Clinical posts from members and guests of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) from various international medical and scientific conferences on HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis, and sexual health.
HIV and Women's Health
HIV and Women's Health was the topic of Wednesday morning's stream. Much interesting and varied work was presented. I will attempt to summarise below.
Damian Jeremia presented his work entitled Prevalence and Factors Associated with Modern Contraceptive use among HIV-positive women aged 15-49 years in Kilimanjaro region, Northern Tanzania.
Women's responses to a questionnaire and interview in Swahili language were aggregated. Results showed that only 54% of these women were using a form of modern contraception. Male condoms were the most common contraceptive method (25.4%). He cited lack of contraception information and lack of combined reproductive health and HIV services being the main barriers in contraception use.
Dr Lisa Noguchi presented on some complex findings from women participating in the S African-based VOICE trial. The VOICE trial is a Phase 2B trial of women using tenofavir as HIV prevention, and one of the eligibilty criteria required having effective contraception. Lisa's secondary analysis of the data looked at injectable Progestin contraception and acquisition of HSV2 Infection. Injectable progestins are the most common contraceptives used in S Africa. Whilst some data suggests hormonal contraception may increase HIV-1 risk for women, recent studies have suggested there are differences in this risk between the 2 commonly available progestin injectables - DMPA and NET-EN. Retrospective analysis of the VOICE data showed HIV-1 was higher for users of DMPA vs. NET-EN (aHR 1.41, 95% CI 1.06-1.89) p=0.02. However, the risk of HSV-2 acquisition between the 2 types of injectables turned out to be not significantly different. She noted that the data was extracted from the VOICE study retrospectively, which was originally designed to demonstrate different data and results could therefore be prone to bias.
Shaun Barnabas presented longditudinal cohort data on genital symptoms and STIs in just under 300 women aged 16-22 years in different cities of S Africa. The Cape Town cohort was more risky in behaviour with a high prevalence in STIs vs. Johannesburg, specifically a higher prevalence of chlamdyia, gonorrhoea and HSV-2. There were low rates of symptoms reported across the board,with "normal vaginal discharge" being the most common symptom (58%) and "abnormal discharge" 8% at baseline.There was little correlation between symptoms and STIs. This is an issue as S African guidelines are based on syndromic management, thus potential for under treatment is significant.
His final question was "Is it time for the SA government to move away from syndromic management?" The resounding answer from the audience response was "Yes!".
Alison Norris educated us about the gender differences in HIV testing and knowledge in Rural Malawi, one of the poorest per capita countries in the world. There were encouragingly very high rates of HIV testing in both sexes. Most powerful predictor in whether someone of either sex had ever had an HIV test was knowing the partner had received a test. Ultimately their prediction that there would be significant differences between testing and knowledge between men and women was unfounded.
A/Prof Sheona Mitchell talked on uptake of cervical cancer screening among HIV positive women participating in a pilot RCT in Uganda: the ASPIRE project (a collaborative study between Canada and Uganda). The aim of the ASPIRE project is to inform policy makers about cervical screening programs in resource poor areas.
They studied 500 women in an urban community in Kampala. Usual cervical screening involves visual pelvic speculum exam with acetic acid application.ie invasive. The potential for a less invasive test such as a self-collected swab detecting high-risk HPV strains is a novel, attractive approach for low-resource settings. HIV positive and negative women were randomised to speculum visual exam or self-collected swab.
Self collection of swabs had a high uptake in both HIV pos and neg women. It was found to highly acceptable, improved access and had high rates of retention going forward to further exam and treatment (compared to visual exam alone). She was hopeful of future POCT for the HPV swab to further reduce barriers to cervical screening uptake.
Elizabeth Fearon then finished up the session by presenting interesting data on a method to estimate the national prevalence of HIV among female sex workers in Zimbabwe by pooling data from Multiple Sampling Surveys and Programme Consultations.
My take home message from all of the above presentations is that there is much great innovative research going on in some of the most resource-stretched places on Earth. Many small steps are being made towards improving access to screening, testing, support and treatment for women (both HIV positive and negative) from these difficult to reach populations and places. But there is still a long way to go.