Publications by authors named "Eduard J Sanders"

144 Publications

Multiple HIV testing strategies are necessary to end AIDS.

AIDS 2021 Oct;35(12):2039-2041

Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/QAD.0000000000003027DOI Listing
October 2021

Effect of an opt-out point-of-care HIV-1 nucleic acid testing intervention to detect acute and prevalent HIV infection in symptomatic adult outpatients and reduce HIV transmission in Kenya: a randomized controlled trial.

HIV Med 2021 Aug 25. Epub 2021 Aug 25.

University of Oxford, Headington, UK.

Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, adult outpatients with symptoms of acute infectious illness are not routinely tested for prevalent or acute HIV infection (AHI) when seeking healthcare.

Methods: Adult symptomatic outpatients aged 18-39 years were evaluated by a consensus AHI risk score. Patients with a risk score ≥ 2 and no previous HIV diagnosis were enrolled in a stepped-wedge trial of opt-out delivery of point-of-care (POC) HIV-1 nucleic acid testing (NAAT), compared with standard provider-initiated HIV testing using rapid tests in the observation period. The primary outcome was the number of new diagnoses in each study period. Generalized estimating equations with a log-binomial link and robust variance estimates were used to account for clustering by health facility. The trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03508908.

Results: Between 2017 and 2020, 13 (0.9%) out of 1374 participants in the observation period and 37 (2.5%) out of 1500 participants in the intervention period were diagnosed with HIV infection. Of the 37 newly diagnosed cases in the intervention period, two (5.4%) had AHI. Participants in the opt-out intervention had a two-fold greater odds of being diagnosed with HIV (odds ratio = 2.2, 95% confidence interval: 1.39-3.51) after adjustment for factors imbalanced across study periods.

Conclusions: Among symptomatic adults aged 18-39 years targeted by our POC NAAT intervention, we identified one chronic HIV infection for every 40 patients and one AHI patient for every 750 patients tested. Although AHI yield was low in this population, routinely offered opt-out testing could diagnose twice as many patients as an approach relying on provider discretion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/hiv.13157DOI Listing
August 2021

Pre-exposure prophylaxis for transgender women and men who have sex with men: qualitative insights from healthcare providers, community organization-based leadership and end users in coastal Kenya.

Int Health 2021 Jul 29. Epub 2021 Jul 29.

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Program, Kilifi, Kenya.

Transgender women (TW) and men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kenya are disproportionately affected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and would benefit substantially from pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We conducted focus group discussions (FGDs) with healthcare providers (HCPs) and TW/MSM leadership and in-depth interviews (IDIs) with PrEP-experienced MSM and TW to learn about perceived and actual barriers to PrEP programming. Eleven HCP and 10 TW/MSM leaders participated in FGDs before PrEP roll-out (January 2018) and 12 months later. Nineteen PrEP end-users (11 MSM and 8 TW) participated in IDIs. Topic guides explored PrEP knowledge, HIV acquisition risk, gender identity, motivation for PrEP uptake and adherence and PrEP-dispensing venue preferences. Braun and Clarke thematic analysis was applied. Four themes emerged: limited preparedness of HCPs to provide PrEP to TW and MSM, varied motivation for PrEP uptake and persistence among end users, lack of recognition of TW by HCPs and suggestions for PrEP programming improvement from all stakeholders. Providers' reluctance to prescribe PrEP to TW and distrust of TW towards providers calls for interventions to improve the capacity of service environments and staff HIV preventive care. Alternative locations for PrEP provision, including community-based sites, may be developed with TW/MSM leaders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/inthealth/ihab043DOI Listing
July 2021

The Role of Phylogenetics in Discerning HIV-1 Mixing among Vulnerable Populations and Geographic Regions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review.

Viruses 2021 06 19;13(6). Epub 2021 Jun 19.

Department of Translational Medicine, Lund University, 205 02 Malmö, Sweden.

To reduce global HIV-1 incidence, there is a need to understand and disentangle HIV-1 transmission dynamics and to determine the geographic areas and populations that act as hubs or drivers of HIV-1 spread. In Sub-Saharan Africa (sSA), the region with the highest HIV-1 burden, information about such transmission dynamics is sparse. Phylogenetic inference is a powerful method for the study of HIV-1 transmission networks and source attribution. In this review, we assessed available phylogenetic data on mixing between HIV-1 hotspots (geographic areas and populations with high HIV-1 incidence and prevalence) and areas or populations with lower HIV-1 burden in sSA. We searched PubMed and identified and reviewed 64 studies on HIV-1 transmission dynamics within and between risk groups and geographic locations in sSA (published 1995-2021). We describe HIV-1 transmission from both a geographic and a risk group perspective in sSA. Finally, we discuss the challenges facing phylogenetic inference in mixed epidemics in sSA and offer our perspectives and potential solutions to the identified challenges.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v13061174DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8235305PMC
June 2021

Trends and predictors of HIV positivity and time since last test at voluntary counselling and testing encounters among adults in Kilifi, Kenya, 2006-2017.

Wellcome Open Res 2019 4;4:127. Epub 2021 Jun 4.

Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) -Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

Little is known about HIV retesting uptake among key populations (KP) and general populations (GP) in Kenya. We assessed trends and predictors of first-time testing (FTT), late retesting (previous test more than one year ago for GP or three months for KP), and test positivity at three voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centres in coastal Kenya. : Routine VCT data covering 2006-2017 was collected from three VCT centres in Kilifi County. We analysed HIV testing history and test results from encounters among adults 18-39 years, categorized as GP men, GP women, men who have sex with men (MSM), and female sex workers (FSW).     Based on 24,728 test encounters (32% FTT), we observed declines in HIV positivity (proportion of encounters where the result was positive) among GP men, GP women, first-time testers and MSM but not among FSW. The proportion of encounters for FTT and late retesting decreased for both GP and KP but remained much higher in KP than GP. HIV positivity was higher at FTT and late retesting encounters; at FSW and MSM encounters; and at encounters with clients reporting lower educational attainment and sexually transmitted infection (STI) symptoms. HIV positivity was lower in GP men, never married clients and those less than 35 years of age. FTT was associated with town, risk group, age 18-24 years, never-married status, low educational attainment, and STI symptoms. Late retesting was less common among encounters with GP individuals who were never married, had Muslim or no religious affiliation, had lower educational attainment, or reported STI symptoms. HIV positive test results were most common at encounters with first-time testers and late re-testers. While the proportion of encounters at which late retesting was reported decreased steadily over the period reviewed, efforts are needed to increase retesting among the most at-risk populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.12688/wellcomeopenres.15401.3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8042516.3PMC
June 2021

Peer Mobilization and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Partner Notification Services Among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men and Transgender Women in Coastal Kenya Identified a High Number of Undiagnosed HIV Infections.

