Publications by authors named "Janan Dietrich"

67 Publications

High cellphone use associated with greater risk of depression among young women aged 15-24 years in Soweto and Durban, South Africa.

Glob Health Action 2021 01;14(1):1936792

Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada.

Background: The ubiquity of cellular phone (cellphone) use in young people's daily lives has emerged as a priority area of concern for youth mental health.

Objective: This study measured the prevalence of depression and its association with high cellphone use among youth in Soweto and Durban, South Africa.

Methods: We analysed cross-sectional, baseline survey data among youth aged 16-24 who participated in a dual-site cohort study, 'AYAZAZI', conducted from 2014 to 2017. The primary outcome was depression using the 10-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, with a score of ≥ 10 indicating probable depression. Cellphone use was measured via self-reported average number of hours of active use, with 'high cellphone use' defined as daily usage of ≥ 8. Multivariable logistic regression models assessed the independent relationship between high cellphone use and probable depression, adjusting for potential confounders.

Results: Of 425 participants with a median age of 19 years (IQR = 18-21), 59.5% were young women. Overall, 43.3% had probable depression, with a higher prevalence among women (49.0% vs. 34.9%, = .004). Nearly all (94.6%) owned a cellphone. About one-third (29.5%) reported spending ≥ 8 hours per day using their cellphone (39.3% of women vs. 14.9% of men, < .001). In the overall adjusted model, youth reporting high daily cellphone use had higher odds of probable depression (aOR: 1.83, 95% CI: 1.16-2.90). In gender-stratified models, high daily cellphone use was associated with probable depression among women (aOR: 2.51, 95% CI: 1.47-4.31), but not among men (aOR: 0.87, 95% CI: 0.35-2.16).

Conclusions: Among a cohort of South African youth, we found a high prevalence of probable depression and high cellphone use (30%). The findings indicate a need for intersectoral initiatives focused on meaningful mental health support for South African youth to support positive growth and development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/16549716.2021.1936792DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8405067PMC
January 2021

Assessing national cervical cancer screening guidelines: Results from an HIV testing clinic also screening for cervical cancer and HPV in Soweto, South Africa.

PLoS One 2021 30;16(7):e0255124. Epub 2021 Jul 30.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Objective: A screening centre in Soweto, South Africa (SA), investigated high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV), HIV, cervical cancer risk amongst women.

Methods: This cross-sectional study (June 2018-March 2019) describes screening results (Roche Linear Array HPV test and Pap smear liquid based cytology) and history of screening (known HIV status, antiretroviral therapy [ART] use, previous Pap smears). Data were stratified by age group (18-29, 30+ years), HIV status, Pap smear results and tested for statistical significance.

Results: Of 280 women, 20.4% were HIV-positive, 18.2% had abnormal Pap smears, 41.8% had HR-HPV. Of older women, 48.2% (n = 78/162) had never had a Pap smear. Of younger women, 89.0% (n = 105/118) never had a Pap smear, but had significantly more low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL) and other HR-HPV infection than older women (12.7%[n = 15/118] vs 4.9%[n = 8/162], p = 0.0193; and 49.2%[n = 58/118] vs 29.0%[n = 47/162], p = 0.0006; respectively). HIV-positive women had more abnormal cytology results and infection with other HR-HPV types or co-infection with other HR-HPV type(s)/HPV-16 compared to HIV-negative women (35.1%[n = 20/57] vs 13.9%[n = 31/223], p = 0.0002; 56.1%[n = 32/57] vs 32.7%[n = 73/223], p = 0.001; and 12.3%[n = 7/57] vs 4.9%[n = 11/223], p = 0.044; respectively). Of 57 HIV-positive women, 45.6% (n = 26) already knew their HIV status; of which 69.2% were on ART and 34.6% never had a Pap smear.

Conclusion: South African women have high rates of HIV, Pap smear abnormalities and HR-HPV, with low cervical cancer screening coverage. SA cervical cancer screening policy excludes (undiagnosed) HIV-positive and HIV-negative women <30 years, both populations found to have high prevalence of HR-HPV. HPV-based primary screening from 25 years could improve outcomes.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0255124PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8323926PMC
July 2021

The substantial burden of non-communicable diseases and HIV-comorbidity amongst adults: Screening results from an integrated HIV testing services clinic for adults in Soweto, South Africa.

EClinicalMedicine 2021 Aug 14;38:101015. Epub 2021 Jul 14.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg 1864, South Africa.

Background: South Africa is disproportionately impacted by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and HIV/AIDS. We investigated the prevalence of known/unknown NCD risk factors, HIV, and NCD risk factor-HIV comorbidity; and treatment status on known diseases to determine the prevalence of controlled/uncontrolled disease.

Methods: This cross-sectional study (June 2018-March 2019) within an integrated testing centre in Soweto, South Africa, screened adults (aged ≥18 years) for body mass index (BMI), hypertension (HT), rapid glucose and cholesterol, and HIV. Results were stratified by age group, sex, HIV-status, and self-reported ART use. Analysis included Fisher's exact, chi-squared, Kruskal Wallis, and Student's T-tests.

Findings: Of 780 enrolled participants, 19.2% were HIV-positive, 37.5% were overweight/obese, 18.0% hypertensive, 10.8% hyperglycaemic, and 8.1% had hypercholesterolaemia. Significantly more women had overweight/obese BMI than men (46.8% vs 19.7%; <0.0001), and women aged 25-34 years had significantly more hypercholesterolaemia than same-aged men (18.2% vs 5.6%;  = 0.02). HIV-positive participants had significantly more hyperglycaemia than HIV-negative participants (16.1% vs 9.6%;  = 0.02), and those on ART (63.9%) had significantly more hypercholesterolaemia than those not on ART (21.7% vs. 4.9%;  = 0.002). Of participants with HT, hyperglycaemia, and hypercholesterolaemia; 72.4%, 96.1%, and 93.3% were newly diagnosed. All participants with previously diagnosed NCDs remained with uncontrolled disease.

Interpretation: There is a high burden of HIV, NCD risk factors, and comorbidity in Soweto, and amongst young adults (18-34 years), especially women. Lowering age requirements for glucose/cholesterol screening to 18+ years, regardless of BMI, HIV-status, or ART use, may yield timely NCD diagnosis/management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8283339PMC
August 2021

Balancing Autonomy and Protection in Pediatric Treatment and Research.

Adv Pediatr 2021 08 10;68:55-69. Epub 2021 Jun 10.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, New Nurses Home, Diepkloof, Soweto 1864, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa; Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yapd.2021.05.009DOI Listing
August 2021

Exploring Perceived Barriers and Facilitators of PrEP Uptake among Young People in Uganda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Arch Sex Behav 2021 05 5;50(4):1729-1742. Epub 2021 May 5.

Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit, P.O. Box 49, Entebbe, Uganda.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective HIV prevention strategy. Few studies have explored adolescents and young people's perspectives toward PrEP. We conducted 24 group discussions and 60 in-depth interviews with males and females aged 13-24 years in Uganda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa between September 2018 and February 2019. We used the framework approach to generate themes and key concepts for analysis following the social ecological model. Young people expressed a willingness to use PrEP and identified potential barriers and facilitators of PrEP uptake. Barriers included factors at individual (fear of HIV, fear of side effects, and PrEP characteristics), interpersonal (parental influence, absence of a sexual partner), community (peer influence, social stigma), institutional (long waiting times at clinics, attitudes of health workers), and structural (cost of PrEP and mode of administration, accessibility concerns) levels. Facilitators included factors at individual (high HIV risk perception and preventing HIV/desire to remain HIV negative), interpersonal (peer influence, social support and care for PrEP uptake), community (adequate PrEP information and sensitization, evidence of PrEP efficacy and safety), institutional (convenient and responsive services, provision of appropriate and sufficiently resourced services), and structural (access and availability of PrEP, cost of PrEP) levels. The findings indicated that PrEP is an acceptable HIV prevention method. PrEP uptake is linked to personal and environmental factors that need to be considered for successful PrEP roll-out. Multi-level interventions needed to promote PrEP uptake should consider the social and structural drivers and focus on ways that can inspire PrEP uptake and limit the barriers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01880-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8213546PMC
May 2021

An Emerging Substance Use Epidemic: Recreational Use of HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and Treatment in South Africa.

AIDS Patient Care STDS 2021 03;35(3):92-101

Health Systems Research Unit, UnSouth African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa.

South Africa has the largest HIV burden and treatment program in the world. Diversion of HIV prevention and treatment medication for recreational use-or nonmedical use for psychoactive effects-is a public health concern globally and in South Africa. Few South African studies examine recreational use of HIV antiretrovirals (ARVs). The objective of this article is to evaluate the prevalence of recreational ARV use and to identify risk and protective factors associated with use. Data are drawn from a cross-sectional household survey of  = 4399 adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aged 15-24 years in six districts across South Africa where an evaluation of a South African combination HIV prevention for girls and young women was implemented. The use of ARVs to "get high" was reported by 8.3% of AGYW across all districts. Logistic regressions showed that those engaging in transactional sex were at two times higher odds of recreational ARV use [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 2.01; confidence interval (95% CI): 1.51-2.68]. Recreational ARV use was more likely among those who used pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) (aOR = 2.17; 95% CI: 1.36-3.48); HIV-positive participants who were not on ARVs for treatment (aOR = 0.36; 95% CI: 0.18-0.68); and those who were not virally suppressed (aOR, no vs. yes = 2.84; 95% CI: 1.21-6.66). As ARVs become more widely available for prevention and treatment, it will be important to monitor and address the possible emergence of ARVs as a substance for misuse or abuse.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/apc.2020.0218DOI Listing
March 2021

Food insecurity and depression: a cross-sectional study of a multi-site urban youth cohort in Durban and Soweto, South Africa.

Trop Med Int Health 2021 06 25;26(6):687-700. Epub 2021 Mar 25.

Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada.

Objective: To assess the prevalence of food insecurity and the independent association between depression and food insecurity among youth living in two urban settings in South Africa.

Methods: Baseline cross-sectional survey data was analysed from a prospective cohort study conducted between 2014 and 2016 among youth (aged 16-24 years) in Soweto and Durban. Interviewer-administered questionnaires collecting socio-demographic, sexual and reproductive health and mental health data were conducted. Household food insecurity was measured using the 3-item Household Hunger Scale, with food insecure participants defined as having 'moderate' or 'severe hunger' compared to 'no hunger'. Depression was assessed using the 10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D 10) Scale (range 0-30, probable depression ≥ 10). Multivariable logistic regression models were used to estimate the association between depression and food insecurity.

Results: There were 422 participants. Median age was 19 years (interquartile range [IQR] 18-21) and 60% were women. Overall, 18% were food insecure and 42% had probable depression. After adjustment for socio-demographic variables (age, gender, female-headed household, household size and school enrolment), participants with probable depression had higher odds of being food insecure than non-depressed participants (2.79, 95%CI 1.57-4.94).

Conclusion: Nearly one-fifth of youth in this study were food insecure. Those with probable depression had increased odds of food insecurity. Interventions are needed to address food insecurity among urban youth in South Africa, combining nutritional support and better access to quality food with mental health support.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tmi.13572DOI Listing
June 2021

Factors influencing adolescent girls and young women's participation in a combination HIV prevention intervention in South Africa.

BMC Public Health 2021 02 27;21(1):417. Epub 2021 Feb 27.

Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Tygerberg, PO Box 19070, Cape Town, 7505, South Africa.

Background: For interventions to reach those they are intended for, an understanding of the factors that influence their participation, as well as the facilitators and barriers of participation are needed. This study explores factors associated with participation in a combination HIV prevention intervention targeting adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aged 15-24-years-old, as well as the perspectives of AGYW, intervention implementers, and facilitators who participated in this intervention.

Methods: This study used mixed-methods approach with quantitative household survey data from 4399 AGYW aged 15-24-years-old in six of the ten districts in which the intervention was implemented. In addition, qualitative methods included a total of 100 semi-structured in-depth interviews and 21 focus group discussions in five of the ten intervention districts with 185 AGYW who participated in one or more of the key components of the intervention, and 13 intervention implementers and 13 facilitators. Thematic analysis was used to explore the perspectives of participating and implementing the intervention.

Results: Findings reveal that almost half of AGYW (48.4%) living in the districts where the intervention took place, participated in at least one of the components of the intervention. For both 15-19-year-olds and 20-24-year-olds, factors associated with increased participation in the intervention included being HIV negative, in school, never been pregnant, and having had a boyfriend. Experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) and/or sexual violence in the past 12 months was associated with increased levels of participation in the intervention for 20-24-year-olds only. In our analysis of the qualitative data, facilitators to participation included motivating participants to join the interventions through explaining the benefits of the programme. Barriers included misguided expectations about financial rewards or job opportunities; competing responsibilities, interests or activities; family responsibilities including childcare; inappropriate incentives; inability to disrupt the school curriculum and difficulties with conducting interventions after school hours due to safety concerns; miscommunication about meetings; as well as struggles to reach out-of-school AGYW.

Conclusion: Designers of combination HIV prevention interventions need to address the barriers to participation so that AGYW can attend without risking their safety and compromising their family, childcare and schooling responsibilities. Strategies to create demand need to include clear communication about the nature and potential benefits of such interventions, and the inclusion of valued incentives.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10462-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7912506PMC
February 2021

A qualitative study to identify critical attributes and attribute-levels for a discrete choice experiment on oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) delivery among young people in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa.

BMC Health Serv Res 2021 Jan 6;21(1):17. Epub 2021 Jan 6.

King's College London, London, UK.

Background: The uptake and adherence of daily oral PrEP has been poor in high-risk populations in South Africa including young people. We used qualitative research methods to explore user preferences for daily and on-demand oral PrEP use among young South Africans, and to inform the identification of critical attributes and attribute-levels for quantitative analysis of user preferences, i.e. a discrete choice experiment (DCE).

