Mar, 2019

Effect of ready-to-use supplementary food on mortality in severely immunocompromised HIV-infected individuals in Africa initiating antiretroviral therapy (REALITY): an open-label, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial


Authors: Mallewa J, Szubert AJ, Mugyenyi P, et al.

Published in: Lancet HIV. 2018;5(5):e231-e240

Background In sub-Saharan Africa, severely immunocompromised HIV-infected individuals have a high risk of mortality during the first few months after starting antiretroviral therapy (ART). We hypothesise that universally providing ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF) would increase early weight gain, thereby reducing early mortality compared with current guidelines recommending ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) for severely malnourished individuals only.

Methods We did a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial, open-label, parallel-group trial at inpatient and outpatient facilities in eight urban or periurban regional hospitals in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Eligible participants were ART-naive adults and children aged at least 5 years with confirmed HIV infection and a CD4 cell count of fewer than 100 cells per μL, who were initiating ART at the facilities. We randomly assigned participants (1:1) to initiate ART either with (RUSF) or without (no-RUSF) 12 weeks’ of peanut-based RUSF containing 1000 kcal per day and micronutrients, given as two 92 g packets per day for adults and one packet (500 kcal per day) for children aged 5-12 years, regardless of nutritional status. In both groups, individuals received supplementation with RUTF only when severely malnourished (ie, body-mass index [BMI] <16-18 kg/m2 or BMI-for-age Z scores <-3 for children). We did the randomisation with computer-generated, sequentially numbered tables with different block sizes incorporated within an online database. Randomisation was stratified by centre, age, and two other factorial randomisations, to 12 week adjunctive raltegravir and enhanced anti-infection prophylaxis (reported elsewhere). Clinic visits were scheduled at weeks 2, 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 36, and 48, and included nurse assessment of vital status and symptoms and dispensing of all medication including ART and RUSF. The primary outcome was mortality at week 24, analysed by intention to treat. Secondary outcomes included absolute changes in weight, BMI, and mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC). Safety was analysed in all randomly assigned participants. Follow-up was 48 weeks. This trial is registered with (NCT01825031) and the ISRCTN registry (43622374).

Findings Between June 18, 2013, and April 10, 2015, we randomly assigned 1805 participants to treatment: 897 to RUSF and 908 to no-RUSF. 56 (3%) were lost-to-follow-up. 96 (10·9%, 95% CI 9·0-13·1) participants allocated to RUSF and 92 (10·3%, 8·5-12·5) to no-RUSF died within 24 weeks (hazard ratio 1·05, 95% CI 0·79-1·40; log-rank p=0·75), with no evidence of interaction with the other randomisations (both p>0·7). Through 48 weeks, adults and adolescents aged 13 years and older in the RUSF group had significantly greater gains in weight, BMI, and MUAC than the no-RUSF group (p=0·004, 0·004, and 0·03, respectively). The most common type of serious adverse event was specific infections, occurring in 90 (10%) of 897 participants assigned RUSF and 87 (10%) of 908 assigned no-RUSF. By week 48, 205 participants had serious adverse events in both groups (p=0·81), and 181 had grade 4 adverse events in the RUSF group compared with 172 in the non-RUSF group (p=0·45).

Interpretation In severely immunocompromised HIV-infected individuals, providing RUSF universally at ART initiation, compared with providing RUTF to severely malnourished individuals only, improved short-term weight gain but not mortality. A change in policy to provide nutritional supplementation to all severely immunocompromised HIV-infected individuals starting ART is therefore not warranted at present.

Funding Joint Global Health Trials Scheme (UK Medical Research Council, UK Department for International Development, and Wellcome Trust).


Mar, 2019

Raltegravir-intensified initial antiretroviral therapy in advanced HIV disease in Africa: a randomised controlled trial.


Authors:Kityo C, Szubert AJ, Siika A, et al.