Open Forum Infect Dis 2021 Jun 29;8(6):ofab219. Epub 2021 Apr 29.

Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Program, Kilifi, Kenya.

Background: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) partner notification services (HPN), peer mobilization with HIV self-testing, and acute and early HIV infection (AEHI) screening among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) and transgender women (TGW) were assessed for acceptability, feasibility, and linkage to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services.

Methods: Between April and August 2019, peer mobilizers mobilized clients by offering HIV oral self-tests and immediate clinic referral for clients with AEHI symptoms. Mobilized participants received clinic-based rapid antibody testing and point-of-care HIV RNA testing. Newly diagnosed participants including those derived from HIV testing services were offered immediate ART and HPN. Partners were recruited through HPN.

Results: Of 772 mobilized clients, 452 (58.5%) enrolled in the study as mobilized participants. Of these, 16 (3.5%) were HIV newly diagnosed, including 2 (0.4%) with AEHI. All but 2 (14/16 [87.5%]) initiated ART. Thirty-five GBMSM and TGW were offered HPN and 27 (77.1%) accepted it. Provider referral identified a higher proportion of partners tested (39/64 [60.9%] vs 5/14 [35.7%]) and partners with HIV (27/39 [69.2%] vs 2/5 [40.0%]) than index referral. Of 44 enrolled partners, 10 (22.7%) were newly diagnosed, including 3 (6.8%) with AEHI. All 10 (100%) initiated ART. PrEP was initiated among 24.0% (103/429) mobilized participants and 28.6% (4/14) partners without HIV.

Conclusions: HPN, combined with a peer mobilization-led self-testing strategy and AEHI screening for GBMSM and TGW, appears to be acceptable and feasible. These strategies, especially HPN provider referral, effectively identified undiagnosed HIV infections and linked individuals to ART and PrEP services.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ofid/ofab219DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8186249PMC
June 2021

A Novel Sample Selection Approach to Aid the Identification of Factors That Correlate With the Control of HIV-1 Infection.

Front Immunol 2021 11;12:634832. Epub 2021 Mar 11.

IAVI Human Immunology Laboratory, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.

Individuals infected with HIV display varying rates of viral control and disease progression, with a small percentage of individuals being able to spontaneously control infection in the absence of treatment. In attempting to define the correlates associated with natural protection against HIV, extreme heterogeneity in the datasets generated from systems methodologies can be further complicated by the inherent variability encountered at the population, individual, cellular and molecular levels. Furthermore, such studies have been limited by the paucity of well-characterised samples and linked epidemiological data, including duration of infection and clinical outcomes. To address this, we selected 10 volunteers who rapidly and persistently controlled HIV, and 10 volunteers each, from two control groups who failed to control (based on set point viral loads) from an acute and early HIV prospective cohort from East and Southern Africa. A propensity score matching approach was applied to control for the influence of five factors (age, risk group, virus subtype, gender, and country) known to influence disease progression on causal observations. Fifty-two plasma proteins were assessed at two timepoints in the 1st year of infection. We independently confirmed factors known to influence disease progression such as the B57 HLA Class I allele, and infecting virus Subtype. We demonstrated associations between circulating levels of MIP-1α and IL-17C, and the ability to control infection. IL-17C has not been described previously within the context of HIV control, making it an interesting target for future studies to understand HIV infection and transmission. An in-depth systems analysis is now underway to fully characterise host, viral and immunological factors contributing to control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.634832DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7991997PMC
March 2021

HIV incidence in a multinational cohort of men and transgender women who have sex with men in sub-Saharan Africa: Findings from HPTN 075.

PLoS One 2021 25;16(2):e0247195. Epub 2021 Feb 25.

Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.

Few studies have assessed HIV incidence in men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We assessed HIV incidence and its correlates among MSM and TGW in SSA enrolled in the prospective, multi-country HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 075 study, conducted from 2015 to 2017. Participants were enrolled at four sites in SSA (Kisumu, Kenya; Blantyre, Malawi; Cape Town and Soweto, South Africa). Eligible participants reported male sex assignment at birth, were 18 to 44 years of age, and had engaged in anal intercourse with a man in the preceding three months. Participation involved five study visits over 12 months. Visits included behavioral assessments and testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Twenty-one of 329 persons acquired HIV during the study [incidence rate: 6.96/100 person-years (PY) (95% CI: 4.3, 10.6)]. Among TGW, HIV incidence was estimated to be 8.4/100 PY (95% CI: 2.3, 21.5). Four participants were found to have acute HIV infection at their first HIV-positive visit. HIV incidence varied among the four study sites, ranging from 1.3/100 PY to 14.4/100 PY. In multivariate longitudinal analysis, factors significantly associated with HIV acquisition were engagement in unprotected receptive anal intercourse [adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) 5.8, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.4, 14.4] and incident rectal gonorrhea and/or chlamydia (AHR: 2.7, 95% CI: 1.1, 6.8). The higher HIV incidence in Cape Town compared to Blantyre could be explained by the higher prevalence of several risk factors for HIV infection among participants in Cape Town. Annual HIV incidence observed in this study is substantially higher than reported HIV incidence in the general populations in the respective countries and among MSM in the United States. Intensification of HIV prevention efforts for MSM and TGW in SSA is urgently needed.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247195PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7906338PMC
August 2021

A Stronger Innate Immune Response During Hyperacute Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) Infection Is Associated With Acute Retroviral Syndrome.

Clin Infect Dis 2021 Sep;73(5):832-841

KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

Background: Acute retroviral syndrome (ARS) is associated with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) subtype and disease progression, but the underlying immunopathological pathways are poorly understood. We aimed to elucidate associations between innate immune responses during hyperacute HIV-1 infection (hAHI) and ARS.

