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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

versão On-line ISSN 2078-5135
versão impressa ISSN 0256-9574


HENDRICKSON, C et al. Treatment outcomes among HIV-positive orphaned and non-orphaned children on antiretroviral therapy in Johannesburg, South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2019, vol.109, n.9, pp.679-685. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. Limited research investigating treatment outcomes for HIV-positive orphans compared with non-orphans has shown mixed results, with several studies indicating that HIV-positive orphans are at greater risk of delayed access to HIV care and poor antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, while other data suggest that ART outcomes of orphans can be similar to those of non-orphans. Understanding the impact of orphan status on short-term ART outcomes could improve targeted intervention strategies, and subsequent long-term treatment and developmental outcomes, for HIV-positive infants, children and adolescents. OBJECTIVES. To evaluate the relationship between orphan status and ART outcomes among HIV-positive infants, children and adolescents initiating ART at two large public sector HIV clinics in Johannesburg, South Africa. METHODS. This was a retrospective cohort study of HIV-positive children aged <18 years initiating standard first-line ART between June 2004 and May 2013. Using propensity scores, orphans and non-orphans were matched for age, sex, World Health Organization stage and ART regimen. The effect of orphanhood on attrition from care (all-cause mortality and loss to follow-up) was evaluated using Cox proportional hazards regression analysis, and its effect on having a detectable viral load (>400 copies/mL) at 12 months on ART using binomial regression analysis with modified Poisson distribution. RESULTS. A total of 251 (29.4%) orphans (maternal, paternal or both) and 603 (70.6%) non-orphans were included at ART initiation. Following multiple imputation for missing data and propensity score matching, 222 orphans and 222 non-orphans were included. Orphans had a median age of 8.0 years (interquartile range (IQR) 4.9 - 10.7) and non-orphans 7.4 years (IQR 4.2 - 10.2). A total of 12 (5.4%) orphans and 33 (14.9%) non-orphans experienced attrition from care during the first 12 months on ART (adjusted hazard ratio 0.32, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.17 - 0.63). Among those alive and in care, with a viral load at 12 months on ART, 18.0% of orphans (33/183) and 14.8% of non-orphans (24/162) had a detectable viral load (adjusted risk ratio 1.15, 95% CI 1.04 - 1.28). CONCLUSIONS. Orphans were less likely than non-orphans to experience attrition, but among those in care at 12 months, orphans were more likely to have detectable viral loads. Lower attrition among orphans may be due to their being in institutional or foster care, ensuring that they make their visits; however, their higher rates of non-suppression may result from lack of psychosocial support or stigma resulting in struggles to adhere. Additional research investigating age-specific outcomes will be important to elucidate these effects further.

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