HIV & AIDS

Letter to the editor  Anna Coutsoudis and colleagues worry that international organisations have too hastily endorsed a strategy to provide lifelong triple antiretroviral therapy (ART), irrespective of CD4 count, to pregnant women with HIV in high-burden countries. This strategy for preventing mother-to-child transmission is called Option B+.

Summary Points Expansion of prevention of mother-to-child transmission in resource-limited settings remains a challenge. In many countries, most HIV-exposed infants do not benefit from PMTCT programs, which results in a 30% or more transmission rate.

In 2011, the Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH) implemented an innovative approach (called "Option B+"), in which all HIV-infected pregnant and breastfeeding women are eligible for lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) regardless of CD4 count. Since that time, several countries have adopted the Option B+ policy. Using data collected through routine program supervision, this report is the first to summarize Malawi's experience implementing Option B+ under the direction of the MOH and supported by the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In Malawi, the number of pregnant and breastfeeding women started on ART per quarter increased by 748%, from 1,257 in the second quarter of 2011 (before Option B+ implementation) to 10,663 in the third quarter of 2012 (1 year after implementation). Of the 2,949 women who started ART under Option B+ in the third quarter of 2011 and did not transfer care, 2,267 (77%) continue to receive ART at 12 months; this retention rate is similar to the rate for all adults in the national program. Option B+ is an important innovation that could accelerate progress in Malawi and other countries toward the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV worldwide.

Background: The Ministry of Health in Malawi is implementing a pragmatic and innovative approach for the management of all HIV-infected pregnant women, termed Option B+, which consists of providing life-long antiretroviral treatment, regardless of their CD4 count or clinical stage. Our objective was to determine if Option B+ represents a cost-effective option.

Background: East African countries have in the recent past experienced a tremendous increase in the volume of antiretroviral drugs. Capacity to manage these medicines in the region remains limited.

Low-income countries with high HIV/AIDS burdens in sub-Saharan Africa must deal with severe shortages of qualified human resources for health. This situation has triggered the renewed interest in community health workers, as they may play an important role in scaling-up antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS by taking over a number of tasks from the professional health workers.

Of 48 surveyed hospitals and health centers in Ethiopia, 9 (19%), 9 (19%), and 10 (21%) did not have malaria, TB, or HIV drugs, respectively. Similarly, of 27 health posts, 9 (33%) and 6 (22%) did not have rapid diagnostic tests and antimalarial drugs, respectively. The findings indicated an inadequate availability of essential drugs and commodities in the surveyed facilities as well as weaknesses in human resources and training.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services in Namibia conducted a confirmatory assessment of the risk of anemia associated with zidovudine (AZT)-based highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) using records contained in three electronic databases. A total of 12,358 records were examined. We measured the sensitivity of the starting HAART regimen (the proportion of AZT users in the clinical record correctly identified in the electronic record), and specificity of severe anemia (the proportion of non-cases of severe anemia in the clinical records correctly identified in the electronic record). Probabilistic record linkage methods were effective for records linkage in this sub-Saharan African setting.

An East African survey showed that among the few health facilities that measured adherence to antiretroviral therapy, practices and definitions varied widely. We evaluated the feasibility of collecting routine data to standardize adherence measurement using a draft set of indicators.

HIV/AIDS is a critical concern in South Africa, where extreme poverty and gender issues are major determinants of health. A comprehensive home-based care programme is needed to lessen the burden placed on the caregivers of those suffering from HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the challenges faced by people who are living with HIV/AIDS and by their caregivers in resource-poor, remote South African villages.

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