Methods: Data were collected between September and November 2018 from eight group discussions and 20 in-depth interviews with young people 13 to 24 years in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Using a convenience sampling strategy, participants were stratified by sex and age. Interviewers used a semi-structured interview guide to discuss several attributes (dosing regimen, location, costs, side effects, and protection period) for PrEP access and use. Group discussions and in-depth interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and translated to English. We used framework analysis to explore context-specific attributes and attribute-levels for delivering oral PrEP in South Africa. The adolescent community advisory board, expert and study team opinions were consulted for the final DCE attributes and levels.

Results: We enrolled 74 participants who were 51% (n = 38/74) male, had a median age of 18.5 [Interquartile range = 16-21.25] years, 91% (n = 67/74) identified as heterosexual and 49% (n = 36/74) had not completed 12th grade education. Using the qualitative data, we identified five candidate attributes including (1) dosing regimen, (2) location to get PrEP, (3) cost, (4) route of administration and (5) frequency. After discussions with experts and the study team, we revised the DCE to include the following five attributes and levels: dosing regime: daily, and on-demand PrEP; location: private pharmacy, public clinic, mobile clinic, ATM); cost: free-of-charge, R50 (~2GBP), R265 (~12GBP); side effects: nausea, headache, rash; and duration of protection: fulltime protection versus when PrEP is used).

Conclusions: There is limited literature on qualitative research methods describing the step-by-step process of developing a DCE for PrEP in adolescents, especially in resource-constrained countries. We provide the process followed for the DCE technique to understand user preferences for daily and on-demand oral PrEP among young people in South Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12913-020-05942-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7788832PMC
January 2021

Gender, Power, and Health: Measuring and Assessing Sexual Relationship Power Equity Among Young Sub-Saharan African Women and Men, a Systematic Review.

Trauma Violence Abuse 2020 Dec 23:1524838020979676. Epub 2020 Dec 23.

Faculty of Health Sciences, 1763Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Gender inequity, including low sexual relationship power (SRP), is an important determinant of intimate partner violence (IPV) and negative sexual, reproductive, and mental health. Different versions of the Sexual Relationship Power Scale (SRPS) are commonly used within youth studies to examine how gender inequities, including controlling behaviors, in heterosexual relationships impact the lives of young people in sub-Saharan Africa. This review aims to (1) describe definitions and measures of SRP within sub-Saharan African youth studies and (2) review and summarize associations between SRP equity, IPV, and sexual, reproductive, and mental health. After searching Pubmed, Ovid Med, Psych info, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and relevant research forums, 304 papers were identified, of which 29 papers based on 15 distinct studies (published 2004-2019) met our criteria for being youth-specific, conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, and including a quantitative measure of SRP. Details of each SRPS are described, including any adaptations and psychometric properties, as well as associations with IPV, sexual, reproductive, and mental health behaviors and outcomes. Results indicate that there are variations to the SRPS, and a paucity of evidence has detailed the psychometric properties of such measures within sub-Saharan African youth studies. Measures of SRP equity are associated with experiences (among women) and perpetration of (among men) IPV as numerous pathways to HIV risk; however, the evidence remains mixed. In order to address overlapping epidemics of violence against women and HIV, efforts are needed to ensure that measures, including the SRPS, are valid and reliable among highly affected populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1524838020979676DOI Listing
December 2020

Acceptability, safety, and patterns of use of oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis in South African adolescents: an open-label single-arm phase 2 trial.

Lancet Child Adolesc Health 2020 12 24;4(12):875-883. Epub 2020 Oct 24.

Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. Electronic address:

Background: HIV incidence among adolescents in southern Africa remains unacceptably high. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective HIV prevention intervention but there are few data on its implementation among adolescents. We aimed to investigate the safety, feasibility, and acceptability of PrEP with oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package in an adolescent population in South Africa.

Methods: This open-label single-arm phase 2 study (PlusPills) was done in two research clinics in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. Adolescents aged 15-19 years were recruited into the study through recruitment events and outreach in the community. Potential participants were eligible for enrolment if they reported being sexually active. Exclusion criteria were a positive test for HIV or pregnancy at enrolment, breastfeeding, or any relevant co-morbidities. Participants were given oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine for PrEP to take daily for the first 12 weeks and were then given the choice to opt in or out of PrEP use at three monthly intervals during scheduled clinic visits. Participants were invited to monthly visits for adherence counselling and HIV testing during the study period. The primary outcomes were acceptability, use, and safety of PrEP. Acceptability was measured by the proportion of participants who reported willingness to take up PrEP and remain on PrEP at each study timepoint. Use was defined as the number of participants who continued to use PrEP after the initial 12-week period until the end of the study (week 48). Safety was measured by grade 2, 3, and 4 laboratory and clinical adverse events using the Division of AIDS table for grading the severity of adult and paediatric adverse events, version 1.0. Dried blood spot samples were collected at each study time-point to measure tenofovir diphosphate concentrations. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02213328.

Findings: Between April 28, 2015, and Nov 11, 2016, 244 participants were screened, and 148 participants were enrolled (median age was 18 years; 99 participants [67%] were female) and initiated PrEP. PrEP was stopped by 26 of the 148 (18%) participants at 12 weeks. Cumulative PrEP opt-out, from the total cohort, was 41% (60 of 148 participants) at week 24 and 43% (63 of 148 participants) at week 36. PrEP was well tolerated with only minor adverse events (grade 2) thought to be related to study drug, which included headache (n=4, 3%), gastrointestinal upset (n=8, 5%), and skin rash (n=2, 1%). Two participants (1%) experienced grade 3 weight loss, which was deemed related to the study drug and resolved fully when PrEP was discontinued. Tenofovir diphosphate concentrations were detectable (>16 fmol/punch) in dried blood spot samples in 108 (92%) of 118 participants who reported PrEP use at week 12, in 74 (74%) of 100 participants at week 24, and in 22 (59%) of 37 participants by the study end at week 48.

Interpretation: In this cohort of self-selected South African adolescents at risk of HIV acquisition, PrEP appears safe and tolerable in those who continued use. PrEP use decreased throughout the course of the study as the number of planned study visits declined. Adolescents in southern Africa needs access to PrEP with tailored adherence support and possibly the option for more frequent and flexible visit schedules.

Funding: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the US National Institutes of Health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30248-0DOI Listing
December 2020

Willingness to use HIV prevention methods among vaccine efficacy trial participants in Soweto, South Africa: discretion is important.

BMC Public Health 2020 Nov 7;20(1):1669. Epub 2020 Nov 7.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Diepkloof, P.O. Box 114, Johannesburg, Soweto, 1864, South Africa.

