ASHM Report Back

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.

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The opening plenary talk was given by Dr Valarie Delpech, who outlined the progress towards attaining treatment for all.

 

  • the UNAIDS target for 2020 is 90-90-90
    • 90% of patients diagnosed
    • 90% of patients on ART
    • 90% with viral suppression
  • data from Levi et al (2016) showed
    • 54% diagnosed, 41% on ART and 32% virally suppressed (2015 data)
  • there appears to be a great disparity in the countries able to achieve this with many having poor rates of diagnosis and hence low rates of treatment/viral suppression
  • Dublin declaration data: EU/EEA countries are performing better than the non-EU/EEA
  • to date, no country has met the 90-90-90 goal (except claimed by Sweden)
  • a major issue
    • most countries have very little data about actual rates (even 4 decades into the epidemic)
    • there is variation with data sources and quality of definitions/standard methodology
Everyone Loves Concert Tickets!

Nittaya Phanuphak (Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center, Thailand) spoke at AIDS2016 on the topic 'Prevention Equity: How Innovations in HIV Testing and Prevention Technologies can Reduce Incidence Globally'.

She highlighted the inequality of health care in Thailand and outlined that the populations at highest risk for HIV have been missing out. She is involved in a 'Test and Start' program for MSM and Transgender Women in Thailand. The program provides clients with HIV rapid testing, with provision of PrEP (or ART) on the same day.

They have trained up MSM and Transgender Women to provide services for the LGBTI community through the clinic. By design, this creates a work force that is compassionate, caring and culturally aware of the target population.

Their clinic has enrolled over 300 patients in the PrEP Program so far, but they plan to roll this out to a further 3000 MSM and Transgender Women over the next 3 years.

They created the website www.adamslove.org to provide sexual health information and encourage clients to attend the clinic. Everyone loves tickets, so they provide online Eventbrite "concert tickets" that are exchanged for STI tests (Please note that a visit to the clinic is more important, but is much less fun than seeing a show).

Most clients have a phone or webcam and the clinic's sexual health nurse utilises this to conduct online medical consults, providing education in sexual health, counselling and guides patients through performing a home HIV screening test.

Nittaya Phanuphak gave a shout out to NSW in her talk, stating "NSW must be congratulated for their efforts to use PrEP. We hope to learn more from NSW in the next few years" - and we hope to learn more from you Nittaya. 

Central Demand of "Access Equity/Rights Now" Vocalised on Opening Day of AIDS2016 Durban

The IAS AIDS2016 Conference in Durban, officially opened Monday night local time, however multiple pre-conference meetings had already taken place in the days running up that, including the first MSM Global Forum to be held in Africa; the 1st IAS HIV Cure Symposium, TB, HIV/HCV co-infection, paediatric HIV sessions as well as funder meetings, and political activism, along with cultural and community events in the Global Village. It is 16 years since the conference was held in South Africa, in Durban and the current meeting's theme is "Access Equity/Rights Now" – a central demand is the need for world leaders to meet global goals they need to continue to support HIV treatment and prevention and stick to their funding commitments and goals as well as a call  to combat inappropriate criminalisation of HIV transmission (and recognising the current evidence base of very low HIV transmission risks in a treatment era) – something ASHM is working on through a Consensus Statement with expert stakeholders nationally.

 

MSM Global Forum points out critical issues

Chris Beyrer, President of the IAS opened the MSM Global Forum pre-conference day meeting, pointing out that the recent UNAIDS High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS struggled to keep key populations on the agenda including MSM, and stigma remains a critical issue intersecting with very low funding (2% of global funding which is out of proportion to the burden of new infections among MSM), violence and criminalisation. An interesting angle taken by the Forum was considering the national economic costs of homophobia, based on a premise that if political leaders and decision makers do not listen to rights based arguments then the ‘dollar value’ impact of the consequences of homophobia on their respective government wallets might work better. Legal reform indicators need also to be included in UNAIDS global indicators.

 

"Know your epidemic means know your HIVDR"

At a well-attended pre-conference meeting, a WHO organised session on HIV Drug Resistance found speakers addressing an inherent potential paradox of a universal access or ‘Treat All’ global response and indeed PrEP scale up and the increased risk therefore of HIV drug resistance (HIVDR).  This session therefore focused on how to prevent the emergence and transmission of HIV DR and consequent risk of treatment failure, increase in drug costs, higher treatment complexity and lowered durability of 1st line regimens (i.e. if people need to switch to more expensive 2nd or even 3rd line regimens due to DR). Fast tracking of global treatment goals need to include the issue of HIV DR risk and this should be an integral part of delivering quality HIV services and be part of routine program management in terms of VL suppression across all the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals. Presentations focused on strengthening surveillance with the inclusion of a new zero draft WHO Global Action Plan on Early Warning Indicators (EWI) for HIV DR.  This plan is intended to complement national HIV DR surveillance through for example indicators of possible emergence of DR such as monitoring ART prescribing practices, loss to follow-up at 12 months, retention on ART at 12 months, on-time pill pick up, on time appointment keeping, drug stock outs and their relation to VL suppression. VL monitoring is obviously also critically needed (as a proxy for possible patient HIV DR) but still unavailable in too many country contexts. Clinic level data from  55 countries have indicated high levels of appropriate prescribing but sub-optimal levels of loss to follow-up at 12 months, retention at 12 months on time ARV drug pick up and ARV stock outs – which could indicate emergence of HIV DR.

