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.

UN 90-90-90 Target: An Achievable Goal?

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 Greetings from Day 1 of IAS 2015,

Treatment as prevention (TasP) and the UN proposed ambitious 5-year treatment target of 90% of HIV+ve individuals being diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed on efficacious treatments and 90% of those treated virally suppressed equating to 73% of all HIV+ve individual’s being virally supressed was the topic of discussion at the pre-conference workshop UN 90-90-90 Target Workshop: Lessons from the field.

There were four sessions spanning the day. After an opening speech by Michel Sidibé, Session One starting with RCT evidence to support immediate versus standard of care (SOC) ARV population-based roll out interventions and it’s utility to achieve the 90:90:90 target (SEARCH, HTPN071 (POPART), ANRS12249 and the Botswana Combination Prevention Protocol(BCPP). There was also some evidence reported for the utility of financial based incentives (FIs) to encourage linkage to care (HPTN065) and some discussion of acceptability of immediate ARV in sero-discordant couples (HPTN052) though 1-year follow-up results of HPTN052 will be presented Monday 2:30pm. The take home messages of session one included:

  • Largely testing rates, linkage to care and viral suppression levels achieved in SEARCH, POPART, ANRS12249, and BCPP were all high, around the 80% mark, however the big question of the impact of early ARV on HIV incidence in all of these trials is yet to be determined. Results so far look promising.
  • There still remain some pockets of the HIV+ve population which seem consistently hard to reach, primarily migratory young men in Africa. However while there were some gender disparities in linkage to care, once in care outcomes seemed similar for both genders. More social behavioural data from SEARCH, POPART and ANRS12249 to come.
  • There was evidence to support that immediate ARV does not have detrimental impacts on adherence to treatment i.e. HIV+ve people who feel healthy still seem to be good at take their drugs
  • The multi-disease approach undertaken by SEARCH, grouping testing for HIV with hypertension and diabetes was an encouraging approach
  • Financial based incentives did not show significant improvements in linking known HIV+ve individuals into care in the US, however they did show some efficacy in specific sub-groups, suggesting possibly that FI should be a target rather than a broad roll out. Some discussion over the ethics of FIs and the difficulty in implemented these strategies was highlighted in the discussion

Session Two largely covered evidence from cohorts. Evidence in achieving the 90-90-90 targets was presented for HIV cohorts in rural Malawi, Swaziland, KwaZulu-Natal and Rwanda, and evidence from the new cohort AFRICOS was presented. Lessons from this session included:

  • Results from rural Malawi where MSF task shifted ARV roll out from doctors to nurses which was later subsumed into the national program look very promising, 77% diagnosed, 84% on treatment and 91% of those virally suppressed. Again young men are those not linking to care.
  • The Early Access to ART for All (EAA) Study in Swaziland provided evidence for scalability feasibility and acceptability of the 90-90-90 target approach. Results supported initiating ARV on the same day as testing to avoid LTFU. While this may be difficult to implement if GART for first line is part of the recommended national guidelines in most of the developing world it is not.  Further lessons from KwaZulu-Natal presented by Frank Tanser showed barriers to care were distance from treatment centres (even in non-centralised settings) and gender.
  • The cascade of care in Rwanda looks close to the 90-90-90 target, with the epidemic now moving into older aged groups.

Session Three covered field implementation initiatives in China, Brazil, Thailand, and San Francisco. The ability for faith based organisations to engage people into care was also presented as well as some interesting results from a phylogenetic monitoring system that has been set up in British Colombia. Take home message from this post lunch, slightly jet-lagged session were:

  • In many settings described in this session, patients still had a median CD4 at diagnosis of less than 350 so it’s not really a question of immediate or deferred ARV rather engaging people in testing and linking to care. HIV peer intervention testing and self-testing has found to have encouraging results in Brazil. While a mixed facility and community-based testing model has improved diagnosis and linkage rates in Thai MSM and Transgender populations.
  • San Francisco has surpassed the 90-90-90 target and is now aiming for zero new infections. The RAPID program which enlisted individuals in immediate same-day ARV initiation looked promising. The difficulties in reaching that last 10% of the HIV+ve population in non-generalised epidemics was highlighted. How to reach specifically transgender populations was also discussed in question time, online outreach methods and linking ARV services with hormone therapy services were some of the suggestions.

  • Finally a population-wide HIV resistance database in British Colombia has been used for phylogenetic monitoring of outbreaks in real time. Fascinating results but a real potential for huge legal ramifications (two Supreme Court appearances later, Art Poon and colleagues in British Colombia have managed to resist forced disclosure of individuals). What a shame we live in a world where criminalization of sex in HIV+ve individuals is still common place!

And finally the workshop ending with presentations from donors, PEPFAR and the Global fund, and agencies, CDC who highlighting the cascade in the US, and the WHO and IAPAC who discussed soon to be released guidelines. The main highlight of this session was the (unofficial) report by Gottfried Hirnschall that the new WHO ‘When to Start’ guidelines including PrEP recommendations will likely be released in September of this year. These will (unofficially) include ART initiation for all regardless of CD4 count, PrEP for individuals with substantial risk (to be defined…), Option B+ as the recommended SOC and some suggestions for dose reduction strategies.

So finally, my overall conclusions of the workshop are the 90-90-90 UN target seems a difficult target but potentially achievable in some settings. Primarily generalised epidemics where the health system can support such targets with UNAIDs strengthening the provision of ART and donors getting on board, or non-generalised epidemics where innovation methods are employ and large amounts of resources can be mobilised in support of such efforts.  It will, however, be a specific challenge in other setting where either there isn’t a national health system to support such a roll out or there isn’t the resources to achieve these target where the epidemic remains localised in particularly hard-to-reach populations. As suggested by one of the attendees, perhaps there should be a fourth 90, 90% of countries achieving the 90-90-90 UN target by the year 2020?


For details of the workshop see, for a live stream of the workshop see


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