Background: Despite multiple available HIV prevention methods, the HIV epidemic continues to affect South Africa the most. We sought to understand willingness to use actual and hypothetical HIV prevention methods among participants enrolled in a preventative HIV vaccine efficacy trial in Soweto, South Africa.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative study with 38 self-reporting HIV-uninfected and consenting 18-35 year olds participating in the HVTN 702 vaccine efficacy trial in Soweto. Using a semi-structured interview guide, five focus group discussions (FGDs) were held, stratified by age, gender and sexual orientation. The FGDs were composed of: (i) 10 heterosexual women aged 18-24 years; (ii) 9 heterosexual and bisexual women aged 25-35 years; (iii & iv) heterosexual men aged 25-35 years with 7 in both groups; and (v) 5 men aged 18-35 years who have sex with men. FGDs were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, translated into English and analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: We present five main themes: (i) long-lasting methods are preferable; (ii) condoms are well-known but not preferred for use; (iii) administration route of HIV prevention method is a consideration for the user; (iv) ideal HIV prevention methods should blend into the lifestyle of the user; and the perception that (v) visible prevention methods indicate sexual indiscretion.

Conclusions: The participants' candour about barriers to condom and daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use, and expressed preferences for long-lasting, discreet, lifestyle-friendly methods reveal a gap in the biomedical prevention market aiming to reduce sexually acquired HIV in South Africa. Product developers should consider long-acting injectable formulations, such as vaccines, passive antibodies and chemoprophylaxis, for HIV prevention technologies. Future innovations in HIV prevention products may need to address the desire for the method to blend easily into lifestyles, such as food-medication formulations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09785-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7648553PMC
November 2020

Does peer-navigated linkage to care work? A cross-sectional study of active linkage to care within an integrated non-communicable disease-HIV testing centre for adults in Soweto, South Africa.

PLoS One 2020 22;15(10):e0241014. Epub 2020 Oct 22.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Introduction: South Africa is the HIV epidemic epicentre; however, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will be the most common cause of death by 2030. To improve identification and initiation of care for HIV and NCDs, we assessed proportion of clients referred and linked to care (LTC) for abnormal/positive screening results and time to LTC and treatment initiation from a HIV Testing Services (HTS) Centre before and after integrated testing for NCDs with optional peer-navigated linkage to care.

Materials And Methods: This two-phase prospective study was conducted at an adult HTS Centre in Soweto, South Africa. Phase 1 (February-June 2018) utilised standard of care (SOC) HTS services (blood pressure [BP], HIV rapid diagnostic testing (RDT), sexually transmitted infections [STI]/Tuberculosis [TB] symptom screening) with passive referral for abnormal/positive results. Phase 2 (June 2018-March 2019) further integrated blood glucose/cholesterol/chlamydia RDT, with optional peer-navigated referral. Enrolled referred clients completed telephonic follow-up surveys confirming LTC/treatment initiation ≤3 months post-screening. Socio-demographics, screening results, time to LTC/treatment initiation, peer-navigated referral uptake were reported. Analysis included Fisher's exact, chi-squared, Kruskal Wallis, and Student's T-tests. Thematic analysis was conducted for open-ended survey responses.

Results: Of all 320 referrals, 40.0% were HIV-infections, 11.9% STIs, 6.6% TB, and 28.8% high/low BP. Of Phase 2-only referrals, 29.4% were for glucose and 23.5% cholesterol. Integrated NCD-HTS had significantly more clients LTC for HIV (76.7%[n = 66/86] vs 52.4%[n = 22/42], p = 0.0052) and within a shorter average time (6-8 days [Interquartile range (IQR):1-18.5] vs 8-13 days [IQR:2-32]) as compared to SOC HTS. Integrated NCD-HTS clients initiated HIV/STIs/BP treatment on average more quickly as compared to SOC HTS (5 days for STIs [IQR:1-21], 8 days for HIV/BP [IQR:5-17 and 2-13, respectively] vs 10 days for STIs [IQR: 4-32], 19.5 days for HIV [IQR:6.5-26.5], 8 days for BP [IQR:2-29)]. Participants chose passive over active referral (89.1% vs 10.9%; p<0.0001). Participants rejecting peer-navigated referral preferred to go alone (55.7% [n = 39/70]). Non-LTC was due to being busy (41.1% [n = 39/95]) and not being ready/refusing treatment (31.6% [n = 30/95]). Normalised results assessed at referral clinic (49.7% [n = 98/196]), prescribed lifestyle modification/monitoring (30.9% [n = 61/196]), and poor clinic flow/congestion and/or further testing required (10.7% [n = 21/196]) were associated with non-treatment initiation.

Conclusion: Same-day treatment initiation is not achieved across diseases, despite peer-navigated referral. There are psychosocial and health systems barriers at entry to care/treatment initiation. Additional research may identify best strategies for rapid treatment initiation.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0241014PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7580918PMC
December 2020

 "There is no fear in me … well, that little fear is there": dualistic views towards HIV testing among South African adolescent girls and young women.

Afr J AIDS Res 2020 Sep 5;19(3):214-221. Epub 2020 Sep 5.

Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa.

In spite of the high HIV burden and high prevalence and incidence of HIV infection among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in South Africa, uptake of HIV testing in this population falls short of the UNIADS 90-90-90 targets, leading to late diagnosis, late entry into HIV care and treatment, and poor uptake of prevention services. There is a critical need to update and deepen our understanding of attitudes towards testing in this population, in order to appropriately respond to their specific needs. This article reports on findings from an exploration of perceptions of HIV testing and testing behaviour amongst AGYW in South Africa using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. Analysis included data on testing behaviour and reasons for never testing from a survey conducted with 4 399 AGYW aged 15-24 years in six provinces. Combined with survey data is qualitative analysis from 63 in-depth interviews and 24 focus group discussions with 237 AGYW from five provinces. Findings revealed complex, dualistic and often contradictory views towards HIV testing in this population, with fear of HIV and the consequences of testing positive existing alongside a lack of concern towards HIV infection because of the availability and accessibility of antiretrovirals. These findings can help to address barriers to HIV testing in this population and ensure appropriateness of future interventions and HIV messaging.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2989/16085906.2020.1799232DOI Listing
September 2020

Perceptions of contraception services among recipients of a combination HIV-prevention interventions for adolescent girls and young women in South Africa: a qualitative study.

Reprod Health 2020 Aug 14;17(1):122. Epub 2020 Aug 14.

Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) have high rates of unintended pregnancies and are at higher risk for HIV infection compared to older women of reproductive age. Using a socio-ecological model approach, this research investigated perceptions of contraception services among AGYW who had been recipients of a combination HIV-prevention intervention, to better understand factors affecting their access to and use of contraception services.

Method: Qualitative methods used in this study included focus group discussions (FGDs) and in-depth interviews (IDIs) with 185 AGYW aged 15-24 years living in five of the ten intervention districts. All interviews and FGDs were audio-recorded and data were analyzed thematically using Nvivo 12 software with manual identification of themes and labelling of raw data.