Published in: PLoS Med. 2018; 15(12):e1002706

Background In sub-Saharan Africa, individuals infected with HIV who are severely immunocompromised have high mortality (about 10%) shortly after starting antiretroviral therapy (ART). This group also has the greatest risk of morbidity and mortality associated with immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), a paradoxical response to successful ART. Integrase inhibitors lead to significantly more rapid declines in HIV viral load (VL) than all other ART classes. We hypothesised that intensifying standard triple-drug ART with the integrase inhibitor, raltegravir, would reduce HIV VL faster and hence reduce early mortality, although this strategy could also risk more IRIS events.

Methods and findings In a 2×2×2 factorial open-label parallel-group trial, treatment-naive adults, adolescents, and children >5 years old infected with HIV, with cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4) <100 cells/mm3, from eight urban/peri-urban HIV clinics at regional hospitals in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe were randomised 1:1 to initiate standard triple-drug ART, with or without 12-week raltegravir intensification, and followed for 48 weeks. The primary outcome was 24-week mortality, analysed by intention to treat. Of 2,356 individuals screened for eligibility, 1,805 were randomised between 18 June 2013 and 10 April 2015. Of the 1,805 participants, 961 (53.2%) were male, 72 (4.0%) were children/adolescents, median age was 36 years, CD4 count was 37 cells/mm3, and plasma viraemia was 249,770 copies/mL. Fifty-six participants (3.1%) were lost to follow-up at 48 weeks. By 24 weeks, 97/902 (10.9%) raltegravir-intensified ART versus 91/903 (10.2%) standard ART participants had died (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] = 1.10 [95% CI 0.82-1.46], p = 0.53), with no evidence of interaction with other randomisations (pheterogeneity > 0.7) and despite significantly greater VL suppression with raltegravir-intensified ART at 4 weeks (343/836 [41.0%] versus 113/841 [13.4%] with standard ART, p < 0.001) and 12 weeks (567/789 [71.9%] versus 415/803 [51.7%] with standard ART, p < 0.001). Through 48 weeks, there was no evidence of differences in mortality (aHR = 0.98 [95% CI 0.76-1.28], p = 0.91); in serious (aHR = 0.99 [0.81-1.21], p = 0.88), grade-4 (aHR = 0.88 [0.71-1.09], p = 0.29), or ART-modifying (aHR = 0.90 [0.63-1.27], p = 0.54) adverse events (the latter occurring in 59 [6.5%] participants with raltegravir-intensified ART versus 66 [7.3%] with standard ART); in events judged compatible with IRIS (occurring in 89 [9.9%] participants with raltegravir-intensified ART versus 86 [9.5%] with standard ART, p = 0.79) or in hospitalisations (aHR = 0.94 [95% CI 0.76-1.17], p = 0.59). At 12 weeks, one and two raltegravir-intensified participants had predicted intermediate-level and high-level raltegravir resistance, respectively. At 48 weeks, the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) mutation K219E/Q (p = 0.004) and the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) mutations K101E/P (p = 0.03) and P225H (p = 0.007) were less common in virus from participants with raltegravir-intensified ART, with weak evidence of less intermediate- or high-level resistance to tenofovir (p = 0.06), abacavir (p = 0.08), and rilpivirine (p = 0.07). Limitations of the study include limited clinical, radiological, and/or microbiological information for some participants, reflecting available services at the centres, and lack of baseline genotypes.

Conclusions Although 12 weeks of raltegravir intensification was well tolerated and reduced HIV viraemia significantly faster than standard triple-drug ART during the time of greatest risk for early death, this strategy did not reduce mortality or clinical events in this group and is not warranted. There was no excess of IRIS-compatible events, suggesting that integrase inhibitors can be used safely as part of standard triple-drug first-line therapy in severely immunocompromised individuals.