 

WHO seeks online public consultation on Global Action Plan on HIV Drug Resistance

WHO is consulting with global and regional stakeholders to inform the Global Action Plan  on HIV DR – of note to the region is a WHO Western Pacific/South-east Asia regional consultation in Bangkok, August 8th – 12th, 2016 with a plan finalised by end 2016 and full launch in early 2017.

The presentations from the HIV Diagnostics Conference have now been put on line. They are accessible at

http://hivtestingconference.org/2016-hiv-diagnostics-conference/oral-presentations/

You can access the full program from this link and simply click on the desired presentations.

Those who pay much attention to the HIV testing landscape in the USA will be aware that there was a long period where the testing algorithm was debated, discussed and reviewed, resulting in the 'New' algorithm coming into effect in 2014. At this conference it was suggested a number of times that the new algorithm should now be redrafted.

Largely the reason for this is the shift in treatment guidelines and the relationship between testing and treatment. The 'new' guideline was written against a background of selective CD4 and viral load based decisions about when to start treatment. Now, with the emphasis being on starting people on treatment as soon as feasible after diagnosis, the need for repeat testing was questioned. This is an important shift, where one can see treatment and clinical practice driving precursor testing. These issues are discussed in 

Session C: CDC/APHL Laboratory Testing Algorithm and 

Session D: CDC/APHL Laboratory Testing Algorithm (Part 2)

There was a very good round table discussion on Wednesday morning which looked at matching testing approaches to the HIV cascade. Joanne Steckler raised the issue about the large differential between people tested and people lost to follow-up. This comes from work in Washington state, where a great many people who were thought to be lost to follow-up were in fact legitimately in care somewhere else, often no longer in the county or state.  

At the same time, rapid tests, which have been widely used in the USA for many years as part of the testing strategy, particularly in community settings, but also in more remote areas (Alaska, Midwestern and north states) where laboratory access is limited, are becoming less popular.

One of the major reasons driving this is the problems associated with false negatives. As always there was some discussion about the amount of transmission associated with very early infection, and it was interesting that there was a greater linkage between efforts to get people to test, particularly very early after infection, and recognising the limitation of point of care or rapid tests in these contexts. 

Session F: Performance of CLIA-Waived HIV Tests and the session immediately before this examined some of these issues.

Testing was very much seen as the vehicle facilitating the linkage of patients to care. A presentation from Eugene Martin, New Jersey, demonstrated that high level linkage could occur with timely intervention.

The laboratory instrument providers also attend this conference. It seems that many of the analysts have the capacity to perform multiple tests (concurrently, but not yet necessarily all the tests we would like to see in the one run). But this really did seem the next step where the largest leap could be made. This particularly emphasised the need to link HIV testing with related testing in the STI and viral hepatitis areas.

The closing remark gives a good coverage of the scope of the meeting. It was thought there was ongoing need for the meeting and that it would have to, in the context of HIV PrEP, include STI in its agenda. 

 

 

The Conference opened with a broad based plenary looking at the new landscape in HIV, often referred to as the HIV Testing 101 Workshop. This is a two hour session which will be on line shortly and really is an excellent overview. It starts out with a glossary of terms and then moves through technology; performance; programs; surveillance and the relationship between laboratory and strategy.

I strongly recommend that anyone setting out into the world of testing watch this session. The slides will all be up on the website some time after the conference and we will advise when this happens.

The USA has recently introduced a change algorithm for HIV diagnostic testing. This raises practical issues for laboratories. But an equally important issue for this conference is how laboratories support initiatives to increase testing (and timeliness of testing) and improve the care continuum.

Details can be found on the website http://hivtestingconference.org  

Key HIV Testing Issues

Key issues in this meeting are how to get testing done early enough and also how to use the best test on an early-after-exposure sample. This will likely play out over the next few days. Clearly the cognitive distance between the laboratory and the clinic is narrowing here. Labs are trying to play a role in the clinical improvements that are sought in reducing the time between exposure and testing. Yet with the increase of self testing, and large scale community clinics with the capacity to perform more complex tests, the laboratory is coming much closer to the community.