Methods: Plasma samples obtained from volunteers (≥18.0 years) before and during hAHI, defined as HIV-1 antibody negative and RNA or p24 antigen positive, from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and Sweden were analyzed. Forty soluble innate immune markers were measured using multiplexed assays. Immune responses were differentiated into volunteers with stronger and comparatively weaker responses using principal component analysis. Presence or absence of ARS was defined based on 11 symptoms using latent class analysis. Logistic regression was used to determine associations between immune responses and ARS.

Results: Of 55 volunteers, 31 (56%) had ARS. Volunteers with stronger immune responses (n = 36 [65%]) had increased odds of ARS which was independent of HIV-1 subtype, age, and risk group (adjusted odds ratio, 7.1 [95% confidence interval {CI}: 1.7-28.8], P = .003). Interferon gamma-induced protein (IP)-10 was 14-fold higher during hAHI, elevated in 7 of the 11 symptoms and independently associated with ARS. IP-10 threshold >466.0 pg/mL differentiated stronger immune responses with a sensitivity of 84.2% (95% CI: 60.4-96.6) and specificity of 100.0% (95% CI]: 90.3-100.0).

Conclusions: A stronger innate immune response during hAHI was associated with ARS. Plasma IP-10 may be a candidate biomarker of stronger innate immunity. Our findings provide further insights on innate immune responses in regulating ARS and may inform the design of vaccine candidates harnessing innate immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciab139DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8423478PMC
September 2021

High patient acceptability but low coverage of provider-initiated HIV testing among adult outpatients with symptoms of acute infectious illness in coastal Kenya.

PLoS One 2021 5;16(2):e0246444. Epub 2021 Feb 5.

Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

Background: Only approximately one in five adults are offered HIV testing by providers when seeking care for symptoms of acute illness in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our aims were to estimate testing coverage and identify predictors of provider-initiated testing and counselling (PITC) and barriers to PITC implementation in this population.

Methods: We assessed HIV testing coverage among adult outpatients 18-39 years of age at four public and two private health facilities in coastal Kenya, during a 3- to 6-month surveillance period at each facility. A subset of patients who reported symptoms including fever, diarrhoea, fatigue, body aches, sore throat or genital ulcers were enrolled to complete a questionnaire independently of PITC offer. We assessed predictors of PITC in this population using generalised estimating equations and identified barriers to offering PITC through focus group discussion with healthcare workers (HCW) at each facility.

Results: Overall PITC coverage was 13.7% (1600 of 11,637 adults tested), with 1.9% (30) testing positive. Among 1,374 participants enrolled due to symptoms, 378 (27.5%) were offered PITC and 352 (25.6%) were tested, of whom 3.7% (13) tested positive. Among participants offered HIV testing, 93.1% accepted it; among participants not offered testing, 92.8% would have taken an HIV test if offered. The odds of completed PITC were increased among older participants (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.4-2.1 for 30-39 years, relative to 18-24 years), men (aOR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1-1.7); casual labourers (aOR 1.3, 95% CI 1.0-1.7); those paying by cash (aOR 1.2, 95% CI 1.0-1.4) or insurance (aOR 3.0, 95% CI 1.5-5.8); participants with fever (aOR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2-1.8) or genital ulcers (aOR 4.0, 95% CI 2.7-6.0); and who had tested for HIV >1 year ago (aOR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0-2.0) or had never tested (aOR 2.2, 95% CI 1.5-3.1). Provider barriers to PITC implementation included lack of HCW knowledge and confidence implementing guidelines, limited capacity and health systems constraints.

Conclusion: PITC coverage was low, though most patients would accept testing if offered. Missed opportunities to promote testing during care-seeking were common and innovative solutions are needed.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0246444PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7864413PMC
August 2021

"I wish to remain HIV negative": Pre-exposure prophylaxis adherence and persistence in transgender women and men who have sex with men in coastal Kenya.

PLoS One 2021 19;16(1):e0244226. Epub 2021 Jan 19.

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Program, Kilifi, Kenya.

Background: Transgender women (TGW) and men who have sex with men (MSM) in sub-Saharan Africa have high HIV acquisition risks and can benefit from daily pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We assessed PrEP adherence by measuring tenofovir-diphosphate (TFV-DP) levels and explore motives for PrEP persistence in TGW and MSM.

Methods: Participants were enrolled in a one-year PrEP programme and made quarterly visits irrespective of whether they were still using PrEP. At their month 6 visit, participants provided a dried blood spot to test for TFV-DP levels; protective levels were defined as those compatible with ≥4 pills per week (700-1249 fmol/punch). Before TFV-DP levels were available, a sub-set of these participants were invited for an in-depth interview (IDI). Semi-structured IDI topic guides were used to explore motives to uptake, adhere to, and discontinue PrEP. IDI data were analyzed thematically.

Results: Fifty-three participants (42 MSM and 11 TGW) were enrolled. At month 6, 11 (20.7%) participants (8 MSM and 3 TGW) were lost to follow up or stopped taking PrEP. Any TFV-DP was detected in 62.5% (5/8) of TGW vs. 14.7% of MSM (5/34, p = 0.01). Protective levels were detected in 37.5% of TGW (3/8), but not in any MSM. Nineteen IDI were conducted with 7 TGW and 9 MSM on PrEP, and 1 TGW and 2 MSM off PrEP. Unplanned or frequent risky sexual risk behaviour were the main motives for PrEP uptake. Among participants on PrEP, TGW had a more complete understanding of the benefits of PrEP. Inconsistent PrEP use was attributed to situational factors. Motives to discontinue PrEP included negative reactions from partners and stigmatizing healthcare services.

Conclusion: While MSM evinced greater adherence challenges in this PrEP programme, almost 40% of TGW were protected by PrEP. Given high HIV incidences in TGW these findings hold promise for TGW PrEP programming in the region.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0244226PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7815127PMC
April 2021

Socio-economic condition and lack of virological suppression among adults and adolescents receiving antiretroviral therapy in Ethiopia.

PLoS One 2020 15;15(12):e0244066. Epub 2020 Dec 15.

Clinical Infection Medicine, Department of Translational Medicine, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden.