Mar, 2019

Causes and timing of mortality and morbidity among late presenters starting antiretroviral therapy in the REALITY trial


Authors: Post FA, Szubert AJ, Prendergast AJ, et al; for Reduction of early mortality in HIV-infected adults and children starting an antiretroviral therapy (REALITY) trial team

Published in: Clin Infect Dis. 2018;66(2):S132-S139

Background In sub-Saharan Africa, 20%-25% of people starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) have severe immunosuppression; approximately 10% die within 3 months. In the Reduction of EArly mortaLITY (REALITY) randomized trial, a broad enhanced anti-infection prophylaxis bundle reduced mortality vs cotrimoxazole. We investigate the contribution and timing of different causes of mortality/morbidity.

Methods Participants started ART with a CD4 count <100 cells/µL; enhanced prophylaxis comprised cotrimoxazole plus 12 weeks of isoniazid + fluconazole, single-dose albendazole, and 5 days of azithromycin. A blinded committee adjudicated events and causes of death as (non-mutually exclusively) tuberculosis, cryptococcosis, severe bacterial infection (SBI), other potentially azithromycin-responsive infections, other events, and unknown.

Results Median pre-ART CD4 count was 37 cells/µL. Among 1805 participants, 225 (12.7%) died by week 48. Fatal/nonfatal events occurred early (median 4 weeks); rates then declined exponentially. One hundred fifty-four deaths had single and 71 had multiple causes, including tuberculosis in 4.5% participants, cryptococcosis in 1.1%, SBI in 1.9%, other potentially azithromycin-responsive infections in 1.3%, other events in 3.6%, and unknown in 5.0%. Enhanced prophylaxis reduced deaths from cryptococcosis and unknown causes (P < .05) but not tuberculosis, SBI, potentially azithromycin-responsive infections, or other causes (P > .3); and reduced nonfatal/fatal tuberculosis and cryptococcosis (P < .05), but not SBI, other potentially azithromycin-responsive infections, or other events (P > .2).

Conclusions Enhanced prophylaxis reduced mortality from cryptococcosis and unknown causes and nonfatal tuberculosis and cryptococcosis. High early incidence of fatal/nonfatal events highlights the need for starting enhanced-prophylaxis with ART in advanced disease.



Mar, 2019

Late presentation with HIV in Africa: phenotypes, risk, and risk stratification in the REALITY Trial.


Authors: Siika A, McCabe L, Bwakura-Dangarembizi M, et al; for REALITY Trial Team

Published in: Clin Infect Dis. 2018;66(2):S140-S146

Background Severely immunocompromised human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected individuals have high mortality shortly after starting antiretroviral therapy (ART). We investigated predictors of early mortality and “late presenter” phenotypes.

Methods The Reduction of EArly MortaLITY (REALITY) trial enrolled ART-naive adults and children ≥5 years of age with CD4 counts <100 cells/μL initiating ART in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Kenya. Baseline predictors of mortality through 48 weeks were identified using Cox regression with backwards elimination (exit P > .1).

Results Among 1711 included participants, 203 (12%) died. Mortality was independently higher with older age; lower CD4 count, albumin, hemoglobin, and grip strength; presence of World Health Organization stage 3/4 weight loss, fever, or vomiting; and problems with mobility or self-care at baseline (all P < .04). Receiving enhanced antimicrobial prophylaxis independently reduced mortality (P = .02). Of five late-presenter phenotypes, Group 1 (n = 355) had highest mortality (25%; median CD4 count, 28 cells/ μL), with high symptom burden, weight loss, poor mobility, and low albumin and hemoglobin. Group 2 (n = 394; 11% mortality; 43 cells/μL) also had weight loss, with high white cell, platelet, and neutrophil counts suggesting underlying inflammation/infec- tion. Group 3 (n = 218; 10% mortality) had low CD4 counts (27 cells/μL), but low symptom burden and maintained fat mass. The remaining groups had 4%–6% mortality.

Conclusions Clinical and laboratory features identified groups with highest mortality following ART initiation. A screening tool could identify patients with low CD4 counts for prioritizing same-day ART initiation, enhanced prophylaxis, and intensive follow-up.