With this comes the big question for me: How does one get this information to the person needing testing, at the time that they need it? The Achilles heal in any algorithm would seem to be the differentiation of the population upon which it is performed.

Joanne Stekler (Seattle) discussed this in the breakfast session today. Indicating that the greatest variation between yield on different tests is how differentiated the sample is.  Population-based screening is low yield in low prevalence settings and yield rises dramatically when more targeted testing is performed.

Increased infectivity during seroconversion and early in infection mean it is vitally important to get people to test during this period. Though this has not been discussed here yet, the role of PEP in this context should be reconsidered.

 

John Brooks from the CDC in Atlanta provided an update on the HIV outbreak first identified in Indiana in December 2014. I reported on his first update from the IAS Conference in Vancouver in July last year.

A couple of things are very noteworthy from these presentations. The response to the outbreak was dramatic, all be it very costly, and effective. What is hugely upsetting is that it could have been prevented with a good public health approach to HIV in the first instance.

A small cluster of HIV infections were identified in a rural county in Indiana. Case follow-up and contact tracing has identified 188 infections. The vast majority of these were identified in the first half of last year with only 11 being identified more recently, and of those the majority had been approached but declined testing previously.

A lot of features made this a perfect storm: no needle and syringe program; high levels of injecting (4 - 15 times daily and sharing with 1 - 6 partners) the reason for this is that the main drug injected was oxymorphone, which sells on the street for up to $140 per tablet, so people inject small doses, regularly to manage withdrawal. High levels of intergenerational sharing, with the belief that this was protective.

The county has the lowest socio-economic profile. Access to health care was limited, many people were uninsured and not registered for social security, unlicensed, not working and did not have common documents such as birth certificates.

This is an excellent presentation which show how a significant epidemic can occur in close knit community with limited access to resources, education and information. Viral sequencing has demonstrated that these were very recent infections and all linked. 

The plenary

http://www.croiwebcasts.org/console/player/29695?mediaType=podiumVideo&

and all of the slides amd MP3 are available at http://www.croiwebcasts.org/y/2016/25?link=nav&linkc=date

There was an HCV positive rate of >90%. But the HCV, unlike the HIV was well established in the cohort, coming from multiple sources over many years. A complementary presentation by Sumathi Ramachandran, Networks of HCV Transmissions Among Persons Who Inject Drugs: Indiana, 2015  looks at hepattiis C infection in this community can be found at http://www.croiwebcasts.org/console/player/29742?mediaType=slideVideo& 

There has been considerable discussion about the potential for outbreaks in rural and remote communities in Australia. This experience is one which should be viewed by all involved in the public health response to HIV and by all those involved in policy making which impacts public health.

 
HIV and Migration: All is NOT fair in Love and War

Slightly belated report back from Friday morning's session.

President of AFAO, Dr Bridget Haire opened this session - in the absence of Dr John-Paul Sanggaran, the former Medical Officer, Christmas Island, Queensland. Bridget read extracts from a moving letter Dr John penned to highlight to governing bodies the multiple inadequacies in health management of HIV testing and treatment on Christmas island.

In it he pointed out that often an HIV test result takes at least 1-2 weeks due to logistical factors, by which time the patient has usually been "processed" and moved on to another island and so they will not receive their result in time.  If the HIV result is positive then there are further problems once the patient has been tracked down, as they have been transferred to places such as Nauru where treatment access and roll-out is sub-optimal.  He then described how HIV positive refugees on the island had often been placed in the "White Building" - usually reserved for people with behavioural difficulties.  His experiences really highlighted the challenges faced by clinicians and patients alike, in difficult health care settings, in stark contrast to my own, well resourced Sexual Health Clinic in Sydney.

Then in the second session Dr Kathy Petoumenos presented findings from the ATRAS Study Group: The Australian HIV Observational Database Temporary Residence Access Study, of which several patients from my clinic have been gladly enrolled.

The NAPWHA group engaged various pharma companies to provide free ART to 180 medicare-ineligible patients for up to 4 years.

This study aimed to determine reasons for Medicare ineligibility, time to become eligible for HIV treatment on Medicare, and assess their long-term clinical outcomes once on ARTs. Enrolment was from 2011 - 2012. Results from the 24 month findings were presented.

Interesting results from baseline showed that 73% were male, most common visa status was Student Visa (34%) and 63% of the cohort had experienced prior ARTs (either as self-funded, trial participant, origin country or compassionate access).

Encouragingly over the period of the study, the mean CD4 count increased from a baseline of 376 to 534 at 24 months. Even more pleasing was that the percentage of patients with an undetectable viral load increased from 47% at the start of the study to a fantastic 94% at 24 months, with 100% of females achieving undetectable viral load.

So far 74% of participants have dropped out as they became Medicare Eligible, 17% have gone overseas and 9% were lost to follow up. Students were least likely to have stopped requiring ATRAS medications.

