Despite global progress in the fight to reduce maternal mortality, HIV-related maternal deaths remain persistently high, particularly in much of Africa. Lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) appears to be the most effective way to prevent these deaths, but the rates of three key outcomes—ART initiation, retention in care, and long-term ART adherence—remain low. This systematic review synthesized evidence on health systems factors affecting these outcomes in pregnant and postpartum women living with HIV. Low prioritization of maternal ART and persistent dropout along the maternal ART cascade were key findings. Service delivery barriers included poor communication and coordination among health system actors, poor clinical practices, and gaps in provider training. The few studies that assessed maternal ART interventions demonstrated the importance of multi-pronged, multi-leveled interventions. There has been a lack of emphasis on the experiences, needs, and vulnerabilities particular to HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women. Supporting these women to successfully traverse the maternal ART cascade requires carefully designed and targeted interventions throughout the steps. Careful design of integrated service delivery models is of critical importance in this effort. Key knowledge gaps and research priorities were also identified, including definitions and indicators of adherence rates, and the importance of cumulative measures of dropout along the maternal ART cascade.

Despite progress reducing maternal mortality, HIV-related maternal deaths remain high, accounting, for example, for up to 24 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is effective in improving outcomes among HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women, yet rates of initiation, adherence, and retention remain low. This systematic literature review synthesized evidence about individual and contextual factors affecting ART use among HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women. Thirty-four studies were included in the review. Individual-level factors included both those within and outside a woman’s awareness and control (e.g., commitment to child’s health or age). Individual-level barriers included poor understanding of HIV, ART, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission; and difficulty managing practical demands of ART. At an interpersonal level, disclosure to a spouse and spousal involvement in treatment were associated with improved initiation, adherence, and retention. Fear of negative consequences was a barrier to disclosure. At a community level, stigma was a major barrier. Key structural barriers and enablers were related to health system use and engagement, including access to services and health worker attitudes. To be successful, programs seeking to expand access to and continued use of ART by integrating maternal health and HIV services must identify and address the relevant barriers and enablers in their own context that are described in this review. Further research on this population, including those who drop out of or never access health services, is needed to inform effective implementation.


Although there is evidence of the effectiveness of needle and syringe programme (NSP), opioid substitution therapy (OST) and antiretroviral therapy (ART) in reducing HIV prevalence, most Central and Eastern European sub-regions still have low or no coverage of most or all of these interventions. We conducted a modelling analysis to consider the potential impact on HIV incidence and prevalence of OST, NSP, and ART in three illustrative epidemic scenarios: Russia (St. Petersburg), Estonia (Tallinn), and Tajikistan (Dushanbe). For each intervention, we consider the coverage needed of each intervention separately or in combination to: (1) achieve a 30% or 50% relative reduction in HIV incidence or prevalence over 10 years; and (2) reduce HIV incidence to below 1% or HIV prevalence below 10% after 20 years. A sensitivity analysis for St. Petersburg considered the implications of greater or no risk heterogeneity, none or more sexual HIV transmission, like-with-like mixing, different injecting cessation rates, and assuming a lower HIV acute phase cofactor. The projections suggest that high but achievable coverage levels of NSP can result in large decreases (30%) in HIV incidence in settings with high HIV prevalence among PWID. Required coverage levels are much lower when interventions are combined or in lower prevalence settings. However, even when all three interventions are combined, the targets of reducing HIV incidence to less than 1% or prevalence to less than 10% in 20 years may be hard to achieve except in lower prevalence settings.

In this third special issue published by the International Journal of Drug Policy, the authors of ten research papers and commentaries seek to provide additional knowledge on a range of issues related to illicit drugs in the region, including the epidemiology of drug use and drug-related infectious diseases and other consequences, drug treatment and harm reduction pro

In July 2011, Malawi introduced an ambitious public health program known as “Option B+,” which provides all HIV- infected pregnant and breastfeeding women with lifelong combination antiretroviral therapy, regardless of clinical stage or CD4 count. Option B+ is expected to have benefits for HIV-infected women, their HIV-exposed infants, and their HIV-uninfected male sex partners. However, these benefits hinge on early uptake of prevention of mother-to-child transmission, good adherence, and long-term retention in care. The Prevention of mother-to-child transmission Uptake and REtention (PURE) study is a 3-arm cluster randomized controlled trial to evaluate whether clinic- or community-based peer support will improve care-seeking and retention in care by HIV- infected pregnant and breastfeeding women, their HIV-exposed infants, and their male sex partners, and ultimately improve health outcomes in all 3 populations. We describe the PURE Malawi Consortium, the initial work conducted to inform the trial and interventions, the trial design, and the analysis plan. We then discuss concerns and expected contributions to Malawi and the region.

Approximately 1 million people are infected with HIV in Malawi, where AIDS is the leading cause of death in adults. By December 31, 2007, more than 141,000 patients were initiated on antiretroviral treatment (ART) by use of a public health approach to scale up HIV services. In Malawi, a public health approach to ART increased treatment access and maintained high 6- and 12-month survival. Resource-limited countries scaling up ART programs may benefit from this approach of simplified clinical decision making, standardized ART regimens, nonphysician care, limited laboratory support, and centralized monitoring and evaluation.

As national antiretroviral treatment (ART) programmes scale up, it is essential that information is complete, timely and accurate for site monitoring and national planning. This study assessed the quality of quarterly aggregate summary data for April to June 2006 compiled and reported by ART facilities as compared to the "gold standard" facility summary data compiled independently by the Ministry of Health supervision team. The national summary using the site reports resulted in a 12% undercount in the national total number of persons on first-line treatment. While many sites are able to generate complete data summaries, the accuracy of facility reports is not yet adequate for national monitoring. The Ministry of Health and its partners should continue to identify and support interventions such as supportive supervision to build sites' capacity to maintain and compile quality data to ensure that accurate information is available for site monitoring and national planning.

If children are to be protected from HIV, the expansion of PMTCT programs must be complemented by increased provision of paediatric treatment. This is expensive, yet there are humanitarian, equity and children's rights arguments to justify the prioritization of treating HIV-infected children. In the context of limited budgets, inefficiencies cost lives, either through lower coverage or less effective services. With the goal of informing the design and expansion of efficient paediatric treatment programs able to utilize to greatest effect the available resources allocated to the treatment of HIV-infected children, this article reviews what is known about cost drivers in paediatric HIV interventions, and makes suggestions for improving efficiency in paediatric HIV programming. High-impact interventions known to deliver disproportional returns on investment are highlighted and targeted for immediate scale-up. Progress will carry a cost - increased funding, as well as additional data on intervention costs and outcomes, will be required if universal access of HIV-infected children to treatment is to be achieved and sustained.

Each year over a million infants are born to HIV-infected mothers. With scale up of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) interventions, only 210 000 of the 1.3 million infants born to mothers with HIV/AIDS in 2012 became infected. Current programmatic efforts directed at infants born to HIV-infected mothers are primarily focused on decreasing their risk of infection, but an emphasis on maternal interventions has meant follow-up of exposed infants has been poor. Programs are struggling to retain this population in care until the end of exposure, typically at the cessation of breastfeeding, between 12 and 24 months of age. But HIV exposure is a life-long condition that continues to impact the health and well being of a child long after exposure has ended. A better understanding of the impact of HIV on exposed infants is needed and new programs and interventions must take into consideration the long-term health needs of this growing population. The introduction of lifelong treatment for all HIV-infected pregnant women is an opportunity to rethink how we provide services adapted for the long-term retention of mother–infant pairs.


Printer Friendly Version
Subscribe to RSS - HIV & AIDS