Introduction: The potential impact of socio-economic condition on virological suppression during antiretroviral treatment (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa is largely unknown. In this case-control study, we compared socio-economic factors among Ethiopian ART recipients with lack of virological suppression to those with undetectable viral load (VL).

Methods: Cases (VL>1000 copies/ml) and controls (VL<150 copies/ml) aged ≥15years, with ART for >6 months and with available VL results within the last 3 months, were identified from registries at public ART clinics in Central Ethiopia. Questionnaire-based interviews on socio-economic characteristics, health condition and transmission risk behavior were conducted. Univariate variables associated with VL>1000 copies/ml (p<0.25) were added to a multivariable logistic regression model.

Results: Among 307 participants (155 cases, 152 controls), 61.2% were female, and the median age was 38 years (IQR 32-46). Median HIV-RNA load among cases was 6,904 copies/ml (IQR 2,843-26,789). Compared to controls, cases were younger (median 36 vs. 39 years; p = 0.004), more likely to be male (46.5% vs. 30.9%; p = 0.005) and had lower pre-ART CD4 cell counts (170 vs. 220 cells/μl; p = 0.009). In multivariable analysis of urban residents (94.8%), VL>1000 copies/ml was associated with lower relative wealth (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.98; 95% CI 1.49-5.94; p = 0.016), geographic work mobility (aOR 6.27, 95% CI 1.82-21.6; p = 0.016), younger age (aOR 0.94 [year], 95% CI 0.91-0.98; p = 0.011), longer duration of ART (aOR 1.19 [year], 95% CI 1.07-1.33; p = 0.020), and suboptimal (aOR 3.83, 95% CI 1.33-10.2; p = 0.048) or poor self-perceived wellbeing (aOR 9.75, 95% CI 2.85-33.4; p = 0.012), after correction for multiple comparisons. High-risk sexual behavior and substance use was not associated with lack of virological suppression.

Conclusion: Geographic work mobility and lower relative wealth were associated with lack of virological suppression among Ethiopian ART recipients in this predominantly urban population. These characteristics indicate increased risk of treatment failure and the need for targeted interventions for persons with these risk factors.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0244066PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7737988PMC
March 2021

Acute and early HIV infection screening among men who have sex with men, a systematic review and meta-analysis.

J Int AIDS Soc 2020 10;23 Suppl 6:e25590

Centre for Geographic Medicine Research - Coast, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kilifi, Kenya.

Introduction: Screening for acute and early HIV infections (AEHI) among men who have sex with men (MSM) remains uncommon in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Yet, undiagnosed AEHI among MSM and subsequent failure to link to care are important drivers of the HIV epidemic. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of AEHI yield among MSM mobilized for AEHI testing; and assessed which risk factors and/or symptoms could increase AEHI yield in MSM.

Methods: We systematically searched four databases from their inception through May 2020 for studies reporting strategies of mobilizing MSM for testing and their AEHI yield, or risk and/or symptom scores targeting AEHI screening. AEHI yield was defined as the proportion of AEHI cases among the total number of visits. Study estimates for AEHI yield were pooled using random effects models. Predictive ability of risk and/or symptom scores was expressed as the area under the receiver operator curve (AUC).

Results: Twenty-two studies were identified and included a variety of mobilization strategies (eight studies) and risk and/or symptom scores (fourteen studies). The overall pooled AEHI yield was 6.3% (95% CI, 2.1 to 12.4; I  = 94.9%; five studies); yield varied between studies using targeted strategies (11.1%; 95% CI, 5.9 to 17.6; I  = 83.8%; three studies) versus universal testing (1.6%; 95% CI, 0.8 to 2.4; two studies). The AUC of risk and/or symptom scores ranged from 0.69 to 0.89 in development study samples, and from 0.51 to 0.88 in validation study samples. AUC was the highest for scores including symptoms, such as diarrhoea, fever and fatigue. Key risk score variables were age, number of sexual partners, condomless receptive anal intercourse, sexual intercourse with a person living with HIV, a sexually transmitted infection, and illicit drug use. No studies were identified that assessed AEHI yield among MSM in SSA and risk and/or symptom scores developed among MSM in SSA lacked validation.

Conclusions: Strategies mobilizing MSM for targeted AEHI testing resulted in substantially higher AEHI yields than universal AEHI testing. Targeted AEHI testing may be optimized using risk and/or symptom scores, especially if scores include symptoms. Studies assessing AEHI yield and validation of risk and/or symptom scores among MSM in SSA are urgently needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jia2.25590DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7527764PMC
October 2020

A more responsive, multi-pronged strategy is needed to strengthen HIV healthcare for men who have sex with men in a decentralized health system: qualitative insights of a case study in the Kenyan coast.

J Int AIDS Soc 2020 10;23 Suppl 6:e25597

Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

Introduction: HIV healthcare services for men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kenya have not been openly provided because of persistent stigma and lack of healthcare capacity within Kenya's decentralized health sector. Building on an evaluation of a developed online MSM sensitivity training programme offered to East and South African healthcare providers, this study assessed views and responses to strengthen HIV healthcare services for MSM in Kenya.

Methods: The study was conducted between January and July 2017 in Kilifi County, coastal Kenya. Seventeen policymakers participated in an in-depth interview and 59 stakeholders, who were purposively selected from three key groups (i.e. healthcare providers, implementing partners and members of MSM-led community-based organizations) took part in eight focus group discussions. Discussions aimed to understand gaps in service provision to MSM from different perspectives, to identify potential misconceptions, and to explore opportunities to improve MSM HIV healthcare services. Interviews and focus group discussions were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using Braun and Clarke's thematic analysis.

Results: Participants' responses revealed that all key groups navigated diverse challenges related to MSM HIV health services. Specific challenges included priority-setting by county government staff; preparedness of leadership and management on MSM HIV issues at the facility level; data reporting at the implementation level and advocacy for MSM health equity. Strong power inequities were observed between policy leadership, healthcare providers and MSM, with MSM feeling blamed for their sexual orientation. MSM agency, as expressed in their actions to access HIV services, was significantly constrained by county context, but can potentially be improved by political will, professional support and a human rights approach.

