Is There a Need for Viral Load Testing to Assess Treatment Failure in HIV-Infected Patients Who Are about to Change to Tenofovir-Based First-Line Antiretroviral Therapy?

Programmatic Findings from Myanmar

Citation: Thiha N, Chinnakali P, Harries AD, Shwe M, Balathandan TP, Thein Than Tun S, et al. (2016) Is There a Need for Viral Load Testing to Assess Treatment Failure in HIV-Infected Patients Who Are about to Change to Tenofovir-Based First-Line Antiretroviral Therapy? Programmatic Findings from Myanmar. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0160616. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160616
Published: August 9, 2016

Abstract
Background: WHO recommends that stavudine is phased out of antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes and replaced with tenofovir (TDF) for first-line treatment. In this context, the Integrated HIV Care Program, Myanmar, evaluated patients for ART failure using HIV RNA viral load (VL) before making the change. We aimed to determine prevalence and determinants of ART failure in those on first-line treatment.
Methods: Patients retained on stavudine-based or zidovudine-based ART for >12 months with no clinical/immunological evidence of failure were offered VL testing from August 2012. Plasma samples were tested using real time PCR. Those with detectable VL>250 copies/ml on the first test were provided with adherence counseling and three months later a second test was performed with >1000 copies/ml indicating ART failure. We calculated the prevalence of ART failure and adjusted relative risks (aRR) to identify associated factors using log binomial regression.
Results: Of 4934 patients tested, 4324 (87%) had an undetectable VL at the first test while 610 patients had a VL>250 copies/ml. Of these, 502 had a second VL test, of whom 321 had undetectable VL and 181 had >1000 copies/ml signifying ART failure. There were 108 who failed to have the second test. Altogether, there were 94% with an undetectable VL, 4% with ART failure and 2% who did not follow the VL testing algorithm. Risk factors for ART failure were age 15–24 years (aRR 2.4, 95% CI: 1.5–3.8) compared to 25–44 years and previous ART in the private sector (aRR 1.6, 95% CI: 1.2–2.2) compared to the public sector.
Conclusions: This strategy of evaluating patients on first-line ART before changing to TDF was feasible and identified a small proportion with ART failure, and could be considered by HIV/AIDS programs in Myanmar and other countries.

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