oa South African Medical Journal - Descriptive analysis of World Health Organization-recommended second-line antiretroviral treatment : a retrospective cohort data analysis - research

Volume 109 Number 12
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Background. World Health Organization guidelines recommend that HIV patients who do not achieve viral suppression on efavirenz-based first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) should be changed to a protease inhibitor (PI)-based regimen. In South Africa (SA), ~200 000 people are on second-line treatment, but little is known about these patients.

Objectives. To describe second-line black African patients in a large urban area.

Methods. A quantitative retrospective study of 825 second-line patients in central Johannesburg, SA (subdistrict F), was performed with data extracted from government databases. Demographic characteristics, treatment status and laboratory information were gathered, then analysed with CD4+ cell count, viral load (VL) and retention-in-care data as outcome variables.

Results. The average recorded time to VL measurement after the switch to a PI-based ART regimen was 20 months, and 83.1% (570/686) of patients with a recent VL achieved viral suppression while on second-line treatment. The most recent median CD4+ cell count for the cohort was 286 cells/μL (interquartile range 160 - 478), which represented a 177 cells/μL increase from the baseline count at the start of firstline ART. Slightly less than three-quarters (72.4%) of the population remained active in care in the study clinics from initiation on first-line ART. Demographic characteristics such as being <25 years of age, male sex and geographical transfer (started initial treatment in a different region) independently predicted low CD4+ cell counts and virological failure on second-line treatment. Patients with virological failure were most likely (odds ratio (OR) 3.13, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.50 - 6.56) to be lost to follow-up after the switch, while patients from Hillbrow Community Health Centre (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.16 - 0.44), South Rand Hospital (OR 0.24, 95% CI 0.12 - 0.47) and Jeppe Clinic (OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.16 - 0.88), three larger sites, were most likely to remain active in care.

Conclusions. VL suppression was high in patients on second-line treatment, but one-fifth of patients were lost to follow-up. Younger age, male sex and transfer from other treatment sites predicted poor treatment outcomes, highlighting opportunities for prioritisation of adherence interventions.

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