Conclusions: To strengthen HIV healthcare for MSM within a decentralized Kenyan health system, a more responsive, multi-pronged strategy adaptable and relevant to MSM's healthcare needs is required. Continued engagement with policy leadership, collaboration with health facilities, and partnerships with different community stakeholders are critical to improve HIV healthcare services for MSM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jia2.25597DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7527756PMC
October 2020

Risk factors for loss to follow-up among at-risk HIV negative men who have sex with men participating in a research cohort with access to pre-exposure prophylaxis in coastal Kenya.

J Int AIDS Soc 2020 10;23 Suppl 6:e25593

KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast, Kilifi, Kenya.

Introduction: Retention in preventive care among at-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) is critical for successful prevention of HIV acquisition in Africa. We assessed loss to follow-up (LTFU) rates and factors associated with LTFU in an HIV vaccine feasibility cohort study following MSM with access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in coastal Kenya.

Methods: Between June 2017 and June 2019, MSM cohort participants attending a research clinic 20 km north of Mombasa were offered daily PrEP and followed monthly for risk assessment, risk reduction counselling and HIV testing. Participants were defined as LTFU if they were late by >90 days for their scheduled appointment. Participants who acquired HIV were censored at diagnosis. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate adjusted Hazard Ratio (aHR) of risk factors for LTFU.

Results And Discussion: A total of 179 participants with a median age of 25.0 years (interquartile range [IQR]: 23.0 to 30.0) contributed a median follow-up time of 21.2 months (IQR: 6.5 to 22.1). Of these, 143 (79.9%) participants started PrEP and 76 (42.5%) MSM were LTFU, for an incidence rate of 33.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 26.9 to 42.2) per 100 person-years. Disordered alcohol use (aHR: 2.3, 95% CI, 1.5 to 3.7), residence outside the immediate clinic catchment area (aHR: 2.5, 95% CI, 1.3 to 4.6 for Mombasa Island; aHR: 1.8, 95% CI, 1.0 to 3.3 for south coast), tertiary education level or higher (aHR: 2.3, 95% CI, 1.1 to 4.8) and less lead-in time in the cohort prior to 19 June 2017 (aHR: 3.1, 95% CI, 1.8 to 5.6 for zero to three months; aHR: 2.4, 95% CI, 1.2 to 4.7 for four to six months) were independent predictors of LTFU. PrEP use did not differ by LTFU status (HR: 1.0, 95% CI, 0.6 to 1.5). Psychosocial support for men reporting disordered alcohol use, strengthened engagement of recently enrolled participants and focusing recruitment on areas close to the research clinic may improve retention in HIV prevention studies involving MSM in coastal Kenya.

Conclusions: About one in three participants became LTFU after one year of follow-up, irrespective of PrEP use. Research preparedness involving MSM should be strengthened for HIV prevention intervention evaluations in coastal Kenya.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jia2.25593DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7527770PMC
October 2020

Infection with multiple HIV-1 founder variants is associated with lower viral replicative capacity, faster CD4+ T cell decline and increased immune activation during acute infection.

PLoS Pathog 2020 09 4;16(9):e1008853. Epub 2020 Sep 4.

Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.

HIV-1 transmission is associated with a severe bottleneck in which a limited number of variants from a pool of genetically diverse quasispecies establishes infection. The IAVI protocol C cohort of discordant couples, female sex workers, other heterosexuals and men who have sex with men (MSM) present varying risks of HIV infection, diverse HIV-1 subtypes and represent a unique opportunity to characterize transmitted/founder viruses (TF) where disease outcome is known. To identify the TF, the HIV-1 repertoire of 38 MSM participants' samples was sequenced close to transmission (median 21 days post infection, IQR 18-41) and assessment of multivariant infection done. Patient derived gag genes were cloned into an NL4.3 provirus to generate chimeric viruses which were characterized for replicative capacity (RC). Finally, an evaluation of how the TF virus predicted disease progression and modified the immune response at both acute and chronic HIV-1 infection was done. There was higher prevalence of multivariant infection compared with previously described heterosexual cohorts. A link was identified between multivariant infection and replicative capacity conferred by gag, whereby TF gag tended to be of lower replicative capacity in multivariant infection (p = 0.02) suggesting an overall lowering of fitness requirements during infection with multiple variants. Notwithstanding, multivariant infection was associated with rapid CD4+ T cell decline and perturbances in the CD4+ T cell and B cell compartments compared to single variant infection, which were reversible upon control of viremia. Strategies aimed at identifying and mitigating multivariant infection could contribute toward improving HIV-1 prognosis and this may involve strategies that tighten the stringency of the transmission bottleneck such as treatment of STI. Furthermore, the sequences and chimeric viruses help with TF based experimental vaccine immunogen design and can be used in functional assays to probe effective immune responses against TF.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008853DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7498102PMC
September 2020

A Novel HIV-1 RNA Testing Intervention to Detect Acute and Prevalent HIV Infection in Young Adults and Reduce HIV Transmission in Kenya: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial.

JMIR Res Protoc 2020 Aug 7;9(8):e16198. Epub 2020 Aug 7.

Kenya Medical Research Institute - Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

Background: Detection and management of acute HIV infection (AHI) is a clinical and public health priority, and HIV infections diagnosed among young adults aged 18 to 39 years are usually recent. Young adults with recent HIV acquisition frequently seek care for symptoms and could potentially be diagnosed through the health care system. Early recognition of HIV infection provides considerable individual and public health benefits, including linkage to treatment as prevention, access to risk reduction counseling and treatment, and notification of partners in need of HIV testing.

Objective: The Tambua Mapema Plus study aims to (1) test 1500 young adults (aged 18-39 years) identified by an AHI screening algorithm for acute and prevalent (ie, seropositive) HIV, linking all newly diagnosed HIV-infected patients to care and offering immediate treatment; (2) offer assisted HIV partner notification services to all patients with HIV, testing partners for acute and prevalent HIV infection and identifying local sexual networks; and (3) model the potential impact of these two interventions on the Kenyan HIV epidemic, estimating incremental costs per HIV infection averted, death averted, and disability-adjusted life year averted using data on study outcomes.

