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Delay of Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation is Common in East African HIV-Infected Individuals in Serodiscordant Partnerships

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Delay of antiretroviral therapy initiation is common in east african hiv infected individuals in serodiscordant partnerships

Delay of Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation is Common inEast African HIV-Infected Individuals in Serodiscordant Partnerships

Andrew Mujugira, Connie Celum, Katherine K. Thomas, Carey Farquhar, Nelly Mugo, EllyKatabira, Elizabeth A. Bukusi, EliodaTumwesigye, and Jared M. Baeten for the Partners PrEP Study Team

7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2013



WHO 2003, 2011

  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has both treatment and prevention benefits.

  • Recent WHO guidance recommends ART initiation for all persons with a known HIV-uninfected partner, as a strategy to prevent HIV transmission.

  • However, in sub-Saharan Africa, <50% of HIV-infected persons eligible for ART initiation are on treatment.



  • Evaluate why some HIV-1 infected individuals decline or delay ART despite active counseling of ART benefits and access to ART services.

  • Personal and provider barriers to ART initiation include stigma, denial of need for ART, lack of symptoms, fear of ART side effects, lengthy pre-treatment processing, and lack of access to CD4 testing.

  • Understanding factors associated with ART-eligible individuals delaying or declining treatment may help design strategies to motivate treatment initiation at higher CD4 thresholds.

Micek 2009, Geng 2010, Losina 2010, McGrath 2010

Study population

Study Population

  • 4747 heterosexual HIV-serodiscordant couples enrolled in the Partners PrEP Study, a RCT of daily oral antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to decrease HIV acquisition within HIV serodiscordant couples.

  • HIV-uninfected partners were randomized to receive daily oral PrEP or placebo and followed for up to 36 months.

  • HIV-infected partners were followed in prospective observational fashion, with quarterly study visits and 6-monthly CD4 counts.

Mujugira PLoS One 2011, Baeten NEJM 2012

Study procedures

Study Procedures

  • Eligibility criteria for HIV-infected partners:

    • CD4 cell count ≥250 cells/μL

    • no history of clinical AIDS-defining diagnoses

    • not otherwise meeting national guidelines for ART initiation

  • ART-eligible participants were actively counseled to initiate ART, provided with a referral letter detailing CD4 count & HIV clinical status & linked to a care facility of their choice.

  • Data on referral outcomes, and barriers to ART initiation were recorded at the next scheduled study visits.

Data analysis

Data Analysis

  • Primary outcome: initiation of combination ART.

  • Participants who started ART >6 months after referral were considered to have delayed ART initiation.

  • Cumulative probability of ART initiation estimated using Kaplan-Meier methods. Cox proportional hazards regression model used to identify independent predictors of ART non-initiation.

Delay of antiretroviral therapy initiation is common in east african hiv infected individuals in serodiscordant partnerships

Study Profile

Baseline characteristics

Baseline Characteristics

Art initiation by cd4 count

ART Initiation, by CD4 count

  • ART initiation differed according to CD4 cell count as measured at the time of referral

Correlates of art non initiation

Correlates of ART non-initiation

Age and sex were not significant in the adjusted model

Self reported barriers to art initiation

Self-reported barriers to ART initiation

  • Lengthy pre-treatment processing

    • Pre-ART visits to assess willingness and ability to start ART

    • Typically 3 weekly or monthly visits for adherence counseling

    • Associated with longer time to ART start (49 vs 14 days, p<0.01). No effect on adherence >90% in first 3 months of ART (p=0.26), or HIV viral load >400 copies/ml at 3 months (p=0.97)

  • Repeat CD4 counts above the ART eligibility threshold

    • Provider policy to do own CD4 testing instead of using referral CD4

    • Discrepancies probably due to physiologic intra-subject variability or assay performance at different laboratories

    • May misclassify persons as ART ineligible

SiednerPLoSOne 2012

Art initiation comparable to n america

ART initiation comparable to N. America

Partners PrEP Cohort

North American AIDS Cohort

Months since ART referral

Mujugira, unpublished

Hanna, CID 2013



  • In the context of a clinical trial with close CD4 monitoring, regular counseling of ART benefits, and active linkage to HIV care, approximately 40% of HIV-infected participants had not initiated ART 6 months after referral.

  • Higher CD4 counts, asymptomatic HIV disease, and alcohol consumption predicted ART non-initiation.

  • Provider barriers,e.g. lengthy pre-treatment processing & repeat CD4 counts were commonly reported impediments to delays in starting ART. <5% reported stigma-related personal barriers.

  • Strategies to motivate ART initiation, particularly for asymptomatic persons with higher CD4 counts, are needed.

Partners prep study team

Partners PrEP Study Team

  • Sites:

    • Eldoret, Kenya (Moi U, Indiana U): Edwin Were (PI), Ken Fife (PI), CosmasApaka

    • Jinja, Uganda (Makarere U, UW); Patrick Ndase (PI), EllyKatabira (PI), FridahGabona

    • Kabwohe, Uganda (KCRC): EliodaTumwesigye (PI), Rogers Twesigye

    • Kampala, Uganda (Makarere U): EllyKatabira (PI), Allan Ronald (PI), Edith Nakku-Joloba

    • Kisumu, Kenya (KEMRI, UCSF): Elizabeth Bukusi (PI), Craig Cohen (PI), Josephine Odoyo

    • Mbale, Uganda (TASO, CDC): Jonathan Wangisi (PI), AkasiimaMucunguzi

    • Nairobi, Kenya (KNH/U Nairobi, UW): James Kiarie (PI), Carey Farquhar (PI), Grace John-Stewart (PI), Harrison Tamooh

    • Thika, Kenya (KNH/U Nairobi, UW): Nelly Mugo (PI), Kenneth Ngure

    • Tororo, Uganda (CDC, TASO): Jim Campbell (PI), Jordan Tappero (PI), AloysiousKakia

  • University of Washington Coordinating Center:

  • Connie Celum (PI and Co-Chair), Jared Baeten (Co-Chair and Medical Director), Deborah Donnell (Statistician), Justin Brantley, Tami Cloutier, Robert Coombs, Amy Dao, Shauna Durbin, Mira Emmanuel-Ogier, Lisa Frenkel, Carlos Flores, Harald Haugen, Renee Heffron, Ting Hong, Jim Hughes, Erin Kahle, Johanna Karas, Becky Karschney, Lara Kidoguchi, MeighanKrows, Matt Leidholm, Jai Lingappa, Toni Maddox, Angela McKay, Julie McElrath, Allison Mobley, Susan Morrison, Nelly Mugo, Andrew Mujugira, VikramNayani, Patrick Ndase, Apollo Odika, Hilda O’Hara, Dana Panteleeff, Jennifer Revall, MarothodiSemenya, John Sparkman, Kathy Thomas, Ellen Wilcox

  • Adherence Ancillary Study: David Bangsberg, Jessica Haberer, Norma Ware, Monique Wyatt, Steve Safren, Christina Psaros, Craig Hendrix, NamandjéBumpus

  • DF/Net (data center): Lisa Ondrejcek, Darryl Pahl, Jae Chong

  • CLS (laboratory oversight): Wendy Stevens, Charlotte Ingram, Ute Jentsch, Mukthar Kader, NombuleloGqomane, FerozaBulbulia, Jan van den Heuvel

  • ClinPhone/Perceptive Informatics (randomization)

  • Gilead (study drug donation): Jim Rooney

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (study funder): Stephen Becker

  • HIV serodiscordant couples who tested, screened, & participated

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