Results: The findings reveal that many AGYW, especially those in the younger age group 15-19 years, experience difficulties in accessing contraception services, mainly at the interpersonal and health service levels. Lack of support for the use of contraceptives from parents/caregivers as well as from sexual partners were key barriers at the interpersonal level; while providers' negative attitude was the main barrier at the health service level. The majority of school-going AGYW felt that bringing contraception services and other sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services on to the school premises would legitimize their use in the eyes of parents and help to overcome barriers related to parental support and acceptance, as well as overcome some of the health service and structural level barriers. However, views among school-going AGYW about school-based provision of contraception services were mixed, clouded with concerns relating to confidentiality.

Conclusion: Interventions to improve parental/caregiver and sexual partner support for the use of contraception services by AGYW, as well as efforts to expand the provision of contraception services on the school premises are urgently needed. Future interventions should incorporate multi-level approaches to address structural and contextual barriers to access and use of contraception services to gain maximum effect.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12978-020-00970-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7427945PMC
August 2020

The role of the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 in nicotine addiction.

CNS Spectr 2020 Jul 27:1-6. Epub 2020 Jul 27.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland.

This review summarizes the evidence for the potential involvement of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) in the development of nicotine addiction. Nicotine is consumed worldwide and is highly addictive. Previous research has extensively investigated the role of dopamine in association with reward learning and addiction, which has provided strong evidence for the involvement of dopaminergic neuronal circuitry in nicotine addiction. More recently, researchers focused on glutamatergic transmission after nicotine abuse, and its involvement in the reinforcing and rewarding effects of nicotine addiction. A number of robust preclinical and clinical studies have shown mGluR5 signaling as a facilitating mechanism of nicotine addiction and nicotine withdrawal. Specifically, clinical studies have illustrated lower cortical mGluR5 density in smokers compared to nonsmokers in the human brain. In addition, mGluR5 might selectively regulate craving and withdrawal. This suggests that mGluR5 could be a key receptor in the development of nicotine addiction and therefore clinical trials to examine the therapeutic potential of mGluR5 agents could help to contribute to reduce nicotine addiction in society.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1092852920001704DOI Listing
July 2020

"As a Young Pregnant Girl… The Challenges You Face": Exploring the Intersection Between Mental Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health Amongst Adolescent Girls and Young Women in South Africa.

AIDS Behav 2021 Feb;25(2):344-353

Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Francie van Zijl Drive, Parow Valley, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa.

In South Africa, adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are at risk of poor mental health, HIV infection and early pregnancy. Poor mental health in AGYW is associated with increased sexual risk behaviours, and impeded HIV testing and care. Using in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, we explored subjective experiences of mental health and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) amongst 237 AGYW aged 15-24 years in five South African districts. Respondents shared narratives of stress, emotional isolation, feelings of depression, and suicidal ideation, interconnected with HIV, pregnancy and violence in relationships. Findings show that AGYW in South Africa face a range of mental health stressors and lack sufficient support, which intersect with SRH challenges to heighten their vulnerability. Framed within the syndemic theory, our findings suggest that South African AGYW's vulnerability towards early pregnancy, HIV infection and poor mental health are bidirectional and interconnected. Considering the overlaps and interactions between mental health and SRH amongst AGYW, it is critical that mental health components are integrated into SRH interventions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10461-020-02974-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7368608PMC
February 2021

Exploring potential of vaginal Lactobacillus isolates from South African women for enhancing treatment for bacterial vaginosis.

PLoS Pathog 2020 06 4;16(6):e1008559. Epub 2020 Jun 4.

Department of Pathology, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Antibiotics continue to be the standard-of-care for bacterial vaginosis (BV), although recurrence rates are high. Vaginal probiotics may improve durability of BV treatment, although few probiotics for vaginal health contain Lactobacillus spp. that commonly colonize the lower female genital tract. Characteristics of vaginal Lactobacillus strains from South African women were evaluated for their probiotic potential in vitro compared to strains from commercial vaginal products, including growth at varying pHs, ability to lower pH, produce D-/L-lactate and H2O2, influence growth of BV-associated Gardnerella vaginalis and Prevotella bivia, adherence to cervical cells and susceptibility to antibiotics. Fifty-seven Lactobacillus strains were purified from cervico-vaginal fluid, including L. crispatus, L. jensenii, L. gasseri, L. mucosae, and L. vaginalis. L crispatus strains grew better at pHs below 4.5 and lowered pH more effectively than other strains. Production of D-/L-lactate and H2O2 varied between Lactobacillus species and strains. Lactobacillus strains generally inhibited P. bivia more uniformly than G. vaginalis isolates. All vaginal Lactobacillus isolates were resistant to metronidazole while susceptibility to clindamycin varied. Furthermore, vaginal Lactobacillus strains tended to be broadly susceptible to penicillin, amoxicillin, rifampicin and rifabutin. Whole-genome-sequencing of five of the best-performing vaginal Lactobacillus strains confirmed their likely safety, due to antimicrobial resistance elements being largely absent, while putative intact prophages were present in the genomes of two of the five strains. Overall, vaginal Lactobacillus strains largely performed better in these in vitro assays than probiotic strains currently used in probiotics for vaginal health. Including the best-performing vaginal Lactobacillus isolates in a region-specific probiotic for vaginal health may result in improved BV treatment options.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008559DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7271994PMC
June 2020

Partner notification and treatment outcomes among South African adolescents and young adults diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection via laboratory-based screening.

Int J STD AIDS 2020 06 13;31(7):627-636. Epub 2020 May 13.

Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada.

Partner notification and treatment are essential components of sexually transmitted infection (STI) management, but little is known about such practices among adolescents and young adults. Using data from a prospective cohort study (AYAZAZI) of youth aged 16-24 years in Durban, South Africa, we assessed the STI care cascade across participant diagnosis, STI treatment, partner notification, and partner treatment; index recurrent STI and associated factors; and reasons for not notifying partner of STI. Participants completed laboratory-based STI screening (, , ) at enrollment and at 12 months. Of the 37/216 participants with STI (17%), 27/37 (73%) were women and 10/37 (27%) were men. Median age was 19 years (IQR: 18-20). Of the participants with STI, 23/37 (62%) completed a Treatment and Partner Tracing Survey within 6 months of diagnosis. All survey participants reported completing STI treatment (100%), 17/23 (74%) notified a partner, and 6/23 (35%) reported partner treatment. Overall, 4/23 (11%) participants had 12-month recurrent infection, with no association with partner notification or treatment. Stigma and lack of STI knowledge were reasons for not notifying partner of STI. STI partner notification and treatment is a challenge among youth. Novel strategies are needed to overcome barriers along the STI care cascade.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956462420915395DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7357572PMC
June 2020

Level of adult client satisfaction with clinic flow time and services of an integrated non-communicable disease-HIV testing services clinic in Soweto, South Africa: a cross-sectional study.

BMC Health Serv Res 2020 May 11;20(1):404. Epub 2020 May 11.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Clinical Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Background: While HIV Testing Services (HTS) have increased, many South Africans have not been tested. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the top cause of death worldwide. Integrated NCD-HTS could be a strategy to control both epidemics. Healthcare service strategies depends partially on positive user experience. We investigated client satisfaction of services and clinic flow time of an integrated NCD-HTS clinic.