Methods: A modified stepped-wedge design is evaluating the yield of this HIV testing intervention at 4 public and 2 private health facilities in coastal Kenya before and after intervention delivery. The intervention uses point-of-care HIV-1 RNA testing combined with standard rapid antibody tests to diagnose AHI and prevalent HIV among young adults presenting for care, employs HIV partner notification services to identify linked acute and prevalent infections, and follows all newly diagnosed patients and their partners for 12 months to ascertain clinical outcomes, including linkage to care, antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation and virologic suppression in HIV-infected patients, and pre-exposure prophylaxis uptake in uninfected individuals in discordant partnerships.

Results: Enrollment started in December 2017. As of April 2020, 1374 participants have been enrolled in the observation period and 1500 participants have been enrolled in the intervention period, with 13 new diagnoses (0.95%) in the observation period and 37 new diagnoses (2.47%), including 2 AHI diagnoses, in the intervention period. Analysis is ongoing and will include adjusted comparisons of the odds of the following outcomes in the observation and intervention periods: being tested for HIV infection, newly diagnosed with prevalent or acute HIV infection, linked to care, and starting ART by week 6 following HIV diagnosis. Participants newly diagnosed with acute or prevalent HIV infection in the intervention period are being followed for outcomes, including viral suppression by month 6 and month 12 following ART initiation and partner testing outcomes.

Conclusions: The Tambua Mapema Plus study will provide foundational data on the potential of this novel combination HIV prevention intervention to reduce ongoing HIV transmission in Kenya and other high-prevalence African settings.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03508908; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03508908.

International Registered Report Identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/16198.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/16198DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7442943PMC
August 2020

African-led health research and capacity building- is it working?

BMC Public Health 2020 Jul 14;20(1):1104. Epub 2020 Jul 14.

Africa Health Research Institute, Durban, South Africa.

Background: Africa bears a disproportionately high burden of globally significant disease but has lagged in knowledge production to address its health challenges. In this contribution, we discuss the challenges and approaches to health research capacity strengthening in sub-Saharan Africa and propose that the recent shift to an African-led approach is the most optimal.

Methods And Findings: We introduce several capacity building approaches and recent achievements, explore why African-led research on the continent is a potentially paradigm-shifting and innovative approach, and discuss the advantages and challenges thereof. We reflect on the approaches used by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS)-funded Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE) consortium as an example of an effective African-led science and capacity building programme. We recommend the following as crucial components of future efforts: 1. Directly empowering African-based researchers, 2. Offering quality training and career development opportunities to large numbers of junior African scientists and support staff, and 3. Effective information exchange and collaboration. Furthermore, we argue that long-term investment from international donors and increasing funding commitments from African governments and philanthropies will be needed to realise a critical mass of local capacity and to create and sustain world-class research hubs that will be conducive to address Africa's intractable health challenges.

Conclusions: Our experiences so far suggest that African-led research has the potential to overcome the vicious cycle of brain-drain and may ultimately lead to improvement of health and science-led economic transformation of Africa into a prosperous continent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-08875-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359480PMC
July 2020

African-led health research and capacity building- is it working?

BMC Public Health 2020 Jul 14;20(1):1104. Epub 2020 Jul 14.

Africa Health Research Institute, Durban, South Africa.

Background: Africa bears a disproportionately high burden of globally significant disease but has lagged in knowledge production to address its health challenges. In this contribution, we discuss the challenges and approaches to health research capacity strengthening in sub-Saharan Africa and propose that the recent shift to an African-led approach is the most optimal.

Methods And Findings: We introduce several capacity building approaches and recent achievements, explore why African-led research on the continent is a potentially paradigm-shifting and innovative approach, and discuss the advantages and challenges thereof. We reflect on the approaches used by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS)-funded Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE) consortium as an example of an effective African-led science and capacity building programme. We recommend the following as crucial components of future efforts: 1. Directly empowering African-based researchers, 2. Offering quality training and career development opportunities to large numbers of junior African scientists and support staff, and 3. Effective information exchange and collaboration. Furthermore, we argue that long-term investment from international donors and increasing funding commitments from African governments and philanthropies will be needed to realise a critical mass of local capacity and to create and sustain world-class research hubs that will be conducive to address Africa's intractable health challenges.

Conclusions: Our experiences so far suggest that African-led research has the potential to overcome the vicious cycle of brain-drain and may ultimately lead to improvement of health and science-led economic transformation of Africa into a prosperous continent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-08875-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359480PMC
July 2020

HIV-1 Transmission Patterns Within and Between Risk Groups in Coastal Kenya.

Sci Rep 2020 04 21;10(1):6775. Epub 2020 Apr 21.

KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

HIV-1 transmission patterns within and between populations at different risk of HIV-1 acquisition in Kenya are not well understood. We investigated HIV-1 transmission networks in men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDU), female sex workers (FSW) and heterosexuals (HET) in coastal Kenya. We used maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetics to analyse new (N = 163) and previously published (N = 495) HIV-1 polymerase sequences collected during 2005-2019. Of the 658 sequences, 131 (20%) were from MSM, 58 (9%) IDU, 109 (17%) FSW, and 360 (55%) HET. Overall, 206 (31%) sequences formed 61 clusters. Most clusters (85%) consisted of sequences from the same risk group, suggesting frequent within-group transmission. The remaining clusters were mixed between HET/MSM (7%), HET/FSW (5%), and MSM/FSW (3%) sequences. One large IDU-exclusive cluster was found, indicating an independent sub-epidemic among this group. Phylodynamic analysis of this cluster revealed a steady increase in HIV-1 infections among IDU since the estimated origin of the cluster in 1987. Our results suggest mixing between high-risk groups and heterosexual populations and could be relevant for the development of targeted HIV-1 prevention programmes in coastal Kenya.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-63731-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7174422PMC
April 2020

HIV-1 Transmission Patterns Within and Between Risk Groups in Coastal Kenya.

Sci Rep 2020 04 21;10(1):6775. Epub 2020 Apr 21.

KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

HIV-1 transmission patterns within and between populations at different risk of HIV-1 acquisition in Kenya are not well understood. We investigated HIV-1 transmission networks in men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDU), female sex workers (FSW) and heterosexuals (HET) in coastal Kenya. We used maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetics to analyse new (N = 163) and previously published (N = 495) HIV-1 polymerase sequences collected during 2005-2019. Of the 658 sequences, 131 (20%) were from MSM, 58 (9%) IDU, 109 (17%) FSW, and 360 (55%) HET. Overall, 206 (31%) sequences formed 61 clusters. Most clusters (85%) consisted of sequences from the same risk group, suggesting frequent within-group transmission. The remaining clusters were mixed between HET/MSM (7%), HET/FSW (5%), and MSM/FSW (3%) sequences. One large IDU-exclusive cluster was found, indicating an independent sub-epidemic among this group. Phylodynamic analysis of this cluster revealed a steady increase in HIV-1 infections among IDU since the estimated origin of the cluster in 1987. Our results suggest mixing between high-risk groups and heterosexual populations and could be relevant for the development of targeted HIV-1 prevention programmes in coastal Kenya.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-63731-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7174422PMC
April 2020

Congenital microcephaly unrelated to flavivirus exposure in coastal Kenya.

Wellcome Open Res 2019 15;4:179. Epub 2019 Nov 15.

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

Zika virus (ZIKV) was first discovered in East Africa in 1947.  ZIKV has caused microcephaly in the Americas, but it is not known whether ZIKV is a cause of microcephaly in East Africa. We used surveillance data from 11,061 live births at Kilifi County Hospital in coastal Kenya between January 2012 and October 2016 to identify microcephaly cases and conducted a nested case-control study to determine risk factors for microcephaly. Gestational age at birth was estimated based on antenatal ultrasound scanning ('Scanned cohort') or last menstrual period ('LMP cohort', including births ≥37 weeks' gestation only). Controls were newborns with head circumference Z scores between >-2 and ≤2 SD that were compared to microcephaly cases in relation to ZIKV exposure and other maternal and newborn factors. Of the 11,061 newborns, 214 (1.9%, 95%CI 1.69, 2.21) had microcephaly. Microcephaly prevalence was 1.0% (95%CI 0.64, 1.70, n=1529) and 2.1% (95%CI 1.81, 2.38, n=9532) in the scanned and LMP cohorts, respectively. After excluding babies <2500 g (n=1199) in the LMP cohort the prevalence was 1.1% (95%CI 0.93, 1.39). Microcephaly showed an association with being born small for gestational age (p<0.001) but not with ZIKV neutralising antibodies (p=0.6) or anti-ZIKV NS1 IgM response (p=0.9). No samples had a ZIKV neutralising antibody titre that was at least fourfold higher than the corresponding dengue virus (DENV) titre. No ZIKV or other flavivirus RNA was detected in cord blood from cases or controls. Microcephaly was prevalent in coastal Kenya, but does not appear to be related to ZIKV exposure; the ZIKV response observed in our study population was largely due to cross-reactive responses to DENV or other related flaviviruses. Further research into potential causes and the clinical consequences of microcephaly in this population is urgently needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.12688/wellcomeopenres.15568.1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7059837PMC
November 2019

A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Shikamana Intervention to Promote Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence Among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men in Kenya: Feasibility, Acceptability, Safety and Initial Effect Size.

AIDS Behav 2020 Jul;24(7):2206-2219

Departments of Psychology; Global Health; and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) living with HIV in rights-constrained settings need support for antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence due to barriers including stigma. The Shikamana intervention combined modified Next Step Counseling by providers with support from trained peers to improve adherence among GBMSM living with HIV in Kenya. A randomized controlled trial with 6-month follow-up was used to determine feasibility, acceptability, safety, and initial intervention effects. Generalized estimating equations examined differences in self-reported adherence and virologic suppression. Sixty men enrolled, with 27 randomly assigned to the intervention and 33 to standard care. Retention did not differ by arm, and no adverse events occurred. Feedback on feasibility and acceptability was positive based on exit interviews. After adjustment for baseline viral suppression and confounding, the intervention group had a sixfold increased odds of viral suppression during follow-up. A larger trial of a scaled-up intervention is needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10461-020-02786-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7319885PMC
July 2020

Challenges of HIV diagnosis and management in the context of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), test and start and acute HIV infection: a scoping review.

J Int AIDS Soc 2019 12;22(12):e25419

Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.

Introduction: Knowledge of HIV status relies on accurate HIV testing, and is the first step towards access to HIV treatment and prevention programmes. Globally, HIV-status unawareness represents a significant challenge for achieving zero new HIV infections and deaths. In order to enhance knowledge of HIV status, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a testing strategy that includes the use of HIV-specific antibody point-of-care tests (POCT). These POCTs do not detect acute HIV infection, the stage of disease when viral load is highest but HIV antibodies are undetectable. Complicating things further, in the presence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), other currently available testing technologies, such as viral load detection for diagnosis of acute HIV infection, may yield false-negative results. In this scoping review, we evaluate the evidence and discuss alternative HIV testing algorithms that may mitigate diagnostic dilemmas in the setting of increased utilization of ART for immediate treatment and prevention of HIV infection.

Discussion: Missed acute HIV infection prevents people living with HIV (PLHIV) from accessing early treatment, increases likelihood of onward transmission, and allows for inappropriate initiation or continuation of PrEP, which may result in HIV drug resistance. While immediate ART is recommended for all PLHIV, studies have shown that starting ART in the setting of acute HIV infection may result in a delayed or complete absence of development of HIV-specific antibodies, posing a diagnostic challenge that is particularly pertinent to resource-limited, high HIV burden settings where HIV-antibody POCTs are standard of care. Similarly, ART used as PrEP or PEP may supress HIV RNA viral load, complicating current HIV testing algorithms in resource-wealthy settings where viral detection is included. As rollout of PrEP continues, HIV testing algorithms may need to be modified.

Conclusions: With increasing use of PrEP and ART in acute infection we anticipate diagnostic challenges using currently available HIV testing strategies. Research and surveillance are needed to determine the most appropriate assays and optimal testing algorithms that are accurate, affordable and sustainable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jia2.25419DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6918508PMC
December 2019

Comparative analysis of the vaginal microbiome of pregnant women with either Trichomonas vaginalis or Chlamydia trachomatis.

PLoS One 2019 12;14(12):e0225545. Epub 2019 Dec 12.

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast, Kilifi, Kenya.

