Understanding the effects of universal test and treat on longitudinal HIV care outcomes among South African youth: A retrospective cohort study
Introduction: Little is known about the effects of universal test and treat (UTT) policies on HIV care outcomes among youth living with HIV (YLHIV). Moreover, there is a paucity of information regarding when YLHIV are most susceptible to disengagement from care under the newest treatment guidelines. The longitudinal HIV care continuum is an underutilized tool that can provide a holistic understanding of population-level HIV care trajectories and be used to compare treatment outcomes across groups. We aimed to explore effects of the UTT policy on longitudinal outcomes among South African YLHIV and identify temporally precise opportunities for re-engaging this priority population in the UTT era. Methods: Using medical record data, we conducted a retrospective cohort study among youth aged 18–24 diagnosed with HIV from August 2015-December 2018 in nine health care facilities in South Africa. We used Fine and Gray sub-distribution proportional hazards models to characterize longitudinal care continuum outcomes in the population overall and stratified by treatment era of diagnosis. We estimated the proportion of individuals in each stage of the continuum over time and the restricted mean time spent in each stage in the first year following diagnosis. Sub-group estimates were compared using differences. Results: A total of 420 YLHIV were included. By day 365 following diagnosis, just 23% of individuals had no 90-or-more-day lapse in care and were virally suppressed. Those diagnosed in the UTT era spent less time as ART-naïve (mean difference=-19.3 days; 95% CI: -27.7, -10.9) and more time virally suppressed (mean difference = 17.7; 95% CI: 1.0, 34.4) compared to those diagnosed pre-UTT. Most individuals who were diagnosed in the UTT era and experienced a 90-or-more-day lapse in care disengaged between diagnosis and linkage to care or ART initiation and viral suppression. Conclusions: Implementation of UTT yielded modest improvements in time spent on ART and virally suppressed among South African YLHIV— however, meeting UNAIDS’ 95-95-95 targets remains a challenge. Retention in care and re-engagement interventions that can be implemented between diagnosis and linkage to care and between ART initiation and viral suppression (e.g., longitudinal counseling) may be particularly important to improving care outcomes among South African YLHIV in the UTT era.
Filiatreau, Lindsey M., Jessie K. Edwards, Nkosinathi Masilela, F. Xavier Gómez-Olivé, Nicole Haberland, Brian W. Pence, Joanna Maselko, Kathryn E. Muessig, Chodziwadziwa Whiteson Kabudula, Mi Suk Kang Dufour, Sheri A. Lippman, Kathleen Kahn, and Audrey Pettifor. 2023. "Understanding the effects of universal test and treat on longitudinal HIV care outcomes among South African youth: A retrospective cohort study," BMC Public Health 23(1): 1724.
Supporting Operational AIDS Research (Project SOAR)