In the 2nd part of the presentation the group attempted to estimate cost benefit of expanding ARTS to all medicare-ineligible patients. The survey findings estimates there are approximately 450 medicare-ineligble HIV clients in Australia.  After 2 years patients with a detectable viral load reduced from 53% to 6%.  i.e. a 93% risk reduction in onward transmission of the infection.  Thus 81 new infections would be averted/ 5 years. 

Mathematical modelling using these figures shows that expanding ARTS access and treating all the temporary resident HIV+ population was determined to be at least cost-neutral - i.e. it saves as much as it costs.   Of course, the public health benefit and the benefits to the HIV-supressed individuals alike is so much more than that.

Aaron Cogle (Exective Director for NAPWHA) pointed out that medicare-ineligible people are not recognised as a priority population nationally, this and other federal and state barriers to ART access need to be tackled imminently.   If universal test-and-treat policy is to be realised then this population needs to be included.

Atras Ceases Nov 2015.

Sadly I was unable to attend the last presentations in this session as I had to catch my flight.

What a great conference, see you all in Adelaide (and Rio) and thanks to all or any who managed to read this far into my blog!!

 

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.

 

Day 2 of IAS2015, I attended a very full lunch poster discussion session entitled HIV Testing: The Gateway for Everything.

Sheri Lippman presented two posters. The first presented results from a cluster randomized controlled trial comparing the ‘one man can’ campaign in South Africa which aimed to engage men into testing through community mobilization. Community mobilization was found to be associated with higher testing uptake, though not equally for all CM domains. The main three domains which had the greatest impact were consciousness, concerns and collective action.

Sheri’s second presentation was on a pilot study examining feasibility and acceptability of self-testing in transgender women in San Francisco. 50 HIV-ve trans women were provided home HIV test kits and asked to utilized the tests once a month for three months, behavioral data was also collected at baseline and three months. 96% of study cohort had multiple recent partnerships and 80% had engaged in sex work, so as with other transgender communities, a pretty high risk population. Most found the test easy to use and would recommend to their friends (>90%), 68% would use the test again. The main reasons provided for not using again were around gaining access to counseling services that facility-based testing provided, and most participants had tested with a partner or a friend. A marketing strategy which provided two home-based tests aimed at testing with a partner could be an efficacious method for targeting this hard-to-reach population.

Laura Derksen from the London School of Economics presenting results from a cluster-randomized trial examining methods to reduce stigma in a community based setting in Malawi. 122 Malawi villages were targeting (60 intervention villages and 62 control) which reach two thirds of the target 15-49yrold population. In the control villages information was provided on the benefits of ARV including prolonging life and reversal of AIDS. While in the intervention villages, in addition to the control information, information regarding reduced likelihood of transmission in partnerships where the HIV+ve partner properly adhered to ARV was also propagated. The overall concept being that if they could reduce stigma, by showing that individuals who tested were in fact safer sexual partners then rates of testing would improve. The percent of the population having testing for HIV post-exposure was found to be  60% higher in the intervention arm compared to the control arm, and this was consistent for both genders.

Perhaps the most relevant to the Australian setting was a poster presented by David Katz, which examined self-testing as a method to increase overall testing frequency among high-risk MSM in Seattle. 230 HIV-ve MSM were randomized to have access to free HIV self-tests versus standard HIV testing for 15 months. The primary endpoint was the comparison of HIV testing frequency, secondary endpoints included non-inferiority in regards to behavioral markers of HIV risk acquisition. The mean number of test in the self-testing arm was 5.3 (4.7-6.0) compared to 3.6 (3.2-4.0) in the control arm, which was statistically significant (p<0.0001). Non-inferiority bounds were met for risk acquisition, which included difference in frequency of bacterial STI diagnosis at 15 months, likelihood of non-concordant anal intercourse at 3 months, and number of male non-concordant partners. However confidence intervals were wide for the secondary endpoints and the study not really adequately power to examine these associations.  

And finally the last two posters were presented by Sue Napierala Mavedzenge and Pius Tih Muffih respectively. Sue presented results of a feasibility study which examined the reliability of self-testing in both rural and urban settings in Zimbabwe. There was high sensitivity and specificity of interpreting self-test kits in both rural and urban settings, however slightly lower sensitivity in the rural setting, which was likely a result of lower literacy in this group. Some practical issues to encourage interpretation of the test (such as increased window size) were discussed.  Pius Tih Muffih provided the results of a very interesting study which examined integrating partner notification into Option B+ in Cameroon. Results looked promising with 823 women testing positive providing information on 840 partners of which 693 were notified, of whom 421 were tested for HIV and 139 new HIV+ve cases identified and linked to care. They had not observed any backlash in terms of violence to women as a result of the notification but this was highlighted as an issue which needs to be carefully monitored.