Background: Although the significance of the human vaginal microbiome for health and disease is increasingly acknowledged, there is paucity of data on the differences in the composition of the vaginal microbiome upon infection with different sexually transmitted pathogens.

Method: The composition of the vaginal bacterial community of women with Trichomonas vaginalis (TV, N = 18) was compared to that of women with Chlamydia trachomatis (CT, N = 14), and to that of controls (N = 21) (women negative for TV, CT and bacterial vaginosis). The vaginal bacterial composition was determined using high throughput sequencing with the Ion 16S metagenomics kit of the variable regions 2, 4 and 8 of the bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene from the vaginal swab DNA extract of the women. QIIME and R package "Phyloseq" were used to assess the α- and β-diversity and absolute abundance of the 16S rRNA gene per sample in the three groups. Differences in taxa at various levels were determined using the independent T-test.

Results: A total of 545 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were identified in all the three groups of which 488 occurred in all three groups (core OTUs). Bacterial α-diversity, by both Simpson's and Shannon's indices, was significantly higher, (p = 0.056) and (p = 0.001) respectively, among women with either TV or CT than among controls (mean α-diversity TV-infected > CT-infected > Controls). At the genus level, women infected with TV had a significantly (p < 0.01) higher abundance of Parvimonas and Prevotella species compared to both controls and CT-infected women, whereas women infected with CT had a significantly (p < 0.05) higher abundance of Anaerococcus, Collinsella, Corynebacterium and Dialister.

Conclusion: The vaginal microbiomes of TV and CT-infected women were markedly different from each other and from women without TV and CT. Future studies should determine whether the altered microbiomes are merely markers of disease, or whether they actively contribute to the pathology of the two genital infections.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0225545PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6907840PMC
April 2020

Systematic review of the performance and clinical utility of point of care HIV-1 RNA testing for diagnosis and care.

PLoS One 2019 27;14(6):e0218369. Epub 2019 Jun 27.

Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.

Background: Point of-care (POC) HIV-1 RNA tests which are accurate and easy to use with limited infrastructure are needed in resource-limited settings (RLS). We systematically reviewed evidence of POC test performance compared to laboratory-based HIV-1 RNA assays and the potential utility of these tests for diagnosis and care in RLS.

Methods: Studies published up to July 2018 were identified by a search of PUBMED, EMBASE, Web of Science, CINAHL and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Studies evaluating the use of POC HIV-1 RNA testing for early infant diagnosis (EID), acute HIV infection (AHI) diagnosis, or viral load monitoring (VL), compared to centralized testing, were included. Separate search strategies were used for each testing objective.

Results: 197 abstracts were screened and 34 full-text articles were assessed, of which 32 met inclusion criteria. Thirty studies evaluated performance and diagnostic accuracy of POC tests compared to standard reference tests. Two of the thirty and two additional studies with no comparative testing reported on clinical utility of POC results. Five different POC tests (Cepheid GeneXpert HIV-1 Quantitative and Qualitative assays, Alere q HIV-1/2 Detect, SAMBA, Liat HIV Quant and Aptima HIV-1 Quant) were used in 21 studies of VL, 11 of EID and 2 of AHI. POC tests were easy to use, had rapid turnaround times, and comparable accuracy and precision to reference technologies. Sensitivity and specificity were high for EID and AHI but lower for VL. For VL, lower sensitivity was reported for whole blood and dried blood spots compared to plasma samples. Reported error rates for Cepheid GeneXpert Qual (2.0%-5.0%), GeneXpert Quant (2.5%-17.0%) and Alere q HIV-1/2 Detect (3.1%-11.0%) were higher than in WHO prequalification reports. Most errors resolved with retesting; however, inadequate sample volumes often precluded repeat testing. Only two studies used POC results for clinical management, one for EID and another for VL. POC EID resulted in shorter time-to-result, rapid ART initiation, and better retention in care compared to centralised testing.

Conclusions: Performance of POC HIV-1 RNA tests is comparable to reference assays, and have potential to improve patient outcomes. Additional studies on implementation in limited-resources settings are needed.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0218369PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6597060PMC
February 2020

PrEP interest and HIV-1 incidence among MSM and transgender women in coastal Kenya.

J Int AIDS Soc 2019 06;22(6):e25323

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Program, Kilifi, Kenya.

Introduction: There is emerging data on HIV-1 incidence among MSM in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), but no known estimate of HIV-1 incidence among transgender women (TGW) in the region has yet been reported. We assessed HIV-1 incidence and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) interest in men who have sex with men exclusively (MSME), men who have sex with men and women (MSMW) and TGW in coastal Kenya.

Methods: HIV-1-seronegative individuals who had participated in an HIV testing study in 2016 were traced and retested in 2017 according to Kenyan guidelines. All participants were assigned male sex at birth and had male sex partners; additional data on gender identity and sexual orientation were obtained. We assessed the factors associated with HIV-1 acquisition using Poisson regression and calculated HIV-1 incidence in MSME, MSMW and TGW. PrEP interest was assessed through focus group discussions to characterize subcategories' perceived PrEP needs.

Results: Of the 168 cohort participants, 42 were classified as MSME, 112 as MSMW and 14 as TGW. Overall, HIV-1 incidence was 5.1 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.6 to 9.8) per 100 person-years (PY): 4.5 (95% CI: 1.1 to 17.8] per 100 PY among MSME, 3.4 (95% CI: 1.3 to 9.1) per 100 PY among MSMW and 20.6 (95% CI: 6.6 to 63.8] per 100 PY among TGW. HIV-1 acquisition was associated with exclusive receptive anal intercourse (aIRR 13.0, 95% CI 1.9 to 88.6), history of an STI in preceding six months (aIRR 10.3, 95% CI 2.2 to 49.4) and separated/divorced marital status (aIRR 8.2 (95%: 1.1 to 62.2). Almost all (98.8%) participants were interested in initiating PrEP. MSME and TGW felt that PrEP would lead to increases in condomless anal or group sex.

Conclusions: TGW had a very high HIV-1 incidence compared with MSME and MSMW. Subcategories of MSM anticipated different PrEP needs and post-PrEP risk behaviour. Further studies should assess if TGW may have been wrongly categorized as MSM in other HIV-1 incidence studies in the region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jia2.25323DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6563853PMC
June 2019
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