, among HIV-positive women initiating ART during pregnancy. Women who are newly diagnosed with HIV may be particularly vulnerable and there is an urgent need for interventions both to promote retention overall, as well as targeting women newly diagnosed with HIV during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC4192834  PMID: 25301494
antiretroviral therapy; pregnancy; postpartum; retention; prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT); HIV/AIDS; South Africa
18.  Impact of definitions of loss to follow-up (LTFU) in antiretroviral therapy program evaluation: variation in the definition can have an appreciable impact on estimated proportions of LTFU 
Journal of clinical epidemiology  2013;66(9):1006-1013.
To examine the impact of different definitions of loss to follow-up (LTFU) on estimates of program outcomes in cohort studies of patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Study Design and Setting
We examined the impact of different definitions of LTFU using data from the International Epidemiological Databases to Evaluate AIDS—Southern Africa. The reference approach, Definition A, was compared with five alternative scenarios that differed in eligibility for analysis and the date assigned to the LTFU outcome. Kaplan–Meier estimates of LTFU were calculated up to 2 years after starting ART.
Estimated cumulative LTFU were 14% and 22% at 12 and 24 months, respectively, using the reference approach. Differences in the proportion LTFU were reported in the alternative scenarios with 12-month estimates of LTFU varying by up to 39% compared with Definition A. Differences were largest when the date assigned to the LTFU outcome was 6 months after the date of last contact and when the site-specific definition of LTFU was used.
Variation in the definitions of LTFU within cohort analyses can have an appreciable impact on estimated proportions of LTFU over 2 years of follow-up. Use of a standardized definition of LTFU is needed to accurately measure program effectiveness and comparability between programs.
PMCID: PMC3759810  PMID: 23774112
Antiretroviral therapy; Program outcomes; Loss to follow-up; Cohort; Retention; Survival analysis
19.  Smoking estimates from around the world: data from the first 17 participating countries in the World Mental Health Survey Consortium 
Tobacco control  2009;19(1):65-74.
To contribute new multinational findings on basic descriptive features of smoking and cessation, based upon standardised community surveys of adults residing in seven low-income and middle-income countries and 10 higher-income countries from all regions of the world.
Data were collected using standardised interviews and community probability sample survey methods conducted as part of the WHO World Mental Health Surveys Initiative. Demographic and socioeconomic correlates of smoking are studied using cross-tabulation and logistic regression approaches. Within-country sample weights were applied with variance estimation appropriate for complex sample survey designs.
Estimated prevalence of smoking experience (history of ever smoking) and current smoking varied across the countries under study. In all but four countries, one out of every four adults currently smoked. In higher-income countries, estimated proportions of former smokers (those who had quit) were roughly double the corresponding estimates for most low-income and middle-income countries. Characteristics of smokers varied within individual countries, and in relation to the World Bank's low-medium-high gradient of economic development. In stark contrast to a sturdy male-female difference in the uptake of smoking seen in each country, there is no consistent sex-associated pattern in the odds of remaining a smoker (versus quitting).
The World Mental Health Surveys estimates complement existing global tobacco monitoring efforts. The observed global diversity of associations with smoking and smoking cessation underscore reasons for implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control provisions and prompt local adaptation of prevention and control interventions.
PMCID: PMC4124902  PMID: 19965796
20.  The association between timing of initiation of antenatal care and stillbirths: a retrospective cohort study of pregnant women in Cape Town, South Africa 
There is renewed interest in stillbirth prevention for lower-middle income countries. Early initiation of and properly timed antenatal care (ANC) is thought to reduce the risk of many adverse birth outcomes. To this end we examined if timing of the first ANC visit influences the risk of stillbirth.
We conducted an analysis of a retrospective cohort of women (n = 34,671) with singleton births in a public perinatal service in Cape Town, South Africa. The main exposure was the gestational age at the first ANC visit. Bivariable analyses examining maternal characteristics by stillbirth status and gestational age at the first ANC visit, were conducted. Logistic regression, adjusting for maternal characteristics, was conducted to determine the risk of stillbirth.