Mar, 2019

”Treatment is not yet necessary”: delays in seeking access to HIV treatment in Uganda and Zimbabwe


Authors: Kawuma R, Seeley J, Mupambireyi Z, Cowan F, Bernays S; for REALITY Trial Team

Published in: Afr J AIDS Res. 2018;17(3):217-225

Abstract We examined the logic that individuals use to account for delaying HIV testing and/or initiating HIV treatment. Our qualitative study, situated within the REALITY trial (Reduction of EArly mortaLITY in HIV infected adults and children starting antiretroviral therapy), was conducted in Uganda and Zimbabwe in 2015. Forty-eight participants (different age groups, sex and viral load/WHO disease stage) were included. Each participant had 2 interviews (1 after 4 weeks of participation in the trial the other after 12 weeks). If a person could manage presenting symptoms, they felt they had “more time” before starting antiretroviral therapy (ART). Their reluctance to have an HIV test (despite deteriorating health) arose from a belief that they were not “sick”, that treatment was “not yet necessary”. People in our study did not consider themselves as presenting “late”, and treatment was not considered urgent as long as they considered their health to be “good enough”.


Mar, 2019

Economic evaluation of weekends-off antiretroviral therapy for young people in 11 countries


Authors: Tierrablanca LE, Ochalek J, Ford D, et al; for BREATHER (PENTA 16) Trial Group

Published in: Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(5):e9698

Objectives To analyze the cost effectiveness of short-cycle therapy (SCT), where patients take antiretroviral (ARV) drugs 5 consecutive days a week and have 2 days off, as an alternative to continuous ARV therapy for young people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and taking efavirenz-based first-line ARV drugs.

Methods We conduct a hierarchical cost-effectiveness analysis based on data on clinical outcomes and resource use from the BREATHER trial. BREATHER is a randomized trial investigating the effectiveness of SCT and continuous therapy in 199 participants aged 8 to 24 years and taking efavirenz-based first-line ARV drugs in 11 countries worldwide. Alongside nationally representative unit costs/prices, these data were used to estimate costs and quality adjusted life years (QALYs). An incremental cost-effectiveness comparison was performed using a multilevel bivariate regression approach for total costs and QALYs. Further analyses explored cost-effectiveness in low- and middle-income countries with access to low-cost generic ARV drugs and high-income countries purchasing branded ARV drugs, respectively.

Results At 48 weeks, SCT offered significant total cost savings over continuous therapy of US dollar (USD) 41 per patient in countries using generic drugs and USD 4346 per patient in countries using branded ARV drugs, while accruing nonsignificant total health benefits of 0.008 and 0.009 QALYs, respectively. Cost-effectiveness estimates were similar across settings with access to generic ARV drugs but showed significant variation among high-income countries where branded ARV drugs are purchased.

Conclusion SCT is a cost-effective treatment alternative to continuous therapy for young people infected with HIV in countries where viral load monitoring is available.



Mar, 2019

Weekends-off efavirenz -based antiretroviral therapy in HIV infected children, adolescents and young adults (BREATHER): extended follow-up results of a randomised, open-label, non-inferiority trial


Authors: Turkova A1, Moore CL, Butler K, et al. for BREATHER (PENTA 16) Trial Group.

Published in: PLos One. 2018;13(4):e0196239.

Background Weekends off antiretroviral therapy (ART) may help engage HIV-1-infected young people facing lifelong treatment. BREATHER showed short cycle therapy (SCT; 5 days on, 2 days off ART) was non-inferior to continuous therapy (CT) over 48 weeks. Planned follow-up was extended to 144 weeks, maintaining original randomisation.

