Despite the strict COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Uganda, viral load testing and viral load suppression rates improved by 68% and 35% during the first lockdown, while mortality reduced by 25% among people living with HIV in Kampala, according to a presentation by Dr Izudi, Makerere University, at the INTEREST 2022 conference. In 2020, modelling studies of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on HIV estimated that interruptions in ART would have the largest effect on HIV-related mortality in Africa, with a three-month interruption of ART supply in 13 African countries estimated to translate to a 35 to 131% rise in mortality in 2021. Observational data from six large HIV clinics and 9952 participants in Kampala compared a pre-pandemic cohort from March 2018 to February 2019 of people with HIV who had not experienced the COVID-19 restrictions, and an exposed cohort from June 2020 to June 2021 of people with HIV who experienced the restrictions. Patients exposed to restrictions had a 68% increase in viral load testing and a 35% increase in viral load suppression compared to the comparison group. Their mortality was also 25% lower than the control group,
Equity and HIV/AIDS
Older gay black men living with HIV and AIDS and their aging and health care concerns are reported to be invisible in research in South Africa, with the focus being on younger LGBTQI+ men. This qualitative study explored the aging and health-care experiences of older gay black men in a selected township in the Cape Metropole, with the purpose of finding strategies to deal with their real life concerns and also interviewed health professionals working at the local clinic. A key finding was that health-care professionals, particularly nurses at a local clinic, stigmatize older black men living with HIV and AIDS and that rejection by their families and the death of their life partners leads to isolation, loneliness and depression. The authors propose training of health-care professionals by social workers and workshops to educate families of older LGBTQI+ people on their aging concerns.
This paper describes how an adult HIV peer-support group in urban Zimbabwe enabled implementation research, and client recruitment and retention, with successes, challenges and lessons documented over eight years. The interventions involved psychosocial support, nutrition care and support, adherence education and income generating projects. More than 900 people participated in peer-support group activities every month and 400 were engaged in income generating activities. The support group provided a platform for identification of research priorities, patient recruitment and retention and for dissemination of research findings.
The authors describe the change in 12-24 year old peer leaders' knowledge and leadership of a peer youth led HIV curriculum applied during monthly Saturday adolescent HIV clinics at two clinical sites in Moshi, Tanzania. Peer leaders previously participated in a mental health and life skills intervention called Sauti ya Vijana and were recommended for leadership by Sauti ya Vijana facilitators and clinic staff. Peer leaders demonstrated high fidelity to activities in each lesson and participant feedback was positive for curriculum delivery. Participants’ knowledge improved in nine of ten sessions. Peer leaders reported improved leadership confidence and resilience, and their perception was that the curriculum helped normalize the HIV experience for Youth Living with HIV attending clinic. Nevertheless, anticipated stigma, difficulty disclosing HIV status, and teaching ability remained barriers. This study provides evidence to support efforts to scale and sustain peer youth led interventions for Youth Living with HIV.
As countries approach the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets, there is a need for innovative and cost-saving HIV testing approaches that can increase testing coverage in hard-to-reach populations. The HIV Self-Testing Africa-Initiative distributed HIV self-test (HIVST) kits using unincentivised HIV testing counsellors across 31 public facilities in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. HIVST was distributed either through secondary (partner’s use) distribution alone or primary (own use) and secondary distribution approaches. The authors evaluated the costs of adding HIVST to existing HIV testing from the providers’ perspective in the 31 public health facilities across the four countries between 2018 and 2019 using expenditure analysis and bottom-up costing approaches. They found that costs of integrating HIV self-testing in the public health facilities ranged from US$4.27-US$13.42 per kit distributed. Personnel and cost of test kits were important cost drivers.
This paper explored the health-system resilience at the sub-national level in Uganda with regard to strategies for dispensing antiretrovirals during Covid-19 lockdown. The authors conducted a qualitative case-study of eight districts purposively selected from Eastern and Western Uganda. Between June and September 2020, through interviews with district health team leaders, ART clinic managers, representatives of PEPFAR implementing organizations and focus group discussions with recipients of HIV care. Five broad strategies for distributing antiretrovirals during ‘lockdown’ emerged: (i) accelerating home-based delivery of antiretrovirals; (ii) extending multi-month dispensing from three to six months for stable patients; (iii) leveraging the Community Drug Distribution Points model for ART refill pick-ups at outreach sites in the community; (iv) increasing reliance on health information systems, including geospatial technologies, to support ART refill distribution in unmapped rural settings and (v) leveraging Covid-19 outbreak response funding to deliver ART refills to rural homesteads. While Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ restrictions undoubtedly impeded access to facility-based HIV services, they revived interest by providers and demand by patients for community-based ART delivery models in case-study districts in Uganda.
This paper assessed the extent in East Africa to which policies reflect calls for HIV-NCD service integration, through document review. Integrated delivery of HIV and NCD care is recommended in high level health policies and treatment guidelines in four countries in the East African region; Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, mostly relating to integrating NCD care into HIV programmes, in response both to increasing levels of NCDs and more person-centred services for people living with HIV. Other countries, however, have no reported plans for HIV and NCD care integration.
This paper explored child and care-giver experiences of the process of disclosing HIV statuses to children, including reasons for delay, through 22 in-depth interviews with care-givers and 11 in-depth interviews with HIV positive children in Kinshasa. Care-givers included biological parents, grandmothers, siblings and community members and 86% of them were female. Many care-givers had lost family members due to HIV and several were HIV positive themselves. Reasons for non-disclosure included fear of stigmatisation; wanting to protect the child and not having enough knowledge about HIV or the status of the child to disclose. Several children had multiple care-givers, which also delayed disclosure, as responsibility for the child was shared. In addition, some care-givers were struggling to accept their own HIV status and did not want their child to blame them for their own positive status by disclosing to them. The authors identify that child disclosure is a complex process for care-givers, health-care workers and the children themselves.
Recent data has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on HIV testing services, but the impact on HIV treatment is less than originally feared. As of August 2020, the UNAIDS, World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund data collection exercise to identify national, regional and global disruptions of routine HIV services caused by COVID-19 had collected treatment data from 85 countries. Of these, 22 countries reported data over a sufficient number of months to enable the identification of trends. Only five countries reported monthly declines in the number of people on treatment after April—these include Zimbabwe in June, Peru and Guyana in July, the Dominican Republic in April, and Sierra Leone in May through to July. The remaining 18 countries did not show a decline and some countries showed a steady increase (e.g. Kenya, Ukraine, Togo and Tajikistan). However, among the 22 countries with trend data on numbers newly initiating treatment, all countries except Jamaica showed declines for at least one month or more relative to January. Only around eight of those countries showed a rebound in the number of people newly initiating treatment between January and July.
More quickly than they could have anticipated, people living with (PLWH) and those at-risk for HIV felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as they were asked to shelter in place and distance themselves from others. In March and April 2020, community-based organizations (CBOs) closed, medical offices cut hours, and medical personnel shifted from primary care to COVID-19 hospital units, affecting the HIV Continuum of Care and Prevention—that is, testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and primary care. The authors call for further research, review and monitoring to provide evidence on referral practices and links that could help clients access the HIV services to which they are referred (“referral completion”).