Of the 34,671 women who initiated ANC, 27,713 women (80%) were retained until delivery. The population stillbirth rate was 4.3 per 1000 births. The adjusted models indicated there was no effect of gestational age at first ANC visit on stillbirth outcomes when analyzed as a continuous variable (aOR 1.01; 95% CI: 0.99-1.04) or in trimesters (2nd Trimester aOR 0.78, 95% CI: 0.39-1.59; 3rd Trimester OR 1.03, 95% CI: 0.50-2.13, both with 1st Trimester as reference category). The findings were unchanged in sensitivity analyses of unobserved outcomes in non-retained women.
The timing of a woman’s first ANC visit may not be an important determinant of stillbirths in isolation. Further research is required to examine how quality of care, incorporating established, effective biomedical interventions, influences outcomes in this setting.
PMCID: PMC4062506  PMID: 24923284
Stillbirths; Antenatal care; Gestational age; Prenatal care; South Africa
21.  Mother-to-child transmission of HIV in a community-based antiretroviral clinic in South Africa 
To examine the uptake of ART among pregnant women referred to an ART service and the associated rates and risk factors for vertical HIV transmission.
Retrospective analysis of an observational cohort at a community ART clinic in Cape Town.
Between 2002 and 2008, 367 treatment-naïve pregnant women accessed the clinic. The median age was 27.5 years, and median gestation at presentation was 28 weeks. The median baseline CD4 count and viral load were 134 cells/µl and 28 282 copies/ml. Two hundred and sixty-five women (72%) commenced ART before giving birth, 73 women (20%) were referred for prevention of mother-to-child transmission therapy (PMTCT), and 29 (8%) received no intervention. Among ART-eligible women, 13% were lost to follow-up. Of those starting ART, median duration of therapy prior to birth was 7.6 weeks (interquartile range (IQR) 4 – 11.9). The HIV transmission rate was 5.1% (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.8 – 9.0%). Factors associated with transmission were advanced maternal WHO disease stage (odds ratio (OR) 9.57, p=0.02), and follow-up viral load above 50 copies/ml (OR 3.64, p=0.03). Each additional week on ART reduced transmission by 20% (p=0.05). There was no HIV transmission among women who received more than 8 weeks’ therapy.
The rate of HIV transmission in this study was higher than reported in high-income countries. Prevention of vertical transmission with ART was hindered by women presenting late in pregnancy and with advanced stage of HIV disease. Interventions that facilitate earlier ART commencement and improve programmatic retention of pregnant women are required.
PMCID: PMC3954611  PMID: 21414276
22.  Rates of tuberculosis transmission to children and adolescents in a community with high adult HIV prevalence 
PMCID: PMC3816246  PMID: 18558885
tuberculin skin test; HIV; TB transmission; children; annual risk of TB infection
23.  Early mortality among adults accessing antiretroviral treatment programmes in sub-Saharan Africa 
AIDS (London, England)  2008;22(15):10.1097/QAD.0b013e32830007cd.
Two-thirds of the world's HIV-infected people live in sub-Saharan Africa and more than 1.5 million of them die annually. As access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) has expanded within the region, early pessimism concerning the delivery of ART using a large-scale public health approach has, at least in the short term, proved to be broadly unfounded. Immunological and virological responses to ART are similar to responses in patients treated in high-income countries. Despite this, however, early mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa are very high; between 8% and 26% of patients die in the first year of ART, with most deaths occurring in the first few months. Patients typically access ART with advanced symptomatic disease, and mortality is strongly associated with baseline CD4 cell count <50 cells/μL and WHO stage 4 disease (AIDS). Although data are limited, leading causes of death appear to be tuberculosis, acute sepsis, cryptococcal meningitis, malignancy and wasting syndrome. Mortality rates are likely to depend not only on the care delivered by ART programmes, but more fundamentally on how advanced disease is at programme enrolment and the quality of preceding health-care. In addition to improving delivery of ART and providing this free of charge to the patient, strategies to reduce mortality must include earlier diagnosis of HIV infection, strengthening of longitudinal HIV care and timely initiation of ART. Health systems delays in ART initiation must be minimised, especially in patients who present with advanced immunodeficiency.