Methods BREATHER was an open-label, non-inferiority trial. Participants aged 8-24yrs with virologi- cal suppression on efavirenz-based first-line ART were randomised 1:1, stratified by age and African/non-African sites, to remain on CT or change to SCT. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate the proportion of participants with viral rebound (confirmed VL􏰕50 copies/mL) under intent-to-treat at 48 weeks (primary outcome), and in extended follow-up at 96, 144, and 192 weeks. SCT participants returned to CT following viral rebound, 3 VL blips or discontinuation of efavirenz.

Findings Of 199 participants (99 SCT, 100 CT), 97 per arm consented to extended follow-up. Median follow-up was 185.3 weeks (IQR 160.9–216.1). 69 (70%) SCT participants remained on SCT at last follow-up. 105 (53%) were male, baseline median age 14 years (IQR 12–18), median CD4 count 735 cells/μL (IQR 576–968). 16 SCT and 16 CT participants had con- firmed VL􏰕50 copies/mL by the end of extended follow-up (HR 1.00, 95% CI 0.50–2.00). Estimated difference in percentage with viral rebound (SCT minus CT) by week 144 was 1.9% (90% CI -6.6–10.4; p = 0.72) and was similar in a per-protocol analysis. There were no significant differences between arms in proportions of participants with grade 3/4 adverse events (18 SCT vs 16 CT participants; p = 0.71) or ART-related adverse events (10 vs 12;

p = 0.82). 20 versus 8 serious adverse events (SAEs) were reported in 16 SCT versus 4 CT participants, respectively (p = 0.005 comparing proportions between groups; incidence rate ratio 2.49, 95%CI 0.71–8.66, p = 0.15). 75% of SAEs (15 SCT, 6 CT) were hospitalisations for a wide range of conditions. 3 SCT and 6 CT participants switched to second-line ART fol- lowing viral failure (p = 0.50).

Conclusions Sustainable non-inferiority of virological suppression in young people was shown for SCT versus CT over median 3.6 years. Standard-dose efavirenz-based SCT is a viable option for virologically suppressed HIV-1 infected young people on first-line ART with 3-monthly VL monitoring.


Mar, 2019

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor backbones and pregnancy outcomes


Authors: European Pregnancy and Paediatric HIV Cohort Collaboration (EPPICC) Study Group

Published in: Aids. 2019;33(2):295-304.

Objectives The aim of this study was to investigate whether specific nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) backbones are associated with risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes among pregnant women starting antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Design Seven observational studies across eight European countries of pregnancies in HIV-positive women.

Methods Individual-level data were pooled on singleton pregnancies conceived off-ART in which a single combination ART regimen was initiated at least 2 weeks before delivery, and ending in a live birth in 2008-2014. Preterm delivery (PTD) was defined as less than 37 gestational weeks and small-for-gestational-age (SGA) as less than 10th percentile according to INTERGROWTH standards. Poisson regression models were fitted to investigate associations between NRTI backbones and PTD/SGA.

Results Out of 7193 pregnancies, 45% (3207) were in UK/Ireland, 44% (3134) in Ukraine. 10% (722/7193) of deliveries were preterm and 11.1% (785/7089) of newborns SGA. The most common NRTI backbones were zidovudine (ZDV)-lamivudine (3TC) (71%), tenofovir (TDF)-XTC (16%) and abacavir (ABC)-3TC (10%) with TDF-containing backbone use increasing over time. Overall, 77% of regimens contained ritonavir-boosted lopinavir (LPV/r). There was no association between NRTI backbone and PTD in main adjusted analyses [adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) 0.97 (95% confidence interval, 95% CI 0.73-1.28] for ABC-3TC and aPR 1.06 (95% CI 0.83-1.35) for TDF-XTC, both vs. ZDV-3TC) or in 4720 pregnancies on LPV/r [aPR 1.03 (95% CI 0.74-1.43) for ABC-3TC and aPR 1.16 [0.85-1.57] for TDF-XTC, both vs. ZDV-3TC]. Infants exposed to ABC-3TC or TDF-XTC in utero were less likely to be SGA than those exposed to ZDV-3TC [aPR 0.72 (95% CI 0.53-0.97) and aPR 0.70 (95% CI 0.53-0.93), respectively].