Methods: This prospective, cross-sectional study evaluated HTS client satisfaction with an HTS clinic at two phases. Phase 1 (February-June 2018) utilised standard HTS services: counsellor-led height/weight/blood pressure measurements, HIV rapid testing, and symptoms screening for sexually transmitted infections/Tuberculosis. Phase 2 (June 2018-March 2019) further integrated counsellor-led obesity screening (body mass index/abdominal circumference measurements), rapid cholesterol/glucose testing; and nurse-led Chlamydia and human papilloma virus (HPV)/cervical cancer screening. Socio-demographics, proportion of repeat clients, clinic flow time, and client survey data (open/closed-ended questions using five-point Likert scale) are reported. Fisher's exact test, chi-square analysis, and Kruskal Wallis test conducted comparisons. Multiple linear regression determined predictors associated with clinic time. Content thematic analysis was conducted for free response data.

Results: Two hundred eighty-four and three hundred thirty-three participants were from Phase 1 and 2, respectively (N = 617). Phase 1 participants were significantly older (median age 36.5 (28.0-43.0) years vs. 31.0 (25.0-40.0) years; p = 0.0003), divorced/widowed (6.7%, [n = 19/282] vs. 2.4%, [n = 8/332]; p = 0.0091); had tertiary education (27.9%, [n = 79/283] vs. 20.1%, [n = 67/333]; p = 0.0234); and less female (53.9%, [n = 153/284] vs 67.6%, [n = 225/333]; p = 0.0005), compared to Phase 2. Phase 2 had 10.2% repeat clients (n = 34/333), and 97.9% (n = 320/327) were 'very satisfied' with integrated NCD-HTS, despite standard HTS having significantly shorter median time for counsellor-led HTS (36.5, interquartile range [IQR]: 31.0-45.0 vs. 41.5, IQR: 35.0-51.0; p < 0.0001). Phase 2 associations with longer clinic time were clients living together/married (est = 6.548; p = 0.0467), more tests conducted (est = 3.922; p < 0.0001), higher overall satisfaction score (est = 1.210; p = 0.0201). Those who matriculated experienced less clinic time (est = - 7.250; p = 0.0253).

Conclusions: It is possible to integrate counsellor-led NCD rapid testing into standard HTS within historical HTS timeframes, yielding client satisfaction. Rapid cholesterol/glucose testing should be integrated into standard HTS. Research is required on the impact of cervical cancer/HPV screenings to HTS clinic flow to determine if it could be scaled up within the public sector.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12913-020-05256-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7212607PMC
May 2020

A mixed methods investigation of implementation barriers and facilitators to a daily mobile phone sexual risk assessment for young women in Soweto, South Africa.

PLoS One 2020 23;15(4):e0231086. Epub 2020 Apr 23.

Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division (VIDD), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, United States of America.

Background: The HIV epidemiology in South Africa reveals stark age and gender disparities, with young women being the most vulnerable to HIV acquisition in 2017. Evaluation of HIV exposure is a challenge in HIV prevention research. Intermittent in-clinic interviewer-administered risk behaviour assessments are utilised but may be limited by social desirability and recall biases. We piloted a mobile phone application for daily self-report of sexual risk behaviour in fifty 18-25 year old women at risk of HIV infection enrolled in HIV Vaccine Trials Network 915 (HVTN 915) in Soweto, South Africa. Through a mixed-methods investigation, we explored barriers and facilitators to completing daily mobile phone surveys among HVTN 915 study participants and staff.

Methods: We analysed quantitative data on barriers and facilitators to mobile phone study completion collected during the larger HVTN 915 study as well as two post-study focus group discussions (FGDs) with fifteen former participants with a median age of 24 years (IQR 23-25) and six individual in-depth interviews (IDIs) with HVTN 915 staff. FGDs and IDIs utilised semi-structured interview guides, were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and translated to English. After coding, thematic analysis was performed.

Results: The main facilitator for daily mobile phone survey completion assessed across 336 follow-up visits for 49 participants was the daily short message system (SMS) reminders (93%, 312/336). Across 336 visits, 31/49 (63%) retained participants reported barriers to completion of daily mobile phone surveys: forgetting (20%, 12/49), being too busy (19%, 11/49) and the survey being an inconvenience (15%, 9/49). Five main themes were identified during the coding of IDIs and FGDs: (1) facilitators of mobile phone survey completion, such as daily SMS reminders and follow up calls for non-completers; (2) barriers to mobile phone survey completion, including partner, time-related and technical barriers; (3) power of incentives; (4) response bias in providing sensitive information, and (5) recommendations for future mobile phone based interventions.

Conclusion: Despite our enthusiasm to use innovation to optimise sexual risk assessments, technical and practical solutions are required to improve implementation. We recommend further engagement with participants to optimise this approach and to further understand social desirability bias and study incentives in sexual risk reporting.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0231086PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7179867PMC
July 2020

Mental Health of Adolescents in the Era of Antiretroviral Therapy: Is There a Difference Between HIV-Infected and Uninfected Youth in South Africa?

J Adolesc Health 2020 07 5;67(1):76-83. Epub 2020 Apr 5.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Purpose: The HIV infection may predispose perinatally HIV-infected (PHIV+) adolescents to mental illness. Adolescence can be when mental health disorders manifest for the first time. This study investigates the prevalence of mental illness in PHIV+ and HIV-uninfected adolescents in Soweto.

Methods: PHIV+ adolescents aged 13-19 years were recruited from an antiretroviral treatment program, whereas HIV-uninfected controls were recruited from the community in Soweto, South Africa, between October 2016 and April 2017. The Patient Health Questionnaire for Adolescents, Child Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist, and Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory tools assessed components of mental health. Sociodemographic and virological data were collected. Risk factors for suicidality were determined by logistic regression.

Results: One hundred and sixty-two adolescents (50% PHIV+, 61% female) with a median age of 16 years (interquartile range: 15-18) were enrolled. A depressive disorder was found in 14% of all adolescents, 35% had suicidal ideation, and 22% had PTSD symptoms. Risk factors for suicidality were female gender, HIV-positive status, repeating a grade at school and a history of physical and/or sexual abuse.

Conclusions: These findings show a high prevalence of suicidality and PTSD symptoms in adolescents from South Africa and highlight the importance of screening for mental illness, specifically suicidality, in HIV-positive adolescents. Adolescents from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background appear to be at risk, posing a challenge because of the lack of health seeking behaviors in young people and lack of adolescent-friendly health facilities. Interventions specific to adolescents in low- and middle-income countries are needed to improve emotional and psychiatric symptoms and functioning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.01.010DOI Listing
July 2020

HIV research in South Africa: Advancing life.

S Afr Med J 2019 Dec 5;109(11b):36-40. Epub 2019 Dec 5.