PMCID: PMC3816249  PMID: 18784453
HIV; AIDS; antiretroviral treatment; HAART; ART; mortality; death; Africa
24.  Short-term and long-term risk of tuberculosis associated with CD4 cell recovery during antiretroviral therapy in South Africa 
AIDS (London, England)  2009;23(13):1717-1725.
To determine the short-term and long-term risks of tuberculosis (TB) associated with CD4 cell recovery during antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Observational community-based ART cohort in South Africa.
TB incidence was determined among patients (n = 1480) receiving ART for up to 4.5 years in a South African community-based service. Updated CD4 cell counts were measured 4-monthly. Person-time accrued within a range of CD4 cell count strata (CD4 cell strata) was calculated and used to derive CD4 cell-stratified TB rates. Factors associated with incident TB were identified using Poisson regression models.
Two hundred and three cases of TB were diagnosed during 2785 person-years of observation (overall incidence, 7.3 cases/100 person-years). During person-time accrued within CD4 cell strata 0–100, 101–200, 201–300, 301–400, 401–500 and more than 500 cells/µl unadjusted TB incidence rates were 16.8, 9.3, 5.5, 4.6, 4.2 and 1.5 cases/100 person-years, respectively (P < 0.001). During early ART (first 4 months), adjusted TB rates among those with CD4 cell counts 0–200 cells/µl were 1.7-fold higher than during long-term ART (P = 0.026). Updated CD4 cell counts were the only patient characteristic independently associated with long-term TB risk.
Updated CD4 cell counts were the dominant predictor of TB risk during ART in this low-resource setting. Among those with baseline CD4 cell counts less than 200 cells/µl, the excess adjusted risk of TB during early ART was consistent with ‘unmasking’ of disease missed at baseline screening. TB incidence rates at CD4 cell counts of 200–500 cells/µl remained high and adjunctive interventions are required. TB prevention would be improved by ART policies that minimized the time patients spend with CD4 cell counts below a threshold of 500 cells/µl.
PMCID: PMC3801095  PMID: 19461502
Africa; antiretroviral; CD4 cell; HIV; immune reconstitution; resource-limited country; tuberculosis
25.  Antiretroviral therapy and TB notification rates in a high HIV prevalence South African community 
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been proposed as an intervention for reducing tuberculosis (TB) burdens in areas with high HIV prevalence. However, little data is available on the impact of ART on population-level TB.
Trends in adult TB case fatality and notifications were assessed prior to and during increasing ART coverage in a well-defined peri-urban community, from 1997 to 2008. Mean changes in TB rates were measured using linear autoregression models. ART coverage increased from 1% in 2003, to 5%, 13% and 21% of HIV-infected population in 2004, 2005 and 2008 respectively.
From 1997 to end of 2004 TB notification rates increased by an average of 187 cases/100,000/yr (p<0.001), reaching a peak of 2,536/100,000 in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, TB notification rates declined by approximately 183 cases/100,000/yr (p<0.001). TB rates were initially stable in HIV-uninfected individuals, but declined moderately from 2005. TB rates declined in HIV-infected adults from 6,513/100,000 in 2005 to 4,741/100,000 in 2008. The predominant decline in TB notifications occurred among HIV-infected patients receiving ART (1,156 cases/100,000/yr) and was less marked in those not receiving ART (416cases/100,000/yr). Similarly, TB case fatality was constant for HIV-uninfected individuals but declined in HIV-infected individuals from 23% in 2002 to 8% in 2008 (p=0.01).
In this community heavily affected by both HIV and TB epidemics, rapid and high ART coverage was associated with significant reductions in TB notifications and TB-associated case fatality.
PMCID: PMC3801097  PMID: 21317585
tuberculosis; notification rates; HIV; antiretroviral; community

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