Conclusion Results support the safety of TDF-XTC backbones initiated in pregnancy with respect to gestation length and birthweight.


Mar, 2019

Birth Defects After Exposure to Efavirenz-Based Antiretroviral Therapy at Conception/First Trimester of Pregnancy A Multicohort Analysis


Authors:Martinez de Tejada B; European Pregnancy and Paediatric HIV Cohort Collaboration Study Group.

Published in: J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2019;80(3):316-324.


Background To investigate the association between efavirenz (EFV) use during conception or first trimester (T1) of pregnancy and the occurrence of birth defects.

Setting Seven observational studies of pregnant HIV-positive women across 13 European countries and Thailand.

Methods Individual-level data were pooled on singleton pregnancies included in participating cohorts in 2002-2015. Birth defects were coded according to ICD-10 and the EUROCAT classification. We performed mixed-effects logistic regression models to assess the association between EFV exposure in utero and likelihood of birth defects.

Results We included 24,963 live births from 21,093 women. At conception, 30.2% (7537) women were on a non-EFV-based regimen, 4.8% (1200) on EFV, and 65% (16,226) were unexposed to antiretroviral therapy (ART). There were 412 infants with ≥1 birth defect, a prevalence of 1.65% (95% confidence interval: 1.50 to 1.82). Limb/musculoskeletal and congenital heart defects were the most common defects reported. Birth defects were present in 2.4%, 1.6%, and 1.3% of infants exposed to non-EFV, EFV, and unexposed to ART during conception/T1 (P = 0.135), respectively. The association between exposure to ART during conception/T1 and birth defects remained nonsignificant in adjusted analyses, as did exposure to EFV versus non-EFV (adjusted odds ratio 0.61; 95% confidence interval: 0.36 to 1.03, P = 0.067). Among the 21 birth defects in 19 infants on EFV, no neural tube defects were reported.

Conclusions Prevalence of birth defects after exposure to EFV-based compared with non-EFV-based ART in conception/T1 was not statistically different in this multicohort study, and even lower. EFV is at least as safe as other ART drugs currently recommended for antenatal use.


Mar, 2019

Migrant women living with HIV in Europe: are they facing inequalities in the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV?: The European Pregnancy and Paediatric HIV Cohort Collaboration (EPPICC) study group in EuroCoord


Authors: Favarato G, Bailey H, Burns F, et al.

Published in: Eur J Public Health. 2018;28(1):55-60.

Background In pregnancy early interventions are recommended for prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. We examined whether pregnant women who live with HIV in Europe and are migrants encounter barriers in accessing HIV testing and care.
Methods Four cohorts within the European Pregnancy and Paediatric HIV Cohort Collaboration provided data for pooled analysis of 11 795 pregnant women who delivered in 2002–12 across ten European countries. We defined a migrant as a woman delivering in a country different from her country of birth and grouped the countries into seven world regions. We compared three suboptimal PMTCT interventions (HIV diagnosis in late pregnancy in women undiagnosed at conception, late anti-retroviral therapy (ART) start in women diagnosed but untreated at conception and detectable viral load (VL) at delivery in women on antenatal ART) in native and migrant women using multivariable logistic regression models.
Results Data included 9421 (79.9%) migrant women, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); 4134 migrant women were diagnosed in the current pregnancy, often (48.6%) presenting with CD4 count <350 cells/µl. Being a migrant was associated with HIV diagnosis in late pregnancy [OR for SSA vs. native women, 2.12 (95% CI 1.67, 2.69)] but not with late ART start if diagnosed but not on ART at conception, or with detectable VL at delivery once on ART.
Conclusions Migrant women were more likely to be diagnosed in late pregnancy but once on ART virological response was good. Good access to antenatal care enables the implementation of PMTCT protocols and optimises both maternal and children health outcomes generally.