South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa; Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

South African (SA) researchers have made both national and global contributions to HIV prevention and treatment. Research conducted in SA has contributed markedly to improved survival in HIV-infected infants, children and adults. The translation of clinical research into practice has enabled the curtailment of paediatric HIV in SA. Along with international collaborators, SA has made pivotal contributions to biomedical prevention modalities including medical male circumcision and oral and topical microbicides, and is undertaking pivotal HIV vaccine research. Research into the structural and psychosocial drivers of HIV infection will be critical for sustaining biomedical interventions, and necessary to end AIDS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i11b.14264DOI Listing
December 2019

Demographics and health profile on precursors of non-communicable diseases in adults testing for HIV in Soweto, South Africa: a cross-sectional study.

BMJ Open 2019 12 15;9(12):e030701. Epub 2019 Dec 15.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Soweto, South Africa.

Objectives: This cross-sectional study investigated the burden of HIV-non-communicable disease (NCD) precursor comorbidity by age and sex. Policies stress integrated HIV-NCD screenings; however, NCD screening is poorly implemented in South African HIV testing services (HTS).

Setting: Walk-in HTS Centre in Soweto, South Africa.

Participants: 325 voluntary adults, aged 18+ years, who provided written or verbal informed consent (with impartial witness) for screening procedures were enrolled.

Primary And Secondary Outcomes: Data on sociodemographics, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infection symptoms, blood pressure (BP) (≥140/90=elevated) and body mass index (<18.5 underweight; 18.5-25.0 normal; >25 overweight/obese) were stratified by age-group, sex and HIV status.

Results: Of the 325 participants, the largest proportions were female (51.1%; n=166/325), single (71.5%; n=231/323) and 25-34 years (33.8%; n=110/325). Overall, 20.9% (n=68/325) were HIV infected, 27.5% (n=89/324) had high BP and 33.5% (n=109/325) were overweight/obese. Among HIV-infected participants, 20.6% (14/68) had high BP and 30.9% (21/68) were overweight/obese, as compared with 29.3% (75/256) and 12.1% (31/256) of the HIV-uninfected participants, respectively. Females were more likely HIV-infected compared with males (26.5% (44/166) vs 15.1% (24/159); p=0.012). In both HIV-infected and uninfected groups, high BP was most prevalent in those aged 35-44 years (25% (6/24) vs 36% (25/70); p=0.3353) and >44 years (29% (4/14) vs 48% (26/54); p=0.1886). Males had higher BP than females (32.9% (52/158) vs 22.3% (37/166); p=0.0323); more females were overweight/obese relative to males (45.8% (76/166) vs 20.8% (33/159); p<0.0001). Females were more likely to be HIV infected and overweight/obese.

Conclusion: Among HTS clients, NCD precursors rates and co-morbidities were high. Elevated BP occurred more in older participants. Targeted integrated interventions for HIV-infected females and HIV-infected people aged 18-24 and 35-44 years could improve HIV public health outcomes. Additional studies on whether integrated HTS will improve the uptake of NCD treatment and improve health outcomes are required.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-030701DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6924733PMC
December 2019

Trajectories of HIV-related internalized stigma and disclosure concerns among ART initiators and non-initiators in South Africa.

Stigma Health 2019 Nov 28;4(4):433-441. Epub 2019 Jan 28.

Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

Background: HIV-related stigma among people living with HIV (PLHIV) is associated with worse health outcomes. We used longitudinal data from a multi-site cohort in South Africa to assess changes over time in stigma after HIV diagnosis and determine whether antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation is associated with stigma reduction.

Methods: We administered the Internalized AIDS-Related Stigma Scale (IARSS, a six-item dichotomous scale questionnaire) at baseline, three months, and six months to newly diagnosed ART-eligible participants between 2014-2015. A confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the IARSS contained a four-item internalized stigma factor (α=0.80) and a two-item disclosure concerns factor (α=0.75). We fitted multiple logistic regression models specifying internalized stigma/disclosure concerns at six months as the outcome and ART initiation as the predictor of interest.

Results: Of the 500 participants (187 men and 313 women) enrolled, 308 (62%) initiated ART. Internalized stigma declined among people entering care (mean score, 1.0 to 0.7, p<0.01); however, disclosure concerns remained unchanged (percentage endorsing either disclosure concern item, 78% to 77%, p=0.23). These findings were similar between ART initiators and non-initiators. We estimated a statistically significant positive association between ART initiation and disclosure concerns at six months (OR=1.88; 95% CI, 1.20-2.94) but not between ART initiation and internalized stigma at six months (OR=1.15; 95% CI, 0.75-1.78).

Conclusions: Among ART-eligible South African PLHIV entering into HIV care, internalized stigma modestly declined over time but disclosure concerns persisted. PLHIV who initiated ART were more likely to have persistent disclosure concerns over time as compared with those who did not start ART.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sah0000159DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6884335PMC
November 2019

Impact of chemokine C-C ligand 27, foreskin anatomy and sexually transmitted infections on HIV-1 target cell availability in adolescent South African males.

Mucosal Immunol 2020 01 16;13(1):118-127. Epub 2019 Oct 16.

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA.

We compared outer and inner foreskin tissue from adolescent males undergoing medical male circumcision to better understand signals that increase HIV target cell availability in the foreskin. We measured chemokine gene expression and the impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on the density and location of T and Langerhans cells. Chemokine C-C ligand 27 (CCL27) was expressed 6.94-fold higher in the inner foreskin when compared with the outer foreskin. We show that the density of CD4CCR5 cells/mm was higher in the epithelium of the inner foreskin, regardless of STI status, in parallel with higher CCL27 gene expression. In the presence of STIs, there were higher numbers of CD4CCR5 cells/mm cells in the sub-stratum of the outer and inner foreskin with concurrently higher number of CD207 Langerhans cells (LC) in both tissues, with the latter cells being closer to the keratin surface of the outer FS in the presence of an STI. When we tested the ability of exogenous CCL27 to induce T-cell migration in foreskin tissue, CD4 + T cells were able to relocate to the inner foreskin epithelium in response. We provide novel insight into the impact CCL27 and STIs on immune and HIV-1 target cell changes in the foreskin.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41385-019-0209-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6914668PMC
January 2020

Measuring sexual relationship power equity among young women and young men South Africa: Implications for gender-transformative programming.

PLoS One 2019 25;14(9):e0221554. Epub 2019 Sep 25.

Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Introduction: Measures used to assess equitable relationship dynamics, including the sexual relationship power scale (SRPS) have previously been associated with lower HIV-risk among young women, and reduced perpetration of intimate partner violence among men. However, few studies describe how the SRPS has been adapted and validated for use within global youth sexual health studies. We examined gender-specific psychometric properties, reliability, and validity of a SRPS used within a South African youth-engaged cohort study.

Methods: Young men and women (16-24 years) enrolled in community-based cohorts in Durban and Soweto (2014-2016) reporting a primary partner at 6-month follow-up completed a 13-item (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree) South African adaptation of Pulerwitz's SRPS (range 13-52, higher scores indicating greater sexual relationship power [SRP] equity). SRPS modifications were made using gender-specific exploratory factor analyses (EFAs), removing items with factor loadings <0.3. Cronbach alphas were conducted for full and modified scales by gender. Using modified scales, unadjusted and adjusted regression models examined associations between 1. relevant socio-demographic and relationship determinants and SRP equity, and 2. SRP equity and sexual relationship related outcomes. All models adjusted for education, age, site, and current employment.

Results: 235 sexually-active youth (66% women, median age = 20) were included. Mean scores across all 13 scale items were 2.71 (SD 0.30) for women and 2.70 (SD 0.4) for men. Scale Cronbach's alphas were 0.63 for women and 0.64 for men. EFAs resulted in two gender-specific single-factor SRPS. Modified SRPS Cronbach alphas increased to 0.67 for women (8-items) and 0.70 for men (9-items). After adjusting for age, site and current employment, higher education remained associated with SRP equity across genders. In adjusted models, correlates of SRP equity included primary partnerships that were age-similar (<5 years older) and <2 years in length for women and living in Soweto and younger age for men. Greater SRP equity among women was also independently associated with no recent partner violence.

Conclusions: Results highlight important gender differences in SRP equity measures and associations, highlighting the critically need for future research to examine gendered constructions of SRP equity in order to accurately develop, validate and use appropriate measures within quantitative surveys.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0221554PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6760831PMC
March 2020

Understanding the role of resilience resources, antiretroviral therapy initiation, and HIV-1 RNA suppression among people living with HIV in South Africa: a prospective cohort study.

AIDS 2019 06;33 Suppl 1:S71-S79

Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Objective: Failure to initiate antiretroviral therapy (ART) and achieve virologic suppression are significant barriers to the United Nations 90-90-90 goals. Identifying resilience resources, or modifiable strength-based factors, among people living with HIV is critical for successful HIV treatment and prevention.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Methods: From July 2014 to July 2015, 500 adults presenting for voluntary counseling and HIV testing who were diagnosed with HIV and were ART-eligible in South Africa (Soweto and Gugulethu) were enrolled and surveyed. Logistic regression models assessed resilience-related predictors of ART initiation within 6 months of voluntary counseling and HIV testing for HIV, and HIV-1 plasma RNA suppression within 9 months, adjusting for sociodemographic factors.

Results: Within 6 months, 62% initiated ART, and within 9 months, 25% had evidence of an undetectable HIV-1 plasma RNA (<50 copies/ml). Participants who initiated ART relied less on social support from friends [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.94, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.89-0.99], coped using self-distraction (aOR 1.05, 95% CI: 1.00-1.10) and avoided coping through substance use (aOR 0.79, 95% CI: 0.65-0.97), as compared with participants who did not initiate ART. Those who achieved plasma RNA suppression relied more on social support from a significant other/partner (aOR 1.04, 95% CI: 1.02-1.07), used positive religious coping (aOR 1.03, 95% CI: 1.00-1.07), and were less likely to engage in denial coping (aOR 0.84, 95% CI: 0.77-0.92), compared with those who initiated ART but did not achieve plasma RNA suppression.

Conclusion: Interventions optimizing resilience resources and decreasing maladaptive coping strategies (e.g., substance use, denial) may present a feasible approach to maximizing ART-based HIV treatment strategies among South African people living with HIV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/QAD.0000000000002175DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6712569PMC
June 2019

Vaginal practices among women at risk for HIV acquisition in Soweto, South Africa.

South Afr J HIV Med 2019 20;20(1):866. Epub 2019 Jun 20.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Background: Vaginal practices (VP) may adversely affect normal vaginal flora and mucosal integrity, and increase acquisition risk of HIV and other genital tract infections.

Objective: The aim of this study was to describe self-reported VP, changes in the reported number of VP over time and factors associated with VP in a cohort of young Sowetan women enrolled in the HVTN 915 observational study.

Method: We longitudinally assessed self-reported VP in 50 young women at risk of HIV acquisition aged 18-25 years in a prospective study over 3 months in Soweto, South Africa. Interviewer-administered HIV behavioural risk questionnaires were completed. No intervention to reduce VP was specified per protocol, but clinicians provided education at their discretion. The generalised estimating equation with inverse probability weights assessed VP over time.

Results: The mean age at screening was 22 years; women reported multiple sexual partnerships with a mean of one main and 2 casual partners in the last 30 days. Consistent condom use was 2% ( = 1), 25% ( = 12) and 43% ( = 3) with main, casual and new partners, respectively. Commonly reported VP included washing the vagina with water (44%) and using fingers (48%). VP decreased significantly over time ( < 0.001). Women who used condoms inconsistently or whose last sex was with a casual partner were 3 times more likely to report VP ( = 0.001).

Conclusion: Despite the high incidence of HIV in our setting, VP are still common and are associated with other behavioural risks for HIV. Further study is needed to assess whether clinician education may reduce VP and therefore should be included in HIV risk reduction counselling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v20i1.866DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6620501PMC
June 2019

Daily Vaginal Swabs and Mobile Phone Sex Report for Assessing HIV Virion Exposure Prospectively Among a Cohort of Young Sexually Active Women in South Africa (HVTN 915).

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2019 06;81(2):e39-e48

Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.

Background: Measurements of HIV exposure could help identify subpopulations at highest risk of acquisition and improve the design of HIV prevention efficacy trials and public health interventions. The HVTN 915 study evaluated the feasibility of self-administered vaginal swabs for detection of HIV virions to assess exposure.

Methods: Fifty 18- to 25-year-old sexually active HIV-seronegative women using contraception were enrolled in Soweto, South Africa. Participants self-administered daily vaginal swabs and answered sexual behavior questions through mobile phone for 90 days. Clinician-administered vaginal swabs, behavioral questionnaires, HIV diagnostic testing, and counseling were performed at 8 clinic visits. Glycogen concentrations assessed adherence to swabbing. Y-chromosome DNA (Yc-DNA) assessed the accuracy of reported condom use. HIV exposure was measured by virion polymerase chain reaction in swabs from 41 women who reported unprotected vaginal sex during follow-up.

Results: Glycogen was detected in 315/336 (93.8%) participant-collected and in all clinician-collected swabs. Approximately 20/39 daily swabs (51.3%) linked to mobile reports of unprotected sex tested positive for Yc-DNA, whereas 10/187 swabs collected after 3 days of abstinence or protected sex (5.3%) had detectable Yc-DNA. No participant became HIV infected during the study; yet, exposure to HIV was detected by nucleic acids in 2 vaginal swabs from 1 participant, collected less than 1 hour after coitus.

Conclusion: There was high adherence to daily vaginal swabbing. Daily mobile surveys had accurate reporting of unprotected sex. Detection of HIV in self-collected vaginal swabs from an uninfected participant demonstrated it was possible to measure HIV exposure, but the detection rate was lower than expected.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/QAI.0000000000002015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6743720